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5 Qs and As with Field Gulls: How does Pete Carroll do it?

Everything you need to know about the Seattle Seahawks in 5 questions with Field Gulls’ John Gilbert.

San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Christopher Mast/Getty Images

Are you ready for playoff football??? That’s what I thought. The real question is if you’re ready for some playoff football against the Niners’ divisional rival that sent them packing in heartbreaking fashion back in the 2013 NFC Championship game.

Unlike that matchup, this game will take place in Santa Clara, Kyle Shanahan will be coaching, and Russell Wilson will be watching from his home in Denver, with 12 bathrooms.

Since these teams have met twice this year, you might think you know everything you need to know about the Seattle Seahawks, but anything can happen on Wild Card weekend. That’s why I reached out to John Gilbert at Field Gulls to give us the insight only an insider can provide.

Pete Carroll might’ve just completed one of his most impressive coaching jobs in Seattle. He pushed this 9-8 team into the playoffs and has them squaring up against a divisional rival. How does he keep doing it over and over again, and how will he prepare his team to give the Niners a run for their money?

Carroll’s greatest strength as a coach comes in getting buy-in from his players and turning that buy-in into giving everything on the field. Guys who don’t go all out every day find themselves off the roster, and the result is a group that may not always be the most talented but will go hard from the opening kickoff to the final whistle.

Based on the previous two matchups, what would be the ideal game situation that would allow the Seattle Seahawks to beat the San Francisco 49ers?

The ideal game situation for the Seahawks would be a game in which the score is kept artificially low by weather, with a fluke play or two giving the Hawks an early lead. Geno Smith has been his best when he’s playing with a lead and relaxed, and his struggles have come more in tight games or when the Hawks were losing, and he was playing a little too much hero ball.

When he’s not pressing, he’s been phenomenal, so an early lead that lets him get somewhat comfortable and not feel like he has to carry the team, with the weather hindering both offenses on the day, would be ideal.

How do you believe Geno Smith will fare against the Niners' defense in his first-ever playoff game?

I think Geno will play as well as can be expected against a defense with a fearsome pass rush and high-level play in the secondary. That said, my big concern is that the interior of the offensive line has struggled for much of the season, and as the year wore on, the bookend rookie tackles began to struggle more as well.

The Seattle running game finished the regular season 29th in stuff rate (percentage of plays that go for zero yards or a loss), and if they struggle running the ball, it could be a long day in the pocket for Geno. He was at his best throwing the ball on early downs, and it was in situations where the opponents knew he had to pass the line faced its biggest struggles, which led to sack rate on 3rd & 6+ of 20.2%. In short, Seattle likely needs to avoid third and long situations for Geno to have success.

The Seattle Seahawks defense has been particularly bad against the run and opposing tight ends, which plays into the strength of the Niners' offense. How will the Seattle Seahawks stop Christian McCaffrey and George Kittle?

The Jordyn Brooks injury certainly wasn’t what most fans wanted to see heading into the end of the regular season, but it has created an interesting dynamic for the defense. Specifically, with Cody Barton moving over to fill the void left by the loss of Brooks, the team has turned to Tanner Muse at the other linebacker spot.

Muse has primarily been a special teamer for the Seahawks, playing 425 snaps on special teams the past two seasons. However, he played safety in college and ran a 4.41 at the combine in 2020. What that means is that when Seattle is in base defense, one of the inside linebackers is effectively a big nickel personnel grouping with an extra box safety. The run defense might take a little hit because of that, but it’s been so bad this season; what is there really to lose? The upside is that they’re faster and add a player with more coverage experience, which could help defend against tight ends.

As for trying to stop the run, I’ve got no idea. Bryan Mone is out for the year with a torn ACL. Myles Adams is extremely inexperienced. Al Woods is something like the fourth oldest defensive lineman to play a snap in the NFL in 2022, and he’s been dealing with an Achilles injury.

Poona Ford and Quinton Jefferson have been up and down all season. Former first-round pick L.J. Collier played the fewest snaps of his career in the final year of his rookie contract, which says basically everything one needs to know about how that pick has panned out.

Basically, it’s a ragtag bunch of nobodies, which probably means Pete Carroll will have them so amped up that they’ll play the game of their lives, and McCaffrey will finish the day with 22 yards on 14 carries or something like that. Or at least we can hope.

The Seattle Seahawks are 9.5-point underdogs on the road to the San Francisco 49ers, according to DraftKings Sportsbook. What do you expect the final score to be, and will Seattle cover?

I expect Seattle to cover simply because I think that both coaches are likely to play things pretty conservatively, and with the weather added in, it is likely to be a low-scoring affair. I expect it to be one of those games that doesn’t really feel all that close and that a late score allows the Hawks to cover while making the final margin more respectable. With that in mind, my guess is that the final will be something along the lines of 20-13 or 20-14, even if the game never really feels that close.