Criticized for no risks, Pete Carroll ‘went for it’ in Seahawks win. Will he continue to?

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  • Seattle Seahawks
    Seattle Seahawks
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Pete Carroll
    Pete Carroll
    American football player and coach
  • Russell Wilson
    Russell Wilson
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|

Pete Carroll didn’t have new information on the concerning shoulder injury for Jamal Adams.

“I don’t have anything updated yet,” Carroll said mid-afternoon Monday, while his Pro Bowl safety continued to get tests on the same shoulder he had repaired in surgery last winter.

Adams missed the final 2-1/2 quarters of the Seahawks’ win Sunday over San Francisco. His status for Sunday when Seattle (4-8) plays at Houston (2-10) remains unknown.

But what was new for Carroll: his approach and mentality with his decision-making in what became just his team’s second win in two-plus months.

“We went for it,” Carroll said of how the Seahawks beat the 49ers.

It was noticeably different. In the stadium during the game it felt, frankly, refreshing.

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll talks to defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. after a 49er touchdown during the first quarter of an NFL game on Sunday at Lumen Field in Seattle.
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll talks to defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. after a 49er touchdown during the first quarter of an NFL game on Sunday at Lumen Field in Seattle.

The 70-year-old coach has been criticized from Bend to Bellingham across the Northwest this season for more of what many see as his chronically conservative decisions. His critics say Carroll still tries to play the way he did when he had the “Legion of Boom” and the NFL’s top-ranked defense going to consecutive Super Bowls seven years ago: emphasizing ball control, punting on fourth and short, trying to win closer, lower-scoring battles of field position.

Worse, they say, he plays like it’s 1935.

Sunday against San Francisco, Carroll was more like a 16-year-old playing Madden.

  • He green-lighted a fake punt from Seattle’s own 27-yard line on the first drive of the game. You can count on less than a full hand how many times the Seahawks have called a fake punt in Carroll’s 12 years as coach.

  • He approved not a double- but triple-pass trick play: Russell Wilson to DK Metcalf thrown back to Wilson, who then threw a home-run ball and incomplete to Tyler Lockett in the end zone. That was three more passes on one play than Seattle has run in some drives to nowhere this season.

  • After going from first and 10 to second and 43 to third and 32, Carroll had Jason Myers attempt a 56-yard field goal into the always-tricky, open, downtown, north end zone of Lumen Field in a tie game during the first quarter. More times than not Carroll punts in that situation, for fear of giving the foe the ball near midfielder and to pin the other team near its goal line instead.

  • Up by seven points with 6 minutes left on fourth down from the San Francisco 4-yard line, Carroll had Wilson and the offense go for the first down. Nine-point-nine times out of 10 in that situation, Carroll has kicked the field goal and been satisfied taking a two-score lead.

  • With 11 minutes remaining and Seattle up 30-23, San Francisco’s Jimmy Garoppolo threw a pass ruled a completion to Brandon Aiyuk for 22 yards to midfield on third down. The 49ers hurried to the line of scrimmage to try to get the next play off before officials had a chance to review whether Aiyuk lost the ball before finishing the catch and hitting the ground. Carroll usually waits for his assistant coaches to see television replays in the booth upstairs and call down advise to him on whether to challenge plays. This time, Carroll didn’t wait. He aggressively fired from the sideline perhaps his best, longest and most decisive throw of his red challenge flag of his time in Seattle. It looked like Wilson threw it. The flag landed near the yard-line numbers. Carroll won the challenge; upon replay review the pass was incomplete. San Francisco punted. Seattle’s lead stayed intact.

Seattle running back Adrian Peterson (21) waves to the fans as he walks off the field after the Seahawks beat San Francisco 49ers, 30-23 in an NFL game on Sunday at Lumen Field in Seattle.
Seattle running back Adrian Peterson (21) waves to the fans as he walks off the field after the Seahawks beat San Francisco 49ers, 30-23 in an NFL game on Sunday at Lumen Field in Seattle.

That’s about as much risk and aggressive decision-making as Carroll had made in the first 11 games, combined.

The results: Homer took the fake punt 73 yards for a touchdown on Seattle’s longest play this season. Peterson scored his 126th career touchdown to tie Jim Brown on the NFL’s all-time list.

Seattle Seahawks running back Adrian Peterson (21) celebrates with wide receiver Freddie Swain (18) after Peterson scored a touchdown in the second quarter of an NFL game on Sunday at Lumen Field in Seattle.
Seattle Seahawks running back Adrian Peterson (21) celebrates with wide receiver Freddie Swain (18) after Peterson scored a touchdown in the second quarter of an NFL game on Sunday at Lumen Field in Seattle.

And the Seahawks won for just the second time in eight games.

“We were all dialed in,” Wilson said. “We stayed zoned in on what the task was. Nobody blinked.

“You know, that’s why I think we were able to win this game.”

That was what Carroll sought, for his players to know he was different in this game, that he was just going for it and not laying back.

More specifically: Carroll’s eyes and mind were fixed on taking the game to the opponent, for a change, instead of sitting back and waiting out punts, field position and such.

The coach said he felt in the days leading into the game that’s what his frustrated team needed. That was following its face-plant Nov. 29 in losing a Monday night game at Washington the Seahawks felt they should have won. It was after losing to another backup quarterback playing Arizona at home the week before that. And after holding Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to three points into the fourth quarter in Green Bay but losing the week before the Arizona game.

This time, the Seahawks pushed the limits Sunday against the previously rolling 49ers.

I did,” Carroll corrected Monday. “I did, yeah.

“I was just looking for opportunities to be clear about our intention, to make sure we weren’t sitting back and kind of waiting for our chances, and all. You know, sometimes you can play the game and hold onto the rhythm of it and wait it out. I didn’t want to wait it out in this game. I had a lot of respect for their team. I thought they had a chance to be really explosive on both sides of the football, and we needed to be really going for it, and not waiting to see how the game turned out, in this case.”

Carroll said usually, he “trusts that we’re OK” and plans to just play “really good football.” That’s why he plays to “kick the ball deep, back them up, make them go 90 yards to score.”

“So that means you don’t have to push the limits to trying to get everything done right,” he said.

That obviously wasn’t happening as Seattle lost control of games defensively in September — remember 23 consecutive points scored by Minnesota? Then the team lost Wilson to finger surgery in early October for a month, Chris Carson to season-ending neck surgery and eventually eight of the season’s first 11 games.

“Really, it depends. It’s not always as clear as it was this week,” Carroll said of the need to be less conservative, more aggressive and just “go for it.”

That raises the question: Why not do that Sunday at Houston, the Sunday after that at the rival Los Angeles Rams, in each of the final five games of this season?

“Uh, you will just have to wait and see,” Carroll said, smiling, “how we decide. We may. We may not.

“I would say this,” Carroll said, feeling he had to. “It is always in me. It is always in me. I am fighting the urge, always.”

Linemen returning?

The Seahawks finished the win over San Francisco with rookie sixth-round draft choice Stone Forsythe playing the last 14 snaps at right tackle for the first time and undrafted rookie Jake Curhan, usually a tackle, playing left guard for 60 of the 70 offensive plays.

That was because right tackle Brandon Shell’s ongoing shoulder injury got so bad by the second half he couldn’t extend his arm to block. And Kyle Fuller got hurt 10 plays into the game.

Seattle Seahawks center Kyle Fuller (61) warms up prior to the start of an NFL game against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday at Lumen Field in Seattle.
Seattle Seahawks center Kyle Fuller (61) warms up prior to the start of an NFL game against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday at Lumen Field in Seattle.

Fuller, benched after seven games as the starting center in favor of Ethan Pocic, was starting Sunday again because Damien Lewis missed another game with a dislocated elbow and cyst in his groin area.

Carroll said Lewis is likely to practice Wednesday, and “should be pretty solid” to play at Houston.

The coach was less optimistic on Shell. He said the team “may have to take care of him” this week by giving him it off. Shell won’t practice Wednesday or Thursday.

Usual backup tackle Jamarco Jones is on injured reserve. If Lewis comes back to guard, Curhan becomes a option at right tackle, were he’s played some in four games this season.

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