The Seattle Seahawks will battle the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday ( 5:15 p.m PST) in Round One of the NFC Playoffs. It will be the second time the teams will face off against each other this year. The Seahawks hosted the Cowboys in Week Three and walked away 24 -13. The Cowboys had not yet acquired Amari Cooper and the Seahawks played without K.J. Wright who was out because of a knee injury. Here is what the coaches had to say about Saturdays lose out game.
SEAHAWKS PETE CARROLL
“Everybody around here is real excited about getting revved up for a game week right now. This time of year, it’s a great time to be playing football and our guys are ready to go. We have a number of guys that haven’t been in the playoffs before, so we’re working through and making sure that they understand how we approach it and how we’re doing it and staying to our business and making sure we put together a great week.
” This is a really good matchup, I hope we can play worthy of it. These guys do all the things that we admire in a team – they run the ball, they’ve got balance, they take care of the football, they play good defense, they’re good on special teams, they’ve got guys that can really step up and make plays. It’s a really good matchup for us and I’m excited to see if we can go ahead and get a great week’s work and take it to Dallas for Saturday night.”
(On if a lot has changed about the Cowboys since playing them in Week 3)
“Probably no more than what’s changed with us. Really, we both started slowly and then somewhere in there we kind of found our stride. These guys put together seven out of eight to finish off the season. We had a nice little run ourselves, so they’re not that much different, we’re not that much different. But really, the way we have formatted our team play, I think both teams have done well to this point.”
(On what Amari Cooper has brought to the Cowboys offense)
“He’s a terrific player. He’s an explosive, dynamic football player, can catch everything – all the routes, all the concepts. You could go to him inside if you want to, you can work him down the field, he can go deep. He’s got everything, so he’s a fantastic player. It’s a great boost to his team in picking him up.”
(On how good teams evolve from the beginning of the season to the end)
“It totally depends. It depends on how the season goes and all the issues that you deal with. Some teams start out fast and they don’t wind up well, it just depends. You can grow a lot though and we’ve done it many times before, it’s not a surprise really how this has happened. We’ve got years that look very similar when you look at our track record. That’s just us, it just depends. It depends on all the occurrences and the challenges you face and how you handle them.”
(On the message he conveys to players without playoff experience)
“It’s really important that we understand that we’ve got to do everything how we always do it. We have to stay with principles, stay with the approach and that we don’t let the playoffs change us.”
(On if the special teams issues in Week 17 will carry over to the playoffs) “It’s fixable stuff. I’m really disappointed that that happened, but it’s fixable stuff. Just a little negligent technique-wise and they did a nice job. They did a really good job coming after it, but really stuff that should not happen at all.”
(On how pivotal facing the Cowboys in Week 3 was to forming the Seahawks identity)
“We didn’t’ really kill it that day. We had a hard game against those guys. I think Chris (Carson) rushed 32 times in that game for 100 yards. That wasn’t what became a little bit more standard, what we were shooting for during the season, but it was a step in the right direction and the commitment came through. We were just getting started.
I don’t think that week was the pivotal week at all, I think it took us two or three weeks after that before we started to find the stride we wanted and then started to attempt to build on that. It was an important game to get a win, but I don’t think we saw the future in that game. I think it was just we made it through it and we were fortunate to win.”
(On Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith)
“It’s a great story. I remember when we met him, how impressive he was just character wise. This is when he was just reeling on the return, just starting, but he was so strong character-wise in his outlook and perspective. It makes sense that he would be able to put it together and support the kind of rehab that he went through and just restructuring his way of playing the game and all of that.
He’s an incredible player and he looks just like he’s fine. You would never know that anything happened. He was very, very special and came roaring through the interviews that we had with him, so no wonder. He is an incredible player. Everybody would like guys like that on your team because it’s not just his physical stuff, it’s all the rest of the stuff he brings.”
(On the biggest challenges that Ezekiel Elliott brings)
“He’s a great player. We’re talking 1,400-plus yards and 77 catches. The ball is in his hands most of the time. He’s a great player and he runs strong, he’s elusive, he catches the ball well out of the backfield. He can catch the short stuff, he can make you go long and he’s a good blocker too.
I don’t know him at all, but I am sure he’s a great competitor, he just plays like it. It all matters to him and there’s an intensity about his play that has made him already a significant player in the league and a pivotal guy on their team for sure.”
(On J.R. Sweezy’s injury status)
“Sweezy’s getting around pretty good. We’ll have to see. It’s going to go all the way up until game time, but he’s getting around okay. He’s not in a boot or that kind of stuff and he’s not limping around. He’s very positive that he can make it back, we won’t know though.”
(On Shaquill Griffin’s injury status)
“He’s okay. He’s talking real positive. We’re going to try to do something on Friday of this week – the Friday in our week, Thursday.”
Yeah, that they have the mobility that separates them from other guys. Both guys can really hurt you with their legs. Dak had a phenomenal year to get started and get rolling and has just been solid since. I think it’s the dynamics of the mobility that when you add that together and of course they can both throw the ball way down the field and all that, so he’s got a great arm. I think that’s what makes them very similar.
You’ve got the same kind of problems, they can run the same kind of plays when they want to and all of that. That whole mobility thing is a really great factor now. It makes guys special and he is.”
(On what Blake Jarwin has brought to the Cowboys)
“He’s been lighting it up lately. They’ve been used to having a guy that could make plays all over the field at that spot with Jason (Witten). He had a great game last week and looked like he could catch and run and do anything you need him to do. Unfortunately, we had to watch that one, he looked really good.”
(On how the offensive line held up in Week 17 considering all of the personnel rotations)
“It was a challenge. We missed some communications, some things we would like to have seen that normally we would count on getting done. I don’t know how you can avoid it. You hope that it doesn’t happen, but it did. It looks pretty good to see our guys back up there today as we get started in the week. It’s nice to have Fluke (D.J. Fluker) back out (on the practice field).”
(On Rashaad Penny’s progress) “He’s fine. He didn’t get a lot of work the last two weeks – we took it easy on him. Late in the week, he got back and started to do some good stuff, looked like he could go, so we got him some playing time. So, he’s back ready to go now. We need to have him back. He’ll get a full week and he should get all of the workload.”
(On Tedric Thompson’s injury status) “He’s going today. We’re happy to see him. I’ll tell you that Delano Hill had an injury that you’re going to see, he’s going (on IR today). He’s got a crack in his hip that he can get around on it, but he’s not going to be able to play with that. That’ll come out here and you’ll see what happens with that one.”
(On if Delano Hill’s injury was sustained in Week 17) “Yes.”
(On if the hope is for Tedric Thompson to come back) “Well, we’re fortunate that Tedric’s coming back, yeah.”
(On Jarran Reed’s season comparing to that of Seahawks greats)
“Yeah, those names are pretty good too – John Randle, Cortez Kennedy. That’s good company. It’s a fantastic season for him, we could see it coming. You guys were asking those questions as he was starting to get three and four and five (sacks), what’s going on. He’s just growing up. He’s grown up into a well-rounded football player, not just in the running game like when we saw him in the first couple years. He’s just expanded his game, he’s using his talents, he’s using his instincts and it’s really come through. He’s always been tough, always been a fantastic effort guy, but it just kind of didn’t get applied in the pass rush part of the game and he just has caught fire. It’s great to see.”
(On Jacob Martin’s progression throughout the season)
“We’ve seen the sparks that Jake brings. He’s a really high-energy guy and high-effort guy with great motor and his quickness. He’s a skilled pass rusher technique-wise. I think it took him some time to get knocked around by the big tackles and all that to really find his game, but he’s starting to find it now at a really good time.
” We like his activity and if you just keep him out there, things are going to happen. When you have that kind of a motor, that’s one of the great aspects of pass rushers when they have it and he’s got that. He’ll play a lot and we’ll see how he does.”
(On if anyone was added to roster with Delano Hill going to IR)
“Yeah, it’ll happen here, it’ll come across that Malik (Turner) is back with us, so he’ll step up.”
(On if he feels as if the defense has been finding themselves over the past few weeks) “We’re playing well on third down, it’s always important. When we keep the running game down, it helps. We weren’t quite as well as we would like to against Kansas City – it’s a little bit different game plan there. You notice our coverage was aggressive, our rush as really tied together last week, and the third down numbers were in great shape. That makes such a difference in games. If we can keep that going, it’ll really add to the whole unit and how we’re putting it together. It’d be exciting to see that.”
DALLAS HEAD COACH JASON GARRETT
(On the biggest difference for his team between week three’s meeting with the Seahawks to now)
“I just think we’ve probably grown over the course of the season. We have a lot of young guys on our team who are playing significant roles and I think as much as anything else, they just needed to play. We were inconsistent early on in the year from week to week within games, all of that and I think over time, in the early part of the season, we learned from a number of these different experiences.
” When you play well and you win a game, replicate that. When things don’t go well, what was your mindset (or) mentality? How do you recapture the positive plays or positive momentum within games or from week to week? I just think over the course of the early part of the season, we learned a lot. We learned a lot of things from the experiences we’re having and I think we’ve grown. Guys have played more, they’ve played more together, and I think we’ve benefitted from that.”
(On how the Seahawks look different from the week three meeting)
“I just think they’re a really good team. Obviously, we played them and they did a really good job in the game and did everything they needed to do to win the game up there. They ran the ball effectively against us, they made big plays in the passing game, we didn’t move the ball real well and they took the ball away from us. It’s a good formula for them. That’s how they’ve played for a lot of years now and I think we felt that. We saw that in that game and they’ve been playing that way since then.”
(On who he felt was the best tackler from his playing days and how they compare to Bobby Wagner)
“Wow, that’s a great question. Ray Lewis is one of the great tacklers. He just made so many plays for those great Ravens defenses. I was fortunate to play with a guy who’s running the defense there in Seattle, Kenny Norton. I played with him here in Dallas. He was a great tackler. There’s so many great ones and Bobby – I guess the answer to your question, Bobby is just a fantastic football player in so many different ways. To your point, he’s an outstanding tackler.
” He’s so good at getting to the play, making plays all over the field, takes great angles, anticipates and then when he gets there, he finished the play. He’s an outstanding football player, a great tackler and ranks up there with any of the guys certainly playing today.”
(On Ezekiel Elliott)
“I think he’s just a great running back in so many different respects. He’s certainly physically talented, he’s big, he’s strong, he’s quick, he’s fast, he’s explosive, he has great instincts and feel for the game. He’s a powerful guy. I think he’s built.
“He’s a real sturdy back and he understands leverage and how to play with his pads down and run north and south and get himself in a great position to take on guys who are potentially going to try to tackle him and he makes them miss. He runs through them, around them, he just has a great feel and instinct for the game along with his physical ability.”
(On Amari Cooper)
“I think he’s made a big impact on our team. Obviously, we think he’s one of the better receivers in the league. We thought that when he was coming out of Alabama in the draft and had a lot of success out there in Oakland for a couple of seasons and we were really excited to bring him to our team. He’s a young football player with a lot of football in front of him but he’s had some success in this league already and he’s certainly impacted us.
“The thing that is most impressive for us is you pick him up in the middle of the season and he’s just able to do really anything you ask him to do at a moment’s notice. He lines up all different spots in our formations, inside, outside, runs a variety of routes and typically when you go to him, good things happen.
“He’s made a lot of little plays for us. It’s been a lot of big plays for us and he’s certainly had a positive impact on everybody because he gets attention from the opposing defense. I think that gives some of the other guys an opportunity.”
(On the Seahawks defense)
“Well, we have great respect for their defense. They do a great job there. They’ve done a great job there for a number of years and in some cases, the faces are very familiar and in some cases, there are some new faces but just how they play to us has not changed very much. They’re typically very good on their defensive front. They’ve got a lot of playmakers, up-the-field guys who affect the quarterback and disrupt the run.
The linebackers, a couple of those guys have been there for a long time now and they make so many plays sideline-to-sideline in the run game and the passing game. They always seem to be around the ball and the back end guys, there are some new names there but those guys play with a very similar style that the secondary guys have played there for a long time. They play the right way. We’ve got great respect for them.”
(On Kris Richard)
“Kris has done a fantastic job for us. He really has. We felt like, when we hired him, that so much of what he believes in is what we believe in. He and Rod Marinelli are cut from the same cloth. The DNA of our defense is aligned with the values that Kris has so it’s been a really good fit in that regard. Obviously, he has different experiences and different perspectives on things and some different ways he wants to do things and I think that’s been a positive thing for us.
” I think it’s helped our entire defense and certainly the back seven of our defense. He’s just a really smart guy. He’s very passionate about football, he’s a fantastic teacher, a great communicator, he’s able to inspire guys and get them to play, and he just does a fantastic job from top to bottom.”
(On assistant coaches pursuing head coaching opportunities)
“I think it’s a great opportunity for somebody if they have a chance to interview for a head coaching position. I was in that position a number of years ago and the people who were around me supported me. I think the biggest thing is you have to do is you have to focus on what your job is right now and do that to the best of your ability.
If the logistics work out where you can interview with another team in and around your playoff games, you go ahead and figure that out but your focus has to be on what you’re doing. I think that’s first and foremost, and typically people who are interviewing you when you’re involved in the playoffs understand that.
“To me, it’s more impressive to them when you do have that kind of focus because they know that’s the kind of guy you’re getting if they do in fact hire you. Kris (Richard) is fantastic in terms of that. His focus on what we need to do each day to become a better team is fantastic. He does a great job of instilling that in our defense.”
(On the lack of explosive passing plays by both teams during meetings)
“Well, I think you probably have to start by giving the defenses credit. Obviously, Seattle has had one of the best defenses in the NFL for a long time and we certainly are aspiring towards that. Slowing teams down in the passing game is a big part of playing good defense. Those are our objectives. I know those are their objectives as well, making an offense earn it. We’ve had some really good games against these guys.
“They’ve been close games. Hard-fought battles through the years and I think the games have been different but I do agree with you. They’ve been hard-earned victories where it’s not easy to make big plays and not easy to make yards and score points.”
(On how big of a concern the Seahawks pass rush is)
“We have great respect for them. They’re really good on their defensive front. (Frank Clark and Jarran Reed) have been the most productive at sacking the quarterback, but the other guys who are playing with those guys are awfully good players too and they work well together. They rotate guys in. Those guys have an impact.
“I’ve always believed that the success of their defense and really any defense starts up front. They’ve done a great job through the years of getting guys around the quarterback and having defensive linemen be disruptive defending the run. This year is no different.”
(On Amari Cooper’s impact on Dak Prescott)
“He’s been someone who has made a lot of plays for us and that makes everybody’s life better. It makes the other receivers lives better, it makes the running game better and it certainly has a very direct impact on the quarterback. In a number of different games we’ve played this year, Amari has made these signature plays, whether it’s a catch-and-run or a play down the field or a come-to-him on a critical third down or score a touchdown in a big moment in the game, he’s been able to do that for us.
” Really pleased with what he’s done for us since we’ve gotten him. Again, his transition to learning what we’re doing and picking up so quickly and getting himself acclimated have been very impressive.”