Was it a mistake for the Seattle Seahawks to call timeout before the Los Angeles Rams’ fourth-down play in last Sunday’s 33-31 loss at CenturyLink Field? It was close, but a majority of the voters say it wasn’t.
This week’s Seattle Sidelines poll asked readers to weigh in on Pete Carroll’s timeout decision. With 1 minute, 39 seconds remaining the Seahawks, trailing by two points, stopped the Rams just short on third-and-1. Seattle used its last timeout to stop the clock, and during the timeout Los Angeles took its punt team off the field and sent its offense back on to go for it. Jared Goff converted the first down on a quarterback sneak, and the Rams were able to run out the clock.
There was much furor on social media about Carroll’s decision to call timeout, so I wanted the gauge how fans felt about the decision, asking readers whether calling timeout was a mistake. Here’s how you voted:
POLL: Was it a mistake for Seahawks coach Pete Carroll to use his final timeout prior to the Rams’ fourth-down play? Full context, including a complete timeline of events, here: https://t.co/r7yP2YIKds
— Nick Patterson (@NickHPatterson) October 8, 2018
Add the two together and 53 percent of the voters said calling timeout wasn’t a mistake, while 47 percent said it was. It was a close vote throughout.
The main argument I’ve seen as to why calling timeout was a mistake is that the Rams were going to punt, and that by calling timeout it gave Los Angeles coach Sean McVay the opportunity to change his mind and go for it.
I have yet to see McVay say definitively that he would have punted had Seattle not called timeout. However, there’s been plenty said about how the offensive players talked McVay into going for it on fourth down, and one can speculate as to whether the offense would have had the opportunity to talk McVay into going for it had a timeout not been called.
For his part, Carroll has stood by his decision to call timeout, calling it, “The right way to do it.” Carroll spoke about how it made sense given the clock situation, and mentioned that the Seahawks had stopped the Rams three times in 1-yard situations previously during the game.
Personally, I had no issues with calling timeout in that situation. From a clock-management standpoint, the choice was either to get the ball back with 1:30 remaining and no timeouts, or get the ball back with 1:00 with one timeout remaining. A team has some control of the clock when it has the ball, but no control of the clock when it doesn’t. So by my thinking those 30-odd seconds, with the offense able to hustle to the line of scrimmage after plays and with the option to spike the ball to stop the clock, were more valuable to have on offense than the timeout.
As for letting the Rams change their mind about punting, had the Seahawks’ defense held Seattle would have had the ball needing less than 10 yards to get in range for the game-winning field goal — and no one is questioning whether using the timeout was a mistake. The objections seem to me to be largely results based rather than process based.
The majority of the voters in this poll agreed with me, but it was a slim majority. It illustrates how clock management and timeout management in football are not as cut and dried as they may seem.