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Danny O'Neil covers the Seahawks for The Seattle Times.

September 18, 2012 at 5:59 AM

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Reading between the lines: Pete Carroll and the formula for victory

Packers will test Seattle's pound-it-out blueprint
By Danny O'Neil | The Seattle Times

Yes, Sunday's victory was the most satisfying in his Seahawks tenure, coach Pete Carroll said. That 27-7 victory over Dallas epitomized the way he wants his team to play from the physical nature in every aspect of the game to the fact the Seahawks didn't turn the ball over to the bare-naked reality that Seattle pounded what appears to be a very good Dallas team into submission.

But what comes next on Seattle's schedule is one of the more obvious challenges to Seattle's formula for success: Can a team that is built around that old-school, run-first offense and physical defense compete with a next-generation offense like the Green Bay Packers?

Carroll was asked exactly that, and his answer wasn't as informative as the implications of what he said. Take the following with the spirit with which it was intended, which is a literal transcription of what Carroll said followed by this reporter's supposition of what he actually meant.

Actual question: Has there ever been a thought that the formula for winning football has changed a little bit? That you have to be able to score in a track meet?

What Carroll actually said: "No. You have to run real fast in a track meet, I think."

What Carroll meant: "Look, if you're going to offer up some ham-handed analogy, it should at least make sense. You score in a pinball game, you run in a track meet and you hit people real, real hard in a football game. So decide what you're talking about here. Because we don't wear singlets or cute little spikes on a football field, and there's definitely no requirement to stay in your lane. But anyway, proceed with this line of questioning if you must.

Actual question: OK, a shootout then? How about a shootout?

What Carroll actually said: "If it goes that way, yeah. If you get behind and they're scoring faster than you are then you're in trouble. But we're trying not to let that happen. I understand what you hear, and kind of the thrust of what's going on in ball on all levels, kids leagues all the way up, is more attuned to the throwing game. That's fine. It has been a really good game for a lot of years playing defense and hammering the football and taking care of the ball and all that kind of stuff."

What Carroll meant: "Let's get a Junior G-man badge for this reporter right here. He has concluded - correctly - that if we let an opponent score 40 points, we're probably not going to win. You know why? Because this team is built to prevent an opponent from scoring 40 points. That's why we've got a defensive tackle parked out at defensive end, a guy who's built like a linebacker playing strong safety and an offensive playbook that's about as complicated as the direction for hair shampoo:

• Hand the ball to Marshawn Lynch

• Lather

• Rinse

• Repeat

"You've heard that other teams are throwing the ball at a record rate? Me, too. I read Peter King's article in Sports Illustrated about the possibility of a player throwing for 6,000 yards as well. You know what? The forward pass has been around for a lot of years, and for even longer, teams have won championships by running the football and playing the kind of defense that makes your Momma cringe."

Well, wasn't that fun? Now, we go back to what Carroll actually said.

What Carroll said: "We'll see what happens. We'll see how it goes. That was a pretty high-flying offense this last week, and fortunately we could find a way. Look who we're going against this week. We get to start all over again. We'll find out. Right now, this is the best way for us to play, and this is the way that the guys in this room want to play. We like it, and it's fun to play this way."

What Carroll meant: "You think Green Bay invented this up-tempo offense? Well, Dallas has ranked in the top 10 in passing yardage in every season going back to 2007. That game on Sunday was the third time Dallas was held scoreless in the second half in all that time. Does that mean we've arrived? Nope. But it does throw a bucket of cold water on this whole idea that our defense is going to dissolve when it encounters an offense that actually uses the forward pass."

Again, back to Carroll's actual words: "There's nothing to replace playing (special) teams and great defense and running the football, now. That's pretty hard, and you have to throw a lot of balls to overcome that. You've got to take a lot of chances to do that."

What Carroll meant: "You tell me my team plays like it did in the second half on Sunday, and I'll take my chances against any team in this league. Any."

Boy. That was succinct. Now, we return to what Carroll actually said: "We certainly want to throw the football. We'll throw it more as we go. We'll be able to throw more as we grow with this team. That's not to make anybody happy. We're doing it the way we want to do it right now."

What Carroll meant: "You do know we're starting a rookie at quarterback, right? The first rookie quarterback chosen outside the first round to start on opening day in the NFL since Kyle Orton in 2005? I mean, I love Russell Wilson and everything, but he is a rookie, and I'm not going to hand him carte blanche to go all Peyton Manning from the get-go. It also doesn't mean I'm going to keep training wheels on him his whole career.

"Take a look back at my nine years coaching at USC. I was not some SEC guy who wanted my quarterback to grind out wins like Joey Knish in "Rounders" winning hand after hand while riding his leather backside and never going for the jugular. Carson Palmer won a Heisman while I was coaching at that school. So did Matt Leinart, and Mark Sanchez would have if he hadn't left after his junior season. So I'm not against letting a quarterback firing from the hip, it's just not going to happen right now."

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