RENTON — The Seahawks met for a final time as a team Monday before their bye week, and coach Pete Carroll’s message was simple: They are right where they want to be, but nowhere near where they really want to go.
“We’re real happy that we made it to the bye as we have,’’ Carroll said. “And I feel like we’ve accomplished a lot to get to this point in some regards. And in other regards, we haven’t done anything yet.’’
Indeed, while Seattle owns the best record in the NFL at 10-1 and a commanding lead in the NFC West, the New Orleans Saints are close behind in the NFC at 8-2 and favored to win at Atlanta on Thursday.
Seattle next plays the Saints on Monday, Dec.?2 at CenturyLink Field in a game that could decide the NFC home-field playoff advantage.
Carroll said his players understand the stakes of handling their break the right way, though he sent them what he called “a pretty strong message’’ about what is expected.
“I think it’s real important that we compete all week long,’’ he said. “That’s the message: That they compete to get the most out of the recuperating from the game and rehabbing that needs to take place. Everybody has something that they’re working on.”
The NFL labor agreement mandates that teams take four consecutive days off, including a Saturday, during a bye. Carroll decided to give players the week off after the 41-20 victory Sunday over Minnesota. They return to practice Monday.
They’ll do so with few real on-field concerns after two of their best performances of the year in beating Atlanta and Minnesota the past two weeks by a combined 74-30. Carroll called the past two games “good, complete football.’’
The offensive line, finally healthy with the return of tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini, protected quarterback Russell Wilson as well as at any time this season, Carroll said. That allowed Wilson to hit on 13 of 18 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns and a career-high passer rating of 151.4. One pass went for 17 yards to Percy Harvin, who made his Seattle debut, to convert a key third down.
If there was a concern, it was a running game held to 93 yards on 28 carries, the third-lowest total of the season. Carroll said he thought the rustiness of the line contributed.
Still, he likes the direction of an offense that has scored 27 or more points in four of its past five games.
“We’re getting better,” he said. “I’m counting on us playing really good on offense down the stretch.’’
Defensively, the Seahawks held Adrian Peterson to 65 yards on 21 carries with no run longer than 13, appearing to have put its run-defense issues against St. Louis and Tampa Bay behind them.
Carroll said end Red Bryant played the “best game he’s played for us” and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner is “at his best right now” after fully recovering from a high ankle sprain that sidelined him two games.
Dominant special teams were sparked by a punt-return unit that didn’t allow a yard against a Vikings team that came in leading the NFL in punt-return average. Harvin also had a 58-yard kickoff return that led to a touchdown.
Carroll said Harvin was sore Monday but otherwise fine, and when the Seahawks come back, he will regularly return kickoffs.