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Seahawks sit atop NFC West, but Carroll has concerns

RENTON, Wash. -- The gimpy ankles of rookie left tackle Russell Okung and an offense that settled for field goals on four possessions deep in the Arizona Cardinals' end were pretty good reasons for Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll not to be overly amped Monday.

Still, after seven weeks, Seattle (4-2) finds itself as a division leader. Fortunately for the Seahawks, they play in the NFC West, where they can get away with an ugly win like Sunday's 22-10 decision over the Arizona Cardinals.

"We learned a lot and take a lot out of it, but we've got to go to work, get stuff ironed out and fixed to help us and keep us going," Carroll said.

Carroll's enthusiasm was a bit muted one day after Seattle improved to 4-2 for the first time since 2006, mostly because of another ankle sprain to Okung, the sixth overall pick in the April draft.

This time, it's Okung's left ankle that was injured when tight end Chris Baker rolled into him on Seattle's first drive Sunday. It's a similar injury to the high ankle sprain that Okung suffered to his right ankle during the preseason, causing him to miss the first three regular-season games.

But Carroll said Monday that this sprain isn't as severe, and he wasn't ready to rule Okung out for this Sunday's game at Oakland, although it seems unlikely Okung will play. If Okung is out, Seattle could go with either Tyler Polumbus, who filled in for Okung originally, or Chester Pitts at left tackle.

"It's not nearly like the other one, (but) we don't know what that means yet," Carroll said. "He's being treated and medicated right now to see how it responds the next couple of days, and we'll just see what happens. ... But it's a legit sprain."

Okung's injury is a blow to an offensive line that was finally displaying some continuity. The five linemen who started Sunday were the same five who started one week earlier in Chicago when Seattle had its best offensive day in a 23-20 victory over the Bears.

And for one drive against Arizona, that offense appeared to click. The Seahawks took the opening kickoff and quickly drove to the Cardinals' 11 on the strength of 53 rushing yards by recently acquired running back Marshawn Lynch, including a 39-yard sprint when Okung caved in one side and created a cut back lane for Lynch.

But while blocking on the backside of a 2-yard run by Lynch, Okung got rolled into by Baker. Seattle reached the Arizona 1 on the drive, then eventually settled for a 20-yard field goal from Olindo Mare, one of five he kicked in the victory.

In the following 10 drives by their offense, the Seahawks ran 32 plays -- including a kneel-down at the end of the first half -- for a total of 8 yards. Lynch had 20 carries for just 36 yards after Okung was injured.

And yet, Seattle scored 13 points during those woeful drives thanks to three of Arizona's five turnovers. Seattle had possessions that started at the Arizona 2, 11 and 16 off those three Cardinals fumbles.

"We didn't get open on some situations we had planned to, they covered us up," Carroll said. "... There were just a couple of plays in there that weren't executed the way they needed to be."

Carroll added that the status of fullback Michael Robinson (hamstring) and wide receiver Brandon Stokley (oblique) is unknown for this week, although Robinson told Carroll he expects to play. Late Monday afternoon, the Seahawks released running back Chris Henry, about two hours after Carroll said the veteran was being worked in as Robinson's backup at fullback.

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Another big injury question is defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, who missed Sunday's game with a calf injury. Arizona seemed to solve Seattle's run defense that for the first five games was among the best in the league. Part of the Cardinals' success -- 113 rushing yards, the most Seattle has allowed -- could have been related to Mebane's absence.

But Carroll said even with Mebane out, the Seahawks knew Arizona would rely on the legs of Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells to take some pressure off rookie quarterback Max Hall.

And yet the Cardinals were still successful, averaging nearly 6 yards per carry.

"We weren't as effective as we needed to be. This was a game we anticipated we needed to be and we didn't play it very well," Carroll said. "There were a number of little things that happened, wasn't any one person, but it shows that the Cardinals are good at it. We knew they were going to do it, and they did it anyway."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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