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Pete Carroll explains questionable onside kick decision vs. Steelers

Seattle lost the two-minute warning by not getting the recovery.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Jane Gershovich/Getty Images

Down 30-23 to the Pittsburgh Steelers with only 2:01 to go and two timeouts remaining, the Seattle Seahawks had an interesting decision to make in terms of the kickoff. A touchback would preserve the two-minute warning as a “free timeout,” whereas an onside kick would have the slimmest chance of a recovery. Across the NFL, only one onside kick has been successfully recovered by the kicking team this season.

Seattle onside kicked, didn’t come close to recovering, and cost themselves the two-minute warning since it was recovered inbounds—a kick out of bounds would’ve been better. The Steelers passed the ball on 1st down for 24 yards, immediately establishing game-clinching field goal range. A 3rd and 7 conversion by Najee Harris meant Pittsburgh could run the clock out.

On his Seattle Sports 710 radio show, Pete Carroll explained his reasoning behind the onside kick, citing the lack of touchbacks by Jason Myers in the 2nd half.

“If we (could have) kicked the ball out of the end zone, we would have done that, but we weren’t hitting the ball well enough to do that,” Carroll said. “So that was the first thought (that) we have to kick it and they’re gonna return it so they’re gonna bring it out and we can’t stop the clock there. ”

“To me, the onside kick thing, it’s a chance to get the football, and not a very good chance,” Carroll later said. “But we have to stop them no matter what. We have to stop them three plays whether it’s back here or here. We had an opportunity to get the football, and that’s what we went for.”

Myers’ first three kickoffs all went for touchbacks, but his two 2nd half kickoffs prior to the onside kick were returned by Godwin Igwebuike. The last kick failed to reach the end zone. This seems like a logical answer when assessing the situation, and Carroll raises the point that either a deep kick or an onside kick recovered by Pittsburgh still requires the Seahawks to make a defensive stop. Obviously, the stop never happened, and Seattle’s win probability was already very low at this stage of the game.

By the way, the Seahawks only having two timeouts at the two-minute warning was the result of a failed challenge. George Pickens picked up a first down at Seattle’s 5, but Carroll believed Pickens was out of bounds short of the marker, which would’ve set up 3rd and short.

“I thought it was (before the first-down marker). We saw it upstairs first that he went out of bounds around the 7 or 8 or right around there and then we looked it again and thought on the quick flash that we get on the screen that we might have something there, and I think it would have been short of the first down, so that was the reason to take a shot at it,” Carroll said. “At that point, I’m not saving timeouts or saving (the challenges).”

I think saving the timeout would’ve very much been preferred, especially since Pittsburgh kicked a field goal anyway.