BY Art Thiel 06:17PM 09/23/2019

Thiel: When he was needed, Carson not there

If you can overlook the inexplicable in Sunday’s game, there’s a plain old football truth that a large Seahawks asset a year ago, Chris Carson, is drifting toward a liability.

RB Chris Carson stares up at the Clink’s video replay screen after his fumble Sunday against the Saints. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Apart from the blown coaching calls, clock mismanagement, penalties and poor execution that turned the Seahawks for a day into The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the Monday analysis of the 33-27 loss to the Saints can come down to ordinary football production from the prime running backs.

The Saints’ Alvin Kamara was great. The Seahawks’ Chris Carson was not.

That doesn’t mean Carson was, or is, terrible. But there were critical times when each team needed the studhoss to deliver. The Saints’ guy delivered.

Kamara was ruthlessly effective, rushing for 69 yards in 16 carries and a touchdown, and more importantly, catching nine balls for 92 yards, including a score off a screen pass — at 29 yards, it was the Saints’ longest play. In the game plan, he was often the check-down receiver so backup QB Teddy Bridgewater could throw quickly and avoid the rush. One statistical count had 18 tackles missed on Kamara.

“We missed way more tackles than we ever have in a game,” said coach Pete Carroll in his Monday afternoon presser. “It was really one guy — Kamara. He did a fantastic job.

“We didn’t know him well enough to adjust, tackling-wise, to compensate. He was really good. He was a big factor.”

Carson was not. He had 53 yards in 15 carries, but 23 came on the second-quarter play in which his fumble became a scoop-and-score from 33 yards that put up the Saints for good, 13-7.

The next Seattle series, starting from the 32-yard line, C.J. Prosise replaced Carson and carried six times for three yards. With less than eight minutes left in the half, the Seahawks faced a third-and-1 from the Saints 41-yard line. They subbed out Prosise for Carson, and OT/TE George Fant was brought in, signaling a likely jumbo-package run.

Carson plunged into the middle and gained nothing. At fourth-and-one, Carroll skipped over the kicking options — punt the Saints deep, or try a 58-yard field goal with a wet ball — and gave the ball again to Carson.

He lost two yards.

The Saints took over on downs and had their only good drive of the half. Bridgewater threw seven times, completing five, the last being Kamara’s 29-yarder, in which Seahawks bounced off him like Nerf balls. The Saints were up 20-7, accomplishing what coach Sean Payton established as a priority in his week-long bunkering in Bellevue, where the team stayed after losing 27-9 in Los Angeles.

“I thought we took the crowd completely out of it,” he said post-game. “Generally, you have to deal with a lot louder place.”

To have stayed in the game at 7-7, the Seahawks needed to have no turnovers, and ground-game production. Obviously, rushing is a team effort, and the O-line bears some responsibility. But Carson, who earlier slipped at least twice and changed cleats at halftime, was little help.

For the third time in three games, a Carson fumble has led directly to an opponent score. Carroll was asked what he could do to help him.

“Every way possible,” he said. “Because we do believe in him, we’re going to continue to show him that. He’s a terrific football player. We want to make sure to maintain that level of play from him.

“There’s a lot of technical stuff that’s really important, right down to the last instant of play (on the fumble). There’s another thing he could do (tucking his elbow tightly) to ensure he takes care of the ball a little longer.

“He thought it was secure, then bang — the ball comes out.”

Over at the University of Washington Monday, Huskies coach Chris Petersen, who knows a little about running the football, was asked what tools he has available to help cure running backs with the dropsies.

He smiled and was quick.

“Lack of playing time,” he said.

But that wasn’t easy for the Seahawks Sunday. The primary backup, Rashaad Penny, strained a hamstring Friday and was inactive. Prosise had only one more carry, but in the second half, the rushing game became futile after going down 27-7. And there’s rookie Travis Homer, who hasn’t played from scrimmage.

Carroll doesn’t foresee Penny’s injury keeping him out of Sunday’s 1 p.m. game at Arizona. But he can neither bench nor fire Carson because he has a strong resume — he fumbled only four times all last season — and is more powerful and agile than the other backs.

But he’s also on the radar among NFL defenders as the Seattle guy most likely to deliver the goods in each unit’s turnover contest.

“He’s going to have to be really on it,” Carroll said, “because guys are going to come after him.”

Remember how the Seahawks, behind Carson, in 2018 led the NFL in rushing with 160 yards per game? This year, they’re at 110.7 yards per game, ranked 15th. Opponents know what the Seahawks want to do, and they’re coming after Carson. Hard.



  • Guy K. Browne

    This is just my opinion, but HUNGER is what sets great teams ahead of good teams. Marshawn Lynch had it, the LOB had it, Russell Wilson brings it every day. Right now I don’t see a lot of hunger coming from most of the Seahawks. They could quite easily be 0-3 right now but for some good fortune the first two weeks. If this team is going to be anything, they need to get hungry… now, not later. And, maybe they just don’t have that.

    • Kevin Lynch

      Good point. There was an interesting close up pre-game on Thomas, the Saints receiver. He was just stretching before the game but he had his game face on and he was nodding affirmatively, again and again, looking around him. He was ready to play. So were his teammates. They were hungry and maybe a little desperate. We’ll see who shows up hungry in Phoenix this weekend.

      • art thiel

        I think the week the Saints spent in Bellevue focusing only the revised game plan turned into a huge asset.

    • art thiel

      Not sure about that. I think the young secondary lacks talent and confidence, not desire. I don’t see any slackers. Lynch and the LOB were exceptional talents and top competitors, a rare combo.

      • Bruce McDermott

        Hunger, maybe, but not fury. The LOB played with fury, as did Lynch. Rubbed off on the whole team. Talent level is lower, and calmer now…

        • art thiel

          Good word, fury. But the virtue is something built from knowing what you’re doing, which takes a little time.

  • DJ

    Thanks Art! The multifaceted loss was a tough one, and you’ve done your usual best in capturing the essentials, difficult as they are to decipher when a team fails at nearly everything that they hold as core values.

    O-line chemistry was achieved in 2018, once we got the right combination of guards. As important as that was, respected externally and heralded internally, I was quite surprised to see nothing really said about losing JR Sweezy in free agency. As tender as that relationship was, it’s no surprise to me now that they are no longer a dominant force. Some credit can be given to opposing defenses stacking the box, and other tactics, as the NFL is so good at adjusting to new found strengths of opponents in the following year. Everything always starts up front, and the offense will only go as far as the O line can take you. Granted Carson did quite well in his first year with a mediocre line before his injury. That was mostly by surprise. Last year we got what we hoped for with him picking up where he left off and dominant line play.

    Want to pound between the tackles? Then get that line jelled. Until then, Carson is a demon for backers and the secondary to tackle on swing and screen passes.

    Regarding the fumbling, I recall hearing about Carson’s phenomenal hand strength that he developed in college, by driving his hand into a bucket of rice. Therefore no fumbles in college I guess. There are all of the obvious fixes available, I just hope Chris doesn’t let this get into his head and he works it out. He’s a great asset that we needs a bit of support right now. Maybe he needs a softer Tom Brady ball…….he’s not going to all of the sudden get softer arms to hold the sucker better!

    After three games we still have uncertainty for the season. I believe Carroll and staff will work it all out – but as your early going prediction indicated, it’s gonna take a few more games to get what can be righted right. GO HAWKS!

    • art thiel

      Sweezy is missed right now, because Iupati is a warrior in decline. Ifedi seems to be regressing, and Fluker is not much of a pass blocker.

      • Bruce McDermott

        I think Britt’s season so far has also been less than impressive. Stoned or slipped at the point of attack pretty regularly….

        • art thiel

          True. He’s not firing as consistently as a year ago.

  • rpfloyd

    I wonder if Schneider has been talking with Melvin Gordon’s agent…love Carson but having Mel in the backfield would be awesome, and he’s only 26. I think we could afford it…would be like snagging
    Lynch in his prime from Buffalo..

    • art thiel

      Not a bad backup plan, but they really do like Carson’s A game.

      • Bruce McDermott

        Well, it’s bad in the sense that Gordon is not worth his asking price for an extension, which is very, very high…

        • art thiel

          As far as a midseason trade, the Seahawks would be better served helping the defense.

  • Nealsubterra

    The Sunday fumble was all on Carson; he tried to use his left hand to brake (or is it break here?) his fall as he was being tackled, rather than hold onto the ball with both hands, taking a hard fall on the ball.

    However I’m not sure about the other 2 he had in the first 2 games. It almost seems as if the timing is off between he and Russ; Russ bounced it off the lower part of his shoulder pads. Carson should have handled it but I don’t think those were 100% on him.

    Hate to see him lose his confidence.

    • art thiel

      Carson had only four last year. This start is an anomaly, and hard to fix.

  • ll9956

    I think today is the players’ day off. When tomorrow comes, Carroll and Co. should work the team VERY hard (not to be confused with excessive contact), to let them know they want a LOT OF IMPROVEMENT, NO IFS ANDS AND BUTS. This means much more discipline (no false starts, no stupid penalties like covering the opposing center, no coming onto the field to celebrate, no 12 men on the field, etc.). The team needs a good, harsh talking to by Carroll, who needs to also own up to his own lapses.

    • art thiel

      To his credit, Carroll has already owned up. And I think the error-makers knew Sunday night who they were and what they did. This problems are a function of experience and execution, not attitude.

      • juliusvrooder

        Ya know Art, folks have cracked jokes about Pete taking a ball to the face pre-game, kind of as an aside. An earlier poster (I would cite him/her by username, but as a Wazzu guy, I would prefer to demure) even mentioned it here, in passing. But nobody has dug into it.

        What hit me on game day, like a ball to the face, was preparation. We came out a bit sloppy, and gave up two (arguably three, if you count the procedural on a missed field goal) touchdowns, and lost by six. Pete did his Mea Culpa, but nobody has dug into the question I had at kickoff: What does Pete do to prepare the team for victory between warm-ups and kickoff, when he is not getting his face sewn up in the training room?

        To your point, Carson needs to stop fumbling, but I think the lede has been buried. Pete was not doing Pete things when he was in the training room. Somebody needs to do some reportage on this: What does Pete usually do, that he didn’t do last week, when his team came out sloppy, and spotted a playoff team 21 points in a six-point loss?

        Preparation is a big deal. These guys stay in hotels and take a bus to the stadium AT HOME! When Pete was getting five stitches in the training room, he was not doing what he usually does… What did the team miss out on, immediately prior to coming out sloppy?

  • ll9956


  • Husky73

    I am sensing an over-reaction to a defeat early in the season. The Saints were a final four team last year, and should have been a final two. They have a good coach, and good personnel, even without Brees. It’s a long way to Christmas and the Rams and 49ers look formidable in the NFC West. Plus, there’s the “poop the bed” game against the Cardinals which crops up periodically. There will be more wins, and more defeats, over the coming months.

    • art thiel

      The point about a good Saints team is well-taken. Once Payton stripped down the playbook to keep Bridgewater from losing the game, the Saints needed only a couple of breaks. On their first two scores, they got them.

  • 1coolguy

    ” Opponents know what the Seahawks want to do, and they’re coming after Carson”
    After last year’s excellent running game, yes, the opposing D’s are designed to primarily stop the Hawks run game, so PC and Shott need to be flexible and use RW’s passing skills early now, using the pass to set up the run. It seems fairly obvious – we made the Bengals D line look like the Purple People Eaters of yore, and the Saints did a fine job also.
    110 ypg? Hello? PC? Time to change the offensive game plan. RW is one of the finest passers in the NFL – 35/7 TD/INT last year, an amazing 5 to 1 ratio, so USE the guy for 4 quarters, not just as a 4th qtr savior!
    This will open up the running game and balance the offense.
    As Sean Payton is one of the top play callers in the league, I submit that we were also up against his remarkable play calling – the varied plays they ran were a lesson on what a great OC looks like.