A recap of the day’s activities:
The last quarter. Of the season, that is. Jim Mora is heading into the final four games of his first season as head coach – starting with Sunday’s game against the Texans in Houston – and he has a checklist of things he liked to see down the stretch.
On offense, it includes getting more production early in games, doing a better job of protecting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and continuing to improve in the running game.
“Protecting Matt involves everybody,” Mora said. “That involves the five men up front, the tight end, the backs being good in protection when they’re called upon. It involves the receivers getting separation early in the down so the quarterback can get rid of the ball.”
On defense, he wants to see the players do a better job of making plays at critical times in games, continue to be fundamentally sound against the run and generate better pressure on opposing quarterbacks with a four-man rush.
“You never have it figured out, you’re never there,” he said of the run defense. “So we’ve got to just keep impressing upon these players the importance of fundamentals in the details.”
On special teams, he likes the consistency of punter Jon Ryan and kicker Olindo Mare, and wants to see it continue. He also would like to keep seeing “signs of life” in the return game.
“What else is there?” he said with a laugh, before offering his own answer: “And we’ve got to coach them better.”
HERE’S THE CATCH
Tight end John Carlson has four receptions in the past four games, after catching six passes in the Week 9 win over the Detroit Lions – which matches his season-high totals from each of the first two games.
So, what gives? For a while, it was the need to keep Carlson in to help in pass protection. But lately, it’s been other factors.
“The last two or three weeks, John has been out more,” offensive coordinator Greg Knapp said. “But whether it be progression – maybe the quarterback is speeding his read too fast – protection, (it has been) a variety of things.
“More than last year, teams have been very sensitive to trying to reroute John on releases. So he’s been getting banged a lot more. That’s one of the things that we’re working on John’s progression in, is what we call second-level releases – those linebackers or safety about 5 yards off the ball, where is it illegal contact or is it we’ve got to keep our pad level down as a receiver.”
As for the protection – a recurring theme today – Knapp said two of the first four passes against the 49ers were designed to go to Carlson, but both times Matt Hasselbeck did not have enough time to complete the pass.
Mora was hoping to practice outside, but the field was frozen. So the players worked out in their indoor facility – where it was almost as cold as it was outside because there is no heating device.
“We can handle a little cold. We need to be a little uncomfortable,” Mora said. “It’s a little uncomfortable. But this is an uncomfortable sport.”
Mora was surprised that no one had mentioned that the players wore their darker blue pants in Sunday’s win over the 49ers. They are the pants that went with the green jerseys that were worn in the Week 3 game against the Chicago Bears.
“Those have been retired,” Mora said of the green jerseys. “I won’t say I don’t like those, I like our Seahawk blue with the accent of the lime green.”
But the pants? “The players, really, they like the feel of those pants,” said Mora, who called the combination of the Seahawk blue jerseys and darker pants a “tone-on-tone look.”
“I can’t believe we’re talking about uniforms,” Mora said, chuckling. “And I brought it up. It’s my fault.”
The official report, as released by the team:
DID NOT PRACTICE
QB Matt Hasselbeck (shoulder)
LB D.D. Lewis (knee)
LIMITED IN PRACTICE
DL Cory Redding (concussion)
C Chris Spencer (thumb)
Mora had said that Hasselbeck would be “very limited,” but the QB did not participate in any drills. Hasselbeck sat out because he has a sore right shoulder after taking a knee to his back in Sunday’s game against the 49ers. But he is scheduled to practice Thursday and will play against the Texans.
In Houston, RB Steve Slaton was placed on injured reserve with the shoulder condition that was causing numbness in the arm and thumb of the Texans’ leading rusher.
“We’ve obviously struggled to run the ball,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said this morning during a conference call. “We’ve been through a couple of backs, and now we face another challenge losing Steve. So trying to find a way to run the ball is very key for us, and it has been a struggle.”
With Slaton out, Chris Brown becomes the starter and Ryan Moats the backup. Chris Henry was signed off the practice squad to fill Slaton’s roster spot.
All the injury news was not bad, however, as QB Matt Schaub took part in all phases of practice despite dislocating his left shoulder in Sunday’s loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Three starters did not practice for the Texans – LT Duane Brown (knee), DE Mario Williams (groin) and LB Brian Cushing (foot).
STAT DU JOUR
With four touchdown returns, Josh Wilson needs one more to tie the late Dave Brown for most in franchise history. Wilson is tied for second with Ring of Honor defensive end Jacob Green, wide receiver/punt returner Joey Galloway and cornerbacks Willie Williams and Shawn Springs.
Two of Wilson’s scoring plays have come in the past five games – a 61-yard interception return against the Lions and a 65-yarder against the Rams. The others came last season – a 75-yard interception return against the 49ers; and in 2007 – an 89-yard kickoff return.
YOU DON’T SAY
“Jon is the best holder I’ve ever had, and he deserves to go to the Pro Bowl the way he’s punting the ball this season.” – veteran kicker Olindo Mare on punter/holder Jon Ryan