Hey, look, a couple cool milestones in Week 2 for the oldest coach in the NFL. On his 68th birthday, Pete Carroll, at his most wily yet traditional, at his most cautious yet hormonal, guided his 2-0 Seattle Seahawks to victory by pulling all the strings at all the right times.
Exhibit A: The insertion of Jamar Taylor and Lano Hill
Because the Seahawks are spending so much time in base defense early this season, the starting nickel cornerback hasn’t seen the field much. But Carroll shook up the secondary this week, elevating Hill to a starting role and getting Taylor on the field for nickel reps. And, based on the explosives allowed, the Hail Marys sidestepped, and the eventual victory, the coach was vindicated.
Two of the Seattle touchdowns allowed were hardly on the defense — one came following a dubious third-down DPI call on Mychal Kendricks, and the other immediately after Chris Carson’s nearly-catastrophic fourth-quarter fumble that set the Steelers up on the three-yard line.
The new guys didn’t leak in the same way their Week 1 brethren did. If Carroll was trying to plug holes, and try out the 2019 version of Next Man Up, he pulled it off.
Exhibit B: Gathering intelligence
Carroll’s wasted two timeouts in two weeks challenging defensive pass interference penalties. Both times he’s come away with no result, unless you count intelligence gathered, which, feel free to do that, or don’t.
More seriously, though, he didn’t let two losses (not real losses! challenge losses! the Seahawks have zero losses! they are undefeated!) deter him from following instinct and challenging DPI for a third time, only winning.
When Tyler Lockett was contacted well downfield midway through the fourth quarter on a long Russell Wilson heave, Carroll went for the red flag, and you can see why.
The Pete Carroll DPI challenge that worked: a turning point that deserves repeating pic.twitter.com/WPzEh1JtAw— John Fraley (@johndavidfraley) September 16, 2019
Whatever one might think of his previous challenges, this one might have saved the win. Never change, Pete. Unless you are thinking of letting Wilson throw the ball more often, in which case...
Exhibit C: Time to throw
Exhibit C has a double meaning! First, look at the in-game adjustment made by the Seattle coaching staff, which makes adjustments, despite what the hot take artists are selling.
Russell Wilson's average time to throw today was 1.89 seconds. That's the fastest average time to throw game (min. 14 attempts) since EJ Manuel in Week 4, 2017, per @NextGenStats.— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) September 15, 2019
Clearly the coaches have recognized that pass protection isn’t yet the strong suit of their offensive line. So they set Wilson up to get rid of the ball sooner. Sooner than everyone in the past two years. And, after enduring four sacks on the first four drives, Wilson was not sacked the rest of the afternoon.
Secondly, Carroll and Brian Schottenheimer didn’t lean on the run game in the second half, instead riding Wilson’s arm to the three consecutive TD drives. 12 passes and eight rushes comprised those possessions.
The final drive saw two first-down runs and a Rashaad Penny carry on 2nd and 17, but those were part of clock control. They trusted Wilson otherwise. And, frankly, Carson butterfingers or no, why the hell would you not?
Russell Wilson in 2019:— Jacson A. Bevens ✍️ (@JacsonBevens) September 15, 2019
495 yards (9.0 Y/A)
134.5 passer rating
Exhibit D: The fourth-down call
Faced with the opportunity to maybe go up by five at the two-minute warning, or ice the game with a first down, Carroll pulled out his phone, logged into Twitter real quick, scrolled feverishly, and listened to the people.
What conclusion can be drawn, besides that 12 percent of you are cowards? One I like is that Carroll saw the opportunity here to kill two birds with one stone. He could simultaneously give Carson his chance to atone for the fumble(s) and ice the game. A player’s coach is constantly looking for ways to build confidence, maintain it, and restore it. I sometimes wonder if Carroll is willing to lose a drive, or even a whole game to make a point that will pay dividends later with the player or the entire team.
Carson will be remembered for his miscues from Sunday, but he also gets to leave the field having made the biggest play of the final drive, because his coach believed in him.
Plus, don’t kick.