Chris Carson didn’t play down to the Arizona Cardinals. The mighty running back finished with one touchdown and 122 rushing yards at 6.4 yards per carry. The second-year runner put up season-totals of 1,151 yards and 9 touchdowns on the ground, making his Pro Bowl snub look more and more ridiculous.
Now Carson deserves genuine All-Pro consideration.
His run with 6:06 left in the third quarter symbolized the spirit that Carson’s toughness brings to this team. After defensive holding saved the Seattle Seahawks from fumbling the ball over for an embarrassing touchdown and loss of the lead, Carson responded.
For Brian Schottenheimer, this gift of a first down on Seattle’s own 11-yard line was the time to try something different. The Seahawks are predominantly an inside zone running team. One layer they have off this is “duo”, a gap-blocked change-up.
Dropping back, Russell Wilson went to his left. That, combined with the overall movement of the offensive line, saw the Cardinals flow aggressively to the right. After all, they had been frequently running to the left. Left tackle Duane Brown and left guard Ethan Pocic blocked as though it were inside zone. Brown went for EDGE defender Chandler Jones in the bear front; Pocic mauled Pasoni Tasini.
The duo element was the two double teams on the backside. Center Justin Britt and right guard Germain Ifedi double-teamed nose tackle Corey Peters. Helped by Vontarrius Dora stepping inside when reading the blocks, right tackle George Fant and tight end Nick Vannett were able to double-team the defensive lineman out of the c-gap. Meanwhile, tight end Ed Dickson—motioned in to wingback—kicked out EDGE defender Haason Reddick well into the d-gap.
Wilson’s drop was a lie. Instead, he turned and handed the ball to the other side. Carson, after syncing his footwork with the handoff, took the gap footwork typical of duo and got downhill quickly. Wilson’s turn and Carson’s counter-ish footwork were the pieces of misdirection. (Typically, as illustrated by Geoff Schwartz, the quarterback would drop to that side, the double teams would be on the immediate playside and the back wouldn’t do his slight delay)
Reading middle linebacker Gerald Hodges’ aggressive scraping inside to the b-gap, Carson moved his read to the gaping d-gap. Seattle blocked this marvellously.
Seattle's zone misdirection.— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) December 31, 2018
OL blocks IZ left. Wilson drops to that side.
Arizona flows right playing IZ to that side.
Carson takes counter step, Wilson turns to hand ball to other side.
Seattle double teams the out-leveraged c-gap player, kicks out EDGE. Baker lost. HOLE! pic.twitter.com/fZ7ScmsQUI
Free in the space of the murdered c- and d-gaps, after strong safety Budda Baker got caught trying to fit secondary force, Carson ran for a gain that was more than double his previous professional AND collegiate long (excluding JUCO):
The Seahawks looked shaky. They were in a spot. The game felt like it was turning. And then it wasn’t. Carson surged for 61 yards. On the next play, Schottenheimer gave Wilson a quick, short bootleg to Vannett for a first down. Seattle then extended their margin after Mike Davis bounced a run outside for a touchdown.
Sure, they huffed and puffed; Arizona at home appears destined to always be hard work; Seattle threatening to give the game away certainly made for tough watching. But they were running super vanilla gameplans on both sides of the football. Worse, Mike Solari’s offensive line had multiple changes up front.
When the #5 seed Seattle Seahawks travel to Dallas for their Saturday encounter, their o-line will be back to full strength. Furthermore, the scheme will be more exploitive. That means the run game—which has a strong inside zone identity—will flash some more fun layers. Chris Carson will lead the way.