Before the game went to overtime, it came down to a moment for which the Seattle Seahawks have spent seemingly every waking moment since the end of the 2017 season preparing: Fourth & Goal at the opponent’s one yard, down by a touchdown.
The Hawks had given the ball to running back Chris Carson on both second and third downs, and while there was still plenty of time for Seattle to score again if they got the ball back, the wet weather combined with a fired up San Francisco 49ers squad made a a touchdown crucial. The result was a play that is likely to stay in the highlight reels for a long time, as the 49ers defense appeared initially to have stopped Carson short of the end zone.
But, Carson is big and strong and apparently didn’t feel like being tackled short of the end zone, so this is what happened.
Just the effort to not get taken down short of the end zone in such a crucial moment is amazing, and it certainly shows how the 2017 seventh round selection appears to have cemented his starting role for Seattle going forward. He’s certainly not the fastest running back on the planet, but he’s smooth, agile and can make defenders miss, all while possessing the size and strength to also break tackles.
So, while the data may certainly show that rushing is of little importance in the NFL, don’t even bother trying to tell me that Eddie Lacy or Thomas Rawls score on that play. They don’t, and it’s not even up for discussion.
In any case, on Sunday Carson recorded his fourth 100 yard game of the season (and of his career), with 119 yards on 22 carries, with the one touchdown included. Those numbers push his season totals to 913 yards with 6 touchdowns and give him 188 yards on 35 carries in the two games against San Francisco this season. While Carson lacks the speed to present a home run threat, but defenses certainly have to account for the fact that he can pick up chunk yardage on any play as a result of his ability to break tackles and make defenders miss.
However, in spite of Carson’s elusiveness and his position near the top of the league for running backs in YAC (Yards After Contact), something became readily apparent during the red zone possession on which Seattle tied the game: they were not going to run behind Ethan Pocic. Here’s the sequence of run calls once it was 1st & Goal:
- 1st & Goal: Option left to Tyler Lockett
- 2nd & Goal: Chris Carson over left guard
- 3rd & Goal: Chris Carson over left guard
- 4th & Goal: Chris Carson over left guard
Certainly that is a small sample size, but over the course of the drive, here’s the running plays that Brian Schottenheimer called:
- 1st & 10 at the Sea 25: Chris Carson up the middle
- 1st & 10 at the Sea 46: Chris Carson left guard (Jordan Simmons injured)
And that’s when Pocic came into the game, at which point the playcalling became:
- 2nd & 5 at the SF 49: Chris Carson left end
- 1st & 10 at the SF 23: Mike Davis left end (Russell Wilson kept it to the right on the RO keeper
- 2nd & 5 at the SF 18: Incomplete to Doug Baldwin
- 3rd & 5 at the SF 18: Pass short left to Ed Dickson
And then came four straight run plays, none of which went to the right side. Fourth quarter, with the game potentially hanging in the balance, and the running game had been reduced to half the field as a result of an injury at a single position. After Simmons left with what Pete Carroll referred to as a sprained knee, the Seahawks ran the ball 12 times for 59 yards, which is a respectable 4.9 yards per carry, but 26 of those yards came on the first play after Simmons left injured. Over the final 11 rushing attempts of the game, the Hawks managed just 33 yards, or three yards per carry.
Now, Seattle did have a decent run by Mike Davis called back on a holding penalty, but that’s what happens when teams run the ball. In spite of the fact that there are more passing plays in the NFL than there are running plays, there are more holding penalties on running plays than passing plays.
In any case, Week 15 is in the books, and it now falls to the Seahawks to attempt to clinch their playoff spot in Week 16 against the Kansas City Chiefs, though they will need help from the Tennessee Titans to clinch this week because the playoff hopes of the Washington Redskins have not been fully extinguished just yet. The Chiefs bring their high powered offense to town, and Patrick Mahomes is likely licking his lips thinking about facing the secondaries of the Seahawks and Oakland Raiders over the final two games of the season.