Tackling their problems

The Seattle Seahawks defense got in trouble against the Chiefs by trying to do too much against the run. Correcting those problems is the focus this week as they prepare to face the Panthers.

Jamaal Charles had 173 rushing yards against the Seahawks on Sunday. But it was 3 of those yards that still were gnawing at coach Pete Carroll on Monday.

That’s because the Kansas City Chiefs’ leading rusher got them on the first play of the fourth quarter, with the Seahawks trailing 21-17. Charles scored on the run, pushing the Chiefs’ lead to 11 points, even though two Seattle defenders had opportunities to tackle him behind the line of scrimmage.

“We had two shots at him in the backfield and we should have won that exchange,” Carroll said. “But Charles, he’s having a heckuva season and he found a way out of trouble. He was dead in his tracks, and then we had another clean shot at him. He got us to miss both those tackles and knocked it into the end zone.”

Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane got such an explosive jump on the play that he actually overran Charles 4 yards behind the line and Charles then stiff-armed his way through an attempted tackle by defensive end Kentwan Balmer 2 yards deep.

If either defender had made the tackle, the Chiefs would have had to settle for a field goal – and a seven-point lead.

“I think that would have been a significant stop for us,” Carroll said. “We would have still been within a touchdown right there. It would have been a big deal. We had a great play going.

“Unfortunately, we couldn’t convert it. And I give him credit. He’s a terrific player. It’s plays like that that make for a big year for a guy.”

It’s also plays like that that the Seahawks defense has not been making, as their past six opponents have averaged 162 rushing yards. In their first five games, the Seahawks allowed an average of 70.4 rushing yards.

Not surprisingly, Carroll started with the run defense is his discussion of what the Seahawks must correct as they begin preparing for this week’s game against the 1-10 Carolina Panthers at Qwest Field.

As he stood behind a podium, Carroll was not the first Seahawks coach to lament how his players were making mistakes against the run because they were trying too hard to make a play – over pursuing, vacating their gaps, creating running lanes that shouldn’t have been there.

“We have to be more disciplined,” Carroll said. “We let opportunities get away in the running game. To play the run well you have to be really disciplined. You have to be in the right spots play after play.”

But when a team is having success running the ball like the Chiefs were, that’s easier said than done. It’s human nature to think that if you fudge just a little in one direction, it will help. Only the have the back dart through the gap you just left.

“Guys took some opportunities to go try to make a play, and stay outside the defense to see if they could slip underneath and make a tackle,” Carroll said. “And it didn’t work out. We over-tried.

“It’s something I’m always trying to coach against because I think when guys feel the pressure on and it’s not going the way you want, sometimes they make stuff up. Or they try to make a play for you where it hurts you. And it always winds up hurting you. Even if you get away one time with it, the next time you’re going to get spanked.”

The Seahawks have been paddled recently. It started with giving up 239 rushing yards to the Oakland Raiders on Halloween. Then, the New York Giants ran for 197 yards to following week at Qwest. Last week, the Saints had 112 rushing yards in New Orleans. Then came the Chiefs’ impressive effort on Sunday.

Not surprisingly, the Seahawks lost all four of those games.

But while the culprit against the Saints was missed tackles, against the Chiefs it was over-tying.

“This was not a focus on poor tackling,” Carroll said. “This was fitting the defenses together.”

And the fits it gave the Seahawks when they were misfits.

“So their minds were in the right place, in that they wanted to help us,” Carroll said. “But sometimes we over-tried and made a couple of mistakes.

“So the discipline – really at the nose tackle spot, both ends, Mebane, all those guys – they’ve just got to help us more,” Carroll said. “So just be really strict as to the details of the defense, and that was really the focus today in our meetings.”