RENTON — The spring and summer optimism that the change in coaches and schemes would result in a quick fix for the Seahawks defense has turned into a brutal fall reality.
Through three games, the Seahawks of 2022 don’t really look any different on defense than did the teams of 2020 and 2021 even if they are now using a scheme emphasizing 3-4 fronts instead of the old 4-3, a change installed by new coordinator Clint Hurtt, who replaced the fired Ken Norton Jr.
But Monday, following a 27-23 loss to Atlanta the day before in which the Falcons averaged 7.1 yards per play, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll insisted the scheme change isn’t the issue.
“I think we’re going to be fine,’’ Carroll said. “And I like what we’re doing, and I like how we’re doing it. We just need to get our wins.’’
That doesn’t mean there won’t be tweaks — or as Carroll referred to them, adaptations — to what Seattle is doing.
Carroll said that Monday was spent having “good, strong meetings,’’ with the emphasis for coaches on making sure players are in the best spots to make plays.
“We have to adapt to the guys in the scheme and make sure that everybody’s getting all the stuff that they need and the help that they need,’’ he said.
But Carroll downplayed any major potential changes coming.
“It’s just ball coaching,’’ he said. “It’s not like, ‘Oh, we’re going to go back and do something like we used to do,’ and that kind of stuff. We’re not doing that.’’
Carroll instead pointed to communication as the most significant issue against the Falcons, saying he didn’t fault the effort and also thought the tackling — an issue through the preseason and first two games — was fine.
“We talked about communication a lot today,’’ he said. “Because there are alerts coming in and alerts in the game plan preparation that can help us there.’’
One assignment error Carroll pointed to came in the second quarter that allowed the Falcons to convert a third-and-19 when Marcus Mariota hit receiver Olamide Zaccheaus for 26 yards. Seattle was in a zone defense and rookie Tariq Woolen let Zaccheaus go by him instead of staying behind him.
“It’s a bad conversion to give up,’’ Carroll said. “We really should be able to make that play. And it’s really playing deep-to-short and forcing them to dump the ball underneath. And it’s a young guy’s mistake. So those are the things that we need to iron out and get rid of.’’
But maybe even more concerning than a few to-be-expected miscues from rookies is that the Seahawks again couldn’t stop a team’s rushing attack. The Falcons gained 179 yards on 31 carries and Seattle is allowing 4.9 per play, more than a yard more than last season.
As Carroll said, the real key was that “on early downs they were able to make enough running the ball where they stayed with it.’’
Indeed, the Falcons had eight gains of five yards or longer on first down in the second half alone, including two gains of 18 and another of 40. A 17-yard TD in the second quarter also came on first down.
“It’s just fitting together and making sure that we’re in the right spots and we’re hitting the fits like we’re supposed to,’’ Carroll said.
Carroll said one possible change is to play rookie Boye Mafe and Darryl Johnson — claimed off waivers Aug. 31 — more on early downs, possibly at the expense of some of Darrell Taylor’s snaps.
Asked about the play of inside linebackers Jordyn Brooks and Cody Barton — two spots generally a focal point of run defense — Carroll said Brooks “has really been at the top edge of his game,’’ but Barton “had a couple of plays yesterday that he needs back. In general, he’s been consistent.’’
On paper, the Seahawks won’t get any less of a challenge against the run Sunday in Detroit as the Lions rank fourth in total rushing yards and are first in yards per attempt at 5.9.
However, leading rusher D’Andre Swift — who has 231 yards and is averaging 8.6 per attempt — is dealing with a shoulder injury and might miss the game. He would likely be replaced in the starting lineup by veteran Jamaal Williams, who has 168 yards on 43 carries, 3.9 per attempt.
But all Carroll will care about is Seattle showing some massive improvement against the run no matter who the running back is after allowing a combined 368 yards on the ground the last two weeks against the 49ers and Falcons.
“We’ve got stuff we’ve really got to zoom in on getting done, and it’s obvious,’’ Carroll said.
Carrol says Lewis call ‘legit’
After watching the film, Carroll said he had no issue with the holding penalty on guard Damien Lewis that wiped out a Rashaad Penny reception that would have given the Seahawks a first down at the Atlanta 10 with 2:05 left.
Seattle instead was left with a second-and-14 at the Atlanta 34. On fourth down, Geno Smith threw an interception that ended the game.
Carroll called the penalty “legit’’ saying that Lewis grabbed on to the jersey of Atlanta linebacker Mykal Walker.
“The guy started to pull away a little bit so you can see the pull [of the jersey],’’ Carroll said. “It’s always the tug of the jersey that they can see. That’s legit. We can’t do that.’’
A week after committing 10 penalties, Seattle cut that number to six. But three came on each of Seattle’s last three offensive possessions — two holds, each by Lewis, and a false start on Colby Parkinson — that helped stall each drive and proved crucial as the Seahawks scored just three points in the second half.
— Cornerback Sidney Jones IV, who entered camp as the starter at left cornerback, was a surprise inactive. Carroll said Jones was a healthy scratch but the decision was made to have Isaiah Dunn and Isaiah Crawford active instead in large part due to special teams. Dunn played 15 snaps on special teams and Crawford 12. Carroll said that Jones is still in the competition to start but Woolen and Michael Jackson, who is starting on the left side, are “doing well’’ and that for now the team wants to keep them together on the field as starters, while saying there is always competition.
— Carroll reiterated that running back Travis Homer has bruised ribs that also includes some cartilage damage after taking a hit on a run in the first quarter. Calling it “significant,’’ Carroll said Homer is “really sore’’ but didn’t say whether Homer will miss games.
— Carroll said he had no additional information on the stoppage of the game in the fourth quarter due to a drone. “I haven’t heard a word about it,’’ he said. “It was an interesting couple moments. I never did see it.’’