Here's how a meeting spurred Seahawks' defense to its best performance of year in win over Arizona

The Seattle Seahawks’ defense had a powerful get-together Wednesday night that helped fuel the struggling unit to its most dominant performance of the season in Thursday night’s victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

“It was one of the most remarkable defensive meetings I’ve ever been in,” Carroll said Friday on 710 ESPN Seattle. “I said something to the whole team, ‘something just happened here.’ We’ve kind of evolved to a point to where now we can go play… It’s really exciting because it’s been a long haul and the guys have had to go through a lot of crap to get there."

“It’s a big step for us. I know everybody is excited to hear that. I certainly am, too.”

According to Carroll, the accountability meeting was arranged by defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., who’s received his share of criticism this season with the performance of the defense.

Instead of the coaches saying what needs to happen in this meeting, Carroll said it was the players who took the lead. One after another, every single defensive player went over their individual responsibilities in the schemes and base calls, and who they’re supposed to be communicating with. No one was silent. Everyone was actively involved. It showed Carroll that his players had a true grasp of their roles -- and that they were willing to go do it.

The group carried the momentum from that meeting into Thursday’s critical NFC West victory, which lifted the Seahawks (7-3) back to first place in the division.

“This wasn’t the first time these guys talked or nothing. It’s just the best I’ve ever seen,” Carroll told reporters Friday. “I’ve never seen a better meeting for guys holding themselves accountable and really illustrating how well they have a command of what we’re doing.”

Everything that has plagued Seattle’s defense for most of the season — poor execution, bad communication, lacking discipline, mental lapses in coverage, and unimaginative play calling — was largely nonexistent on Thursday, save a couple costly penalties.

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll celebrates after a touchdown during the first half an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Seattle. The Seahawks won 35-30. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll celebrates after a touchdown during the first half an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Seattle. The Seahawks won 35-30. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

The unit crippled the production of Cardinals star quarterback Kyler Murray and one of the NFL’s most electrifying offenses. The defense corralled the elusive Murray in open space and the four-man rush had its most success all season, led by efforts from midseason acquisition Carlos Dunlap — who had the game-clinching sack — and 2019 first-round pick L.J. Collier — who had a sack and forced a safety for the best game of his career. The play of the secondary was strong, too. Seattle allowed season lows in points and yards against Arizona, and forced a season high three and outs.

It carried into the game bright spots from the second half against the Rams last week, when it allowed just seven points in the last 30 minutes and forced three consecutive punts.

“It doesn’t mean anything until we come back out there and play again,” Carroll said of the defense in Thursday’s win. “It was just clear (in Wednesday's meeting). I was glad that I was there to hear it, to capture it, to make sure they realized what had just happened. Because it was a big statement of everybody knowing exactly what they need to do. And also that they’re willing to go do it and how they’re going to do it. All of that is such important stuff.”

For the longest time this season, amid struggles for the defense, Carroll reiterated that the defense was "coming;" that as the continuity comes together with players getting healthy and the new guys getting more acclimated, the unit would finally play better. The lack of interaction together is the reason why this accountability meeting took so long to happen, according to Carroll.

But now, the health has been improving and the newer pieces are getting more comfortable — just as Carroll is running out of time to make that excuse.

“I can’t keep telling you, ‘ok, soon we’re going to be feeling like we've played together and we need more time.’ I can’t say that any more,” Carroll said. “We've made it to that point and we really need to play good football. There’s no reason why we shouldn't.

“I know Carlos (Dunlap) is situated now. Jamal (Adams) is playing with one arm. Next week, when he comes back in this next game, he’s going to be a lot healthier. He’s going to be much better than he’s been. And he too is gaining a command of what he’s supposed to be doing. There’s a lot of stuff he does in our defense and a lot of critical stuff. He’s played much smarter football, much more consistent. He’s going to be terrific here as we go down the next couple games.”

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