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Seahawks probably don’t beat the Bengals without Chris Carson’s pass blocking

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NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Seattle Seahawks Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

It’s official: Chris Carson is still really good.

Carson struggled to find a rhythm running against the Cincinnati Bengals defensive front on Sunday, but so did the entire team.

Yet when it mattered most, Carson put on his big boy pants and broke four tackles before being brought down by a fifth defender en route to his biggest gain of the afternoon. His 21 yard run came on 3rd and 1 in the fourth quarter with a one-point lead and three minutes left in the game. It’s the type of play a RB1 with Pro Bowl potential needs to be able to make at least once.

Chris Carson also scored two touchdowns and led all Seattle Seahawks with six receptions and fifteen carries, making for an incredibly complete performance in the 2019 home opener.

But late in the game, a pair of explosive plays that changed the trajectory of the trailing Seahawks were set up—in a couple of easily overlooked blocks that made the difference between completed passes or more Russell Wilson sacks.

The first play: DK Metcalf’s coming out party. The 42-yard completion was heralded around the PNW as the great “I-told-you-so” for all Metcalf believers. Metcalf owes Carson a Rolex. Or a jet ski, or whatever he’s into.

This is some very nifty blocking by Carson on a blitzing Clayton Fejedelem. Yup, Fejedelem. I just write the names, you decide the pronunciation. Carson correctly identifies the LB blitz and steps back quick enough to thwart the first and second attempts from… Clayton. Carson had enough confidence to push towards the outside to keep the pocket integrity and then adjusted as the aforementioned Bengal defender tried to come back inside.

This bought Wilson enough time for the play to develop and hit Metcalf for a huge, field-changing gain.

Two plays later was an even more impressive display. Carson put a huge hit on blitzing linebacker Nick Vigil, then was able to find the empty space and haul in the pass, making one defender miss completely and breaking two tackles along the way to his second TD of the game.

This was significant, and about as complete a play as it gets. Carson hits his own blitzing linebacker on the way out. This is not a love tap, shoulder brush, or a Jimmy Graham “If I stand here maybe he’ll just go away” block. This is deliberate, well-placed momentum placed into the defender’s chest in order to change direction, while still running the correct route.

It’s an often underappreciated part of football that is at the same time crucial to an offense and difficult to execute.

Take for example, the absolute shellacking that TE Nick Vannett allowed Wilson to suffer in the third quarter. It’s at 7:01 here if you’re interested.

On the first play of this drive in the third quarter, Vannett motions into the backfield pre-snap. Carson is already in the backfield, and Vannett lines up two yards behind Duane Brown on the left side of the line next to Wilson. Vannett then proceeds to pretend that that CB Dre Kirkpatrik doesn’t exist as he gets a nearly uncontested cornerback sack.

Meanwhile, Chris Carson is on the other side of the line picking up the other half of the blitz by pushing CB B.W. Webb far outside.

Granted, Nick Vannett is not a running back so this is not a position-to-position comparison. But to watch both of them block on the same play, and see Carson outperform a TE was a little embarrassing. Made one wonder why again Vannett is still on this team?

Head coach Pete Carroll is all in on Carson this year.

I’m not really sure what that sentence means because Carroll was all in on Carson last year. And Carroll is pretty much all in on everything each year.

But here’s as glowing a recommendation as a young RB could hope for, signaling that the small stuff like pass protection really does make a difference to this coaching staff, and like we saw on Sunday, makes all the difference in the world in the NFL.

I’ve told him that a couple different times. He should be going for it in every phase of our game. He’s talented, he’s explosive, he’s in great shape. He’s the smartest he’s ever been, he can catch the football, his pass protection has improved. Every aspect of his game is at it’s best.

Carson will look to continue his strong start next Sunday as the Hawks offense takes on a Pittsburgh Steelers defense that just surrendered 450 yards and only registered one sack.