Coach Pete Carroll walks a delicate tightrope when it comes to the aggressive, physical way the Seahawks play.
In the three seasons he’s been in Seattle, the Seahawks have steadily gained notoriety around the league as a team that likes to trash talk and play physical to the whistle — sometimes through the whistle.
And that aspect of Seattle’s play was evident in the Seahawks’ big road win against Washington in the NFC Wild Card game Sunday.
Cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman, along with receiver Golden Tate, all had running battles with Redskins players.
Sherman could be heard by Washington players telling Redskins coach Mike Shanahan that he was scared to throw his way.
Sherman’s constant badgering proved effective again as he caused Washington’s Trent Williams to lose control, with the offensive tackle slapping the Seattle cornerback after the game, which will likely lead to a response by the league.
Browner body slammed Redskins receiver Pierre Garon at the end of Earl Thomas’ interception in the second quarter. Those two were at each other most of the game, along with Tate and Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall.
But Seattle finished with only four penalties for 30 yards, so Carroll said his team handled those minor dust-ups.
“Our guys responded and matched it up, and did the right thing,” Carroll said. “No penalties, no issues—no runs, no hits, no errors — none of that happened. We got out of that thing all right. … There wasn’t anything that was illegal about it. It was just very, very aggressive tough play.”
Carroll said his team gains an advantage by playing on the edge and being the aggressor. Offensive line coach Tom Cable teaches his linemen to play to the whistle, including picking defenders off at the end of runs so opponents can’t get an extra shot on bruising runner Marshawn Lynch.
Browner and Sherman play physical, bump-and-run style coverage at the line of scrimmage, adjusting to the way the game is being officiated. And the Seahawks play with a chip on their shoulder because they feel like the rest of the country still has not given them the respect that they deserve.
“Guys have high expectations for one another,” Sherman said. “Despite the fact that we have a nobody team – a team not filled with first rounders and things like that – we have a lot of guys who play at a high level. And I think we expect each other to play at a high level, and that’s what we did again. And we expect to keep playing like this.”
Those expectations start at the top with Carroll.
“I have no problem with any of it, none of it,” Carroll said about his team’s aggressive style of play. “When it crosses the line and you’re doing things that are illegal, or it’s something that is cheap, then we don’t want any part of that. But we want to take it to the edge. We’re trying to find a level that we can take it to, that gets everything that we can possibly get out of the moment.
“We’re ready to battle to that, but it’s composure and poise that allows you to make the right decision at the right time, and our guys did a great job of that.”