Wait, Pete Carroll says Seahawks and Geno Smith need to THROW more, and down the field?

Wait ... Pete Carroll’s idea to fix the Seahawks’ offense is to not hold back anymore and ... throw the ball more?

Is this a different Pete Carroll coaching Seattle? Was the media’s online Zoom connection to Seattle’s 71-year-old coach accidentally connected instead to Andy Reid’s press conference with the Kansas City Chiefs?

No. It’s just this is a different Seahawks offense. A different quarterback, season — and era.

Carroll said the day after his team’s ugly, 27-7 beatdown by the San Francisco 49ers he wants offensive coordinator Shane Waldron to open up the passing game for quarterback Geno Smith to take more shots at bigger plays.

That’s Carroll’s response to an offense that has scored 17 points total in two games and hasn’t scored at all in the last six quarters.

“We need to not hold back, at all,” Carroll said Monday of Smith and throwing the ball down the field more.

The Seahawks (1-1) have mostly had no answers for the 49ers Sunday and the Denver Broncos in the opener last week stacking close to the line of scrimmage to take away Seattle’s intent to run the ball. The Broncos and 49ers also dropped defensive backs deep into coverage to prevent long throws by Smith to DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.

That leaves room in the middle of defenses for the Seahawks to exploit more, Carroll reasons.

Metcalf set a Seahawks record with 1,303 yards receiving two seasons ago, when he was a Pro Bowl wide receiver. He has just 71 yards on 11 catches through two games.

Sunday against San Francisco, Smith became the first NFL quarterback since at least 1932 to have an 80% completion rate with a minimum of pass 30 attempts in a game in which that passer’s team did not score an offensive point, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. (It’s “since at least 1932” because that’s when such statistics were first tracked for individual players).

That’s not good. Neither is the Seahawks’ offense two games into the post-Russell Wilson era.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (7) passes against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (7) passes against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Carroll says it’s time to see if Smith can win games throwing the ball downfield more, and taking advantage of opposing defense’s taking away the Seahawks’ running game and daring them to throw intermediate passes underneath deep, umbrella coverage.

Carroll said Smith has proven through two games and his 81% completion rate on shorter, safer throws that he’s ready to do more down the field Sunday when the Seahawks host the Atlanta Falcons (0-2) at Lumen Field.

“It’s encouraging that if there was any question how long it would take him to acclimate and all that, that’s gone. He’s clearly in command of it, and poised,” Carroll said.

“And we need to not hold back, at all.”

Smith had the fewest air yards per attempt (5.1) in the NFL in Week 1 playing Denver’s deep, shell coverage. Sunday against San Francisco, Smith averaged 6.57 yards passing per attempt.

“I kind of implied that would could have thrown the football more with the opportunities that we had (against the 49ers),” Carroll said Monday. “With the trust we have in him, we need to do that. When it’s given to us, we need to take advantage of it.

“We don’t have to hold back, at all.”

The factor of rookies Cross, Lucas

Here’s another factor to Carroll and Waldron keeping Smith in conservative passing mode with mostly quick drop backs and throws: Seattle is the third NFL team in 52 years to start two rookie offensive tackles in Week 1 of a season. That’s left tackle Charles Cross and right tackle Abe Lucas.

The coaching staff has been concerned how Cross, the first-round pick, and Lucas, the third-round choice from May, would handle their first NFL games against elite pass rushers.

Waldron’s and Carroll’s game plan for San Francisco was “to protect against this pass rush, which we think is as good as we will face. And so, in that regard, we didn’t want to open it up and expose the tackles any more than we had to.”

“But they are holding up. They did a nice job, in general,” Carroll said of his offensive tackles.

“Geno’s in command of what we’re doing, and he’s real accurate with his decision-making and all. I think it’s just more freely taking advantage of what’s going on, rather than be concerned with our ability to hold up.”

Waldron, Seahawks need to run more

What’s triply concerning for Carroll and the offense is the running game upon which it’s supposed to be based is running nowhere. Seattle is averaging just 3.4 yards per rush through two games.

Sunday Carroll said Waldron, the game play caller, needs to run the ball more with Rashaad Penny and rookie Ken Walker (who debuted against San Francisco returning from a hernia). Penny said the team needs to trust the running backs more.

Just eight of Seattle’s first 16 plays against the Niners were runs. The Seahawks were behind 13-0 by then.

For the season Waldron has called 62 pass plays. The Seahawks have had 33 rushes.

“To be honest, I feel like we are still really trying to find our identity as to who we are as an offense,” Penny said in the visiting locker room in Santa Clara on Sunday. “It’s early in the season, so that’s kind of like how it’s always been here. We’ve tried to kind of find ourselves in the first few games.

“I feel like we’ve got a really great running-back room. I think, you know, we’ve just got to trust it more.”

Yet trust is hard to muster after 36 yards on 14 rushing attempts, Seattle’s numbers against the stacked-up-close 49ers. Penny had six carries for 15 yards, after 12 rushes for 60 yards against Denver.

Carroll had said last week Penny needed more opportunities to run. Then Penny ran half as much against the 49ers.

“We want to get the running game a more active part of the game,” Carroll said — for about the 739th time the last three seasons.

San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa, left, grabs the jersey of Seattle Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny during the second half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa, left, grabs the jersey of Seattle Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny during the second half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)

Carroll also reiterated Waldron, early in his second season calling Seattle’s offensive plays, needs to throw the ball further down the field. Not so many quick and short throws, but not deep into the teeth of umbrella coverages Seattle’s getting, either.

“And we have to take — in this game, we needed to take what they were giving us, more so,” Carroll said. “They really were laying off, giving us some room. Geno was popping the ball around. He was in good shape to throw it.

“We should have gone that way a little more.”

Third downs remains Seahawks issue

The Seahawks were 2 for 7 converting third downs against San Francisco. Four of those third downs were of at least 11 yards to go, showing that early-down runs weren’t working.

“It’s such a broken record: When you don’t convert (on third downs), you don’t get enough chances,” Carroll said.

“We needed more opps. We’ve got to create them ourselves by our execution so that we had a chance to throw the ball more than we did.”

Atlanta’s defense is not Denver’s or San Francisco’s. The Falcons have one sack through two games, a one-point loss to New Orleans and a six-point loss at the Rams Sunday (it was 28-3 Los Angeles late in the third quarter). The Falcons have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 71.4% of their passes for 541 yards. Twenty-eight of the 42 first downs Atlanta has allowed have been by the pass.

In other words, the opposite of the concerns Carroll had with Cross and Lucas playing Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead and the 49ers pass rush.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith, foreground, is sacked by San Francisco 49ers defensive end Drake Jackson, middle left, and defensive end Nick Bosa during the second half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith, foreground, is sacked by San Francisco 49ers defensive end Drake Jackson, middle left, and defensive end Nick Bosa during the second half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)

“This game was one that we had picked out, as, you know, again, that might tell us a lot of information on what we can expect. And so I think we did gain some confidence in the fact that we can we can keep moving,” Carroll said.

“So it’s a, it’s a process, you know. These (tackles) are still brand new. So we have to make sure that we’re respectful of that and do a good job not over-exposing.

“But we, we feel good about it. And we’re making progress.”

With the rookie tackles, anyway.