It’s not unanimous, but it’s close. Readers think Pete Carroll should have gone for it.
It was a pivotal moment in the Seattle Seahawks’ 23-16 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday at SoFi Stadium. Seattle trailed 17-13 early in the third quarter, and the Seahawks faced fourth-and-inches at their own 42-yard line. Seattle originally lined up to go for it, but only tried to draw the Rams offside, and eventually took a delay-of-game penalty before punting.
Would it have been a better decision to go for it at that juncture? That was the subject of this week’s Seattle Sidelines poll.
POLL: Should Seahawks coach Pete Carroll have gone for it on fourth-and-inches instead of putting early in the third quarter of Seattle’s 23-16 loss to the Rams? Full context, including Carroll’s rationale, here: https://t.co/LsN0A7EaTj
— Nick Patterson (@NickHPatterson) November 16, 2020
Add up the votes from the poll posted on the blog and the poll posted on Twitter and it’s a runaway. More than three-quarters of the voters — 78% — said Seattle should have gone for it. Just 10% agreed with the decision to punt, while 12% deemed the situation a toss-up.
Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20, and it’s easy to say the Seahawks should have gone for it now, since the Rams scored on the ensuing possession anyway and Seattle ultimately lost the game. No one will ever know what would have ensued had the Seahawks run a play.
But even at the time of the decision — before L.A. scored its TD — there was heavy internet clamor about the decision. Seattle’s defense had been run over by the Rams in the first half, and the Seahawks were fortunate to be within four points at halftime. The thought was Seattle needed all the points it could get to keep pace with the Rams because the defense hadn’t provided any reason to believe it could stop L.A. In addition, fans figured fourth-and-inches shouldn’t scare a team that came into the game with the top-ranked offense in the NFL, even without No. 1 running back Chris Carson available.
This notion was seconded the number crunchers. The Athletic’s Ben Baldwin, a die hard analytics guy based in Seattle, created a “4th down decision bot,” which calculated that going for it would have added 3.9% to Seattle’s win probability and rated it a “strong” recommendation for going for it. EdjSports, a sports analytics organization, calculated that the decision to punt decreased the Seahawks’ pre-snap game-winning chance by 6%.
—> SEA (13) @ LA (17) <---
SEA has 4th & 1 at the SEA 42
Recommendation (STRONG): 👉 Go for it (+3.9 WP)
Actual play: 🚨 (Run formation) PENALTY on SEA, Delay of Game, 4 yards, enforced at SEA 42 – No pic.twitter.com/vibSrss7L6
— 4th down decision bot (@ben_bot_baldwin) November 15, 2020
Pete Carroll chooses not to go for it on 4th and less than 1.
— EdjSports (@edjsports) November 15, 2020
The decision really was a reversion to type for Carroll. Carroll has been notoriously conservative in those type of situations since taking over the Seahawks in 2010, believing in the importance of field position. He seemed to change his tune this season amidst the “let Russ cook” phenomenon. But this instance was a throwback, and he defended the decision vigorously, both in the immediate aftermath of the game and the day after.
But let’s face it, the voters are right on this one. Several possessions later the Rams showed exactly what is needed in these situations, when Jared Goff’s quarterback sneak didn’t get much, but it was enough to convert fourth-and-short.
Carroll and the Seahawks paid the price for not taking that high-percentage shot, and the cost may have been a loss in a crucial NFC West matchup.