RENTON — Pete Carroll has made a career out of coaching dominant defenses, and he lives by an “always compete” philosophy, so it’s hardly a surprise he didn’t opt for the let-them-score option late in Sunday’s loss to the 49ers, but the Seattle Seahawks head coach did at least consider it.
With the 49ers trailing 17-16 but in position to kick a short go-ahead field goal with the clock winding down, the Seahawks could have elected to let the 49ers score a touchdown. That would have meant the Seahawks would have needed a touchdown to win or tie the score — assuming the 49ers would go for two in that scenario — instead of a field goal, but with significantly more time to do so than the 21 seconds they ended up with at the end of the game.
Instead, Carroll preferred to hope his defense could force a fumble, and if that didn’t work, block a kick, over the option of intentionally giving up the lead.
“That’s a serious decision you can make,” Carroll said. “… I was clear about it and decided to go and see if we can knock the ball down. See if we can get them out of here and just stay with the principles of doing it on defense. But when we have a guy like Russell (Wilson) and our offense, they can hit it in two minutes, and we’re really good at it, so it does give us that option.”
The Seahawks found themselves in that bind because they were unable to stop the 49ers on 3rd-and-7 from the 15-yard line with 3:24 left on the clock. Had Seattle got the stop and forced the field goal there, Wilson and his offense would have had more than two minutes to drive for the winning field goal. Instead, having burned their timeouts prior to that third-down conversion, the Seahawks were stuck deciding between letting the clock run down and letting the opposition into the end zone.
Of course this entire debate may well be moot. Had Frank Gore taken a handoff and seen the defense part in front of him, the 49ers running back may well have decided to take a knee before scoring. He did, after all, have the presence of mind earlier in the drive to fall down in bounds after a 51-yard run rather than fight for a few more yards before going out of bounds.
It’s also tough to ask any coach or player who takes pride in his work, to let an opponent intentionally walk into the end zone.
“That’s exactly one of the issues,” Carroll said. “There’s a decision to be made about that as the situation arises.”
Even so, should a similar situation play out in the future, Carroll said they’ll consider the alternate approach, especially because, “We know that our offense can go down the field in two minutes on anybody. You give us four plays to make a first down, we really believe we can get it done. Russell is great at it.”
“It’s possible, yeah,” Carroll said. “That’s why we talked about it. It is one of the alternatives, yeah. It’s a possibility.”
The Seahawks lost a couple of important players to injuries during Sunday’s loss, and while linebacker K.J. Wright will be out for a while, possibly the season, the news on center Max Unger sounded somewhat positive.
After the game Carroll called Unger’s injury a pectoral strain, and on Monday he said his Pro Bowl center could be on the field this weekend. More serious pectoral injuries, like the one suffered by Russell Okung in 2011, are often season ending.
“He’ll be in limited fashion during the week,” Carroll said, “We think we’ll get him for the ballgame,” Carroll said.
Wright, who fractured his foot, is scheduled to have surgery today and is almost certain to miss the rest of the regular season. Carroll said they won’t know until after the surgery if Wright has a chance to make it back for at least some of the playoffs, or if he’ll end up on injured reserve.
“He’s scheduled to get operated on tomorrow,” Carroll said. “… We’ll find out after they do the surgery and find out what the extent of it was and all of that. Four-to-six weeks, usually on six weeks on broken bones, is what they talk about. He’s a good healer, so we’ll see how he does.”
On receiver Percy Harvin, who has missed the last two games after returning from hip surgery for one game last month, Carroll said the hope is to get him back at practice this week, then go from there.
“We’re going to go to Wednesday and find out if he can go, if he can practice on Wednesday,” Carroll said. “We’ll find out.”
The status of cornerback Brandon Browner is also up in the air, both because of the groin injury that has kept him out of three games, and because he is awaiting word on his appeal of a suspension for substance abuse.
“We’re not getting any indication at about any time frames, so we’re just trying to get him healthy, get him back,” Carroll said. “We won’t know until Wednesday if he can practice or not.”
Prior to suffering a concussion against Minnesota, receiver Jermaine Kearse had served as Seattle’s kick returner all season, but backup running back Robert Turbin has handled return duties in the past two games. Carroll said Turbin will keep that job for now, but that Kearse could still see time there too — and obviously Harvin will be a factor in the return game when he returns.
“The two of those guys will handle it,” Carroll said of Turbin and Kearse. “Robert Turbin is going first; we’re trying to teach him how to do it. We like the thought of a big guy running up in there. He’s really secure with the football too, so we’re going to keep going with him for now.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.