Pete Carroll defends punting with fewer than three minutes left

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If the third-down conversion that had allowed the Packers to ice the clock and win the divisional round game against the Seahawks hadn’t been so close and controversial, the focal point of the final minutes of the game would have been the decision of the Seahawks to punt the ball to the Packers with 2:32 left, down five points from their own 36.

Seattle faced fourth and 11, after a sack that lost six yards. And so, with the clock running at 3:22, the Seahawks opted not to go for it, sending out the punt team, using most of the play clock before getting the snap off, and hoping to get the ball back, needing a touchdown to win.

“We were thinking about going for it in that sequence but not at fourth and 11,” coach Pete Carroll told reporters after the game. “We thought our odds were so low. We had all the clock, we had the time, we had all of the opportunities to stop them, to get the ball back. And so we didn’t want to put it all on one play.”

So instead of trusting Russell Wilson, who as Carroll said “was phenomenal” and “did everything he could have done,” to add to his legend by converting on fourth and 11, Carroll trusted a non-Legion of Boom defense to stop Aaron Rodgers in his home building from converting a couple of first downs and icing the game.

Saying “our odds were so low” grossly oversimplifies the situation. If they’d gone for it and failed, the Seahawks still would have had three time outs plus the two-minute warning. And while they would have given the Packers the ball on the fringes of field-goal range, another three points for Green Bay would have kept it to a one-score game, 31-23. So the flow-chart formula in that moment has plenty of branches, and ultimately it comes down to whether you trust Wilson to get it done against the Packers defense or whether you trust your defense to get it done against Aaron Rodgers.

No abacus should be needed to resolve that one.

But the Seahawks opted to punt, and in so doing they allowed the too many precious seconds to evaporate from the game clock. The third-down sack happened with 3:22 left; the ball was snapped for the punt with 2:41 remaining in the game.

Carroll was asked about the lack of urgency to get the play started. In response, he didn’t have much to say.

“There was a little, you know  . . . I don’t know . . . . Go ahead,” Carroll said. “That’s a good one to pick on.”

It is a good one to pick on, especially since throughout the second half the Seahawks displayed on offense the kind of nonchalance that suggested they didn’t realize they were trailing by multiple scores.

Still, the Seahawks often don’t sweat such details because they have ultimate faith in Russell Wilson. As they should. But they didn’t have faith in Wilson with the season on the line. Maybe they should have.

89 responses to “Pete Carroll defends punting with fewer than three minutes left

  1. I find myself, begrudgingly, going with Pete Carrol on this one. The strategy would have worked, as they put Green Bay on a couple of long 3rd downs, and almost got the ball back. 4th and 3 is one thing, but 4th and 11 is pretty tough.

  2. While I was hoping the Packers won and got the ball back, I actually agreed with Seattle in that situation to punt. They had largely neutralized the Packers offense in the 2nd half and, at that point in the game, it was no different. If I was Carroll, I would have saw I’d potentially be allowing GB to get into field goal range if the offense came up short, thus putting the Packers up by 8 making a comeback even harder. But by punting it back, stopping them on 3 and out with multiple timeouts, Seattle could have had maybe 2 full minutes to run their offense (more than enough time for Russell to do his thing and win.

    Didn’t work out (thankfully), but Wilson had Packers fans on the edges of their seats the last two quarters of the game and the decision made was the right one. Have to hand it to him, that guy put the whole team on his back and nearly took the game.

  3. Great motivator, but lousy in-game coach. Too many brain freezes in critical moments in critical games.

    Take Wilson off this team and they win maybe six games.

  4. Pete Carroll will always defend his inept coaching decisions while crying about officiating incessantly except when it works in his favor (fail Mary). It’s why the shehawks will never win another super bowl again. They will forever live in the shadow of their big brothers the Niners.

  5. And if he’d have gone for it and gone short this same thread would have been about why they didn’t punt and trust their defense which had held the Packers to only 7 points in that 2nd half.

  6. Both the superbowl and this play was the correct decision. Had the ball not been intercepted, they could have then had time to run and call a timeout then kick in the superbowl. This play if you think you are a superbowl caliber team you have to be able to rely on your defense to make this stop. I am not a Seahawks fan by any means I actually think they are really overrated. However, this was the right call. Just as before. If this play was called differently, then people would be saying how dumb it was not to punt and allow your defense the opportunity.

  7. Much like the Pats, the Seahawks lost the game on a key drop late in the 4th. Edelman dropped one for a first down on Pat last meaningful drive, Malik Turner dropped a key one for a first down for Seattle.

  8. Oh for god’s sake .. Packers hadn’t done squat in the second half, offensively or defensively, I know what he was thinking. It’s a coin flip and Pete’s bag of tricks just ran out.

    I like that Seattle team. Lots of heart.

  9. The idea of punting was sound, but they messed around too long and the D let down. They blew their chance. 4th and 11 is a tough one to make, especially if the consequences could give GB the ball in their own territory. And – as usual and as always – Monday morning quarterbacking.

  10. Russell played great right up until his last play of the day. But then he remembered where he was from, and where his true loyalty lies. So he took that easy sack, and ensured the loss.

    Once a Wisconsin Badger, always a Wisconsin Badger.

  11. It was absolutely the correct decision. Potentially giving the ball to Green Bay in field goal range meant that Seattle would need a touchdown and a two point conversion just to tie the game.

    Conversely, punting required the Packers to make two first downs to win, considering that there were four clock stoppages left. In addition, punting allowed the chance to win with a touchdown.

  12. I think the decision was defensible. The Packers offense at that point in the game was no longer moving the ball effectively, and as noted in the article a failure to convert would give GB the ball already in field goal range. I think I would trust the defense in that situation.

  13. We can analyze all we want. Coaches have seconds to decide what to do. Fans have days to scrutinize the coaching. It is what it is. I am sure Seattle liked their odds of forcing a Packers punt and still having time to run the 2 minute drill. It was the right call. Going for it and not making it would have been questioned as well. It’s football.

  14. After the sack, punting was understandable. Problem was they had them 3rd and long 2x and couldn’t get the stop. And the drop by Turner on 1st down was a real killer!

  15. Why embellish the 3rd down ball placement by calling it “so controversial?” It was on 3rd down and GB could have: 1. Gone for it and made it. 2. Punted. 3. Pulled a Vrabels and forced Seattle to use its final timeout and still run the clock down to less than 20 seconds. It was far from controversial that is unless you’re trying to cause controversy.

  16. White noise is all this is. Ater the punt, the Seahawks had not one but two third and long (9 and 10 yards) opportunities to get the ball back and their defense let them down. Do you want to look for a scape goat, try their defensive secondary for two poor executed coverages that gave up big first downs with the game on the line.

  17. He absolutely did the right thing. In fact, kudos to the coaching staff for hustling the punt team out as quickly as they did following third down sack as they likely were going to go on fourth down had there not been a sack.

  18. Everyone knew their defense could not stop the Packers, so the “smart” choice to punt wasn’t really that smart in this particular instance.

    Put it this way: Do you have more confidence in Wilson’s arm/legs or a rookie DB against a veteran (Adams) who has already torched your team.

    Bad decision by Pete.

  19. It was definitely the right decision. Our offense hadn’t done anything since the first drive of the third quarter. I’m sure I’m not the only packer fan that expected to punt the ball right back to them with 2 min left. Things rarely go our way in those situations and I’m sure Pete had 2014 on his mind when he made that decision. 4th and 11 is real tough after our defense just got a huge boost from that sack.

  20. The Seahawks were losing with 3 mins to go. The probability of winning was not in their favour. The point here is that punting does not influence that probability in their direction. Going for it and getting it does. If they don’t convert they’re in the same place – requiring a defensive stop. Even if that’s in field goal range it’s still a one possession game. If they get a touchdown – they didn’t get the defensive stop anyway – which means they were never going to win.

  21. He should have faked the punt. Genius if it works of course. Armchair QBs always have perfect hindsight….

  22. Petey made the right decision, because his 35 million dollar dude cannot be expected to complete a pass on 4th and 11 if he cannot convert a third down and short. The MVP Wannabe is no Patrick Mahomes, the real MVP of the NFL. Russell Wilson may well be a “legend,” but in reality he is not as great as he is touted to be. 3-5 in his last 8 playoff games. The only 3 road playoff wins he has in his career happened when 2 opposing quarterbacks (RGIII and Wentz) went down with injuries, and when Blair Walsh missed a gimme field goal with time running out. That is pretty lucky. Unfortunately, no one can order luck on a plate from a menu. When luck does not show up, the “legend” goes home with a loss. Better luck next year, because Seattle needs, a lot of it, to be in the Super Bowl. They also need a lot of luck to win it, such as officials fixing the game for them by not calling defensive holding.

  23. Caroll had a flashback and thought McCarthy was still coach. 3 downs, a cloud of dust and the ball is punted back to Seattle with 1:20 on the clock.

  24. Yes, who could have guessed that giving the ball to Aaron Rodgers late in the 4th would prove a bad decision? Enjoy the off-season, 2012s.

  25. No fan of Pete the Cheat, but that sack left him no choice. I believe he’d have gone for it otherwise. He did what the situation dictated, chances of converting from that distance too slim.

  26. It was inevitable regardless of that 3rd down. The cheese was going to win that game even if it took the refs to make it so. I was a tad impressed though. They didn’t require as much ref help as they needed in most of the season. That’s improvement.

  27. It was the right call as the defense forced stuffed them, and then forced an incomplete pass so basically used no time on the clock. Not being able to cover on third down was the bigger problem.

  28. Not a Pete Carroll fan, but that is absolutely the right call in that situation. Rodgers made a great play on 3rd down. Sometimes you just gotta tip your cap to the other team.

  29. I’d rather trust Wilson to convert a 4th and 11 than the defense to stop the Packers. With the exception of Griffin, their CBs are horrible. Flowers shouldn’t even be on the field…can’t cover AND afraid to tackle.

  30. h0metownzero says:
    January 13, 2020 at 10:06 am

    Russell played great right up until his last play of the day. But then he remembered where he was from, and where his true loyalty lies. So he took that easy sack, and ensured the loss.

    Once a Wisconsin Badger, always a Wisconsin Badger.
    *******************************************************
    You can’t be serious, or maybe just not very smart!
    I’m a Packer fan, and Russel Wilson is a winner, nothing less!
    “You Play to win the game”, and he always does!

  31. Punt was the right call. Letting that time run off between 3rd and 4th down was odd, but it would have just left them with a little less time had they stopped GB, it was ended up not mattering because they couldn’t stop them.

  32. After the sack, the decision to punt was absolutely right. There were TWO great opportunities to stop the Packers on third and medium and the get the ball back to Russell Wilson with 2 minutes or more remaining. I’ll take that every single time.

  33. He didn’t trust the offensive line enough to give time for receivers to get open at 11 yards. It was the right call. They were one play away from 3 and out and Rodgers made a spectacular throw. The Packers got a generous spot to ice the game. Those are the breaks. If he goes for it and Wilson again gets sacked you’re probably writing about how he should’ve punted because he had timeouts and the 2-minute warning.

  34. I liked the decision to punt. In fact, I like Pete as a coach.
    If my team wasn’t coached by the greatest coach of all time, I wouldn’t mind having Pete there. . . again.

  35. I probably would have gone for it, but 4th and 11 is long, and if they don’t get it, needing 8 points to tie with under 2 minutes and no timeouts left is a lot less desirable than needing 6 points to win in the same situation. NFL coaches are definitely too conservative but I don’t think this is a glaring example of it.

  36. It was the 4th and 11 that made it a tough call to go for it – knowing that you had the TO’s and the two-minute warning. It’s a close call – but I can’t really fault it. If it’s 4th and 5 or less, then I think you do go for it.

    Hawks D had two chances to stop GB on 3rd and long – – that’s all you can ask for really.

  37. lavenderlarrylosers says:
    January 13, 2020 at 10:18 am
    Why embellish the 3rd down ball placement by calling it “so controversial?” It was on 3rd down and GB could have: 1. Gone for it and made it. 2. Punted. 3. Pulled a Vrabels and forced Seattle to use its final timeout and still run the clock down to less than 20 seconds. It was far from controversial that is unless you’re trying to cause controversy
    _________________________________________

    You can only pull a Vrabel before the 5 minute mark.

  38. Eh, it’s kind of like the Texans kicking that field goal on 4th & 1 from the 20. It only looks irresponsible in retrospect, but in the context of the game it’s reasonable.

    For the Texans, what came after that FG is the problem, not the FG. For the Seahawks, the damage was already done before this point, and it was plausible the Packers could have run out the clock or scored a TD if they took over on downs. This at least kept some aspect of things in the Seahawks hands.

  39. Look at the degree of difficulty and extraordinary of the GB third and 9 execution that prevented Seattle from getting ball back with just under two minutes and a time out remaining! That screams that the decision to punt statistically should not be questioned. That punting there did not work out, does not mean it wasn’t statistically and logically the right decision—by a ton.

    FWIW, like many of the Carrol haters here I am not at all a fan of Seattle coach.

  40. 4th and 11.. from your own 36…. and your defense up to that point dominating… What decision was there to be made????

  41. I was wondering if they would go for it there. I understand why they didn’t though when it became 4th and 11 and Seattle had all 3 timeouts. Its not like green bay was driving the ball that much in the 2nd half. And Seattle’s offense was rolling. It just didn’t work out for them. Im glad the packers came out on top, but it wasn’t a terrible decision by Pete.

  42. That was the right call. 3 time outs olus2 min warning. They had been getting to aaron, and forcing then to punt or long 3rd downs. Just didnt work out. That was 100% the right call though.

  43. I can’t argue with what Pete did. The Packers had a third and long and the Seattle defense didn’t make the play that would have gotten them off the field. What’s more statistically likely, the Pack converting that third down to keep the ball or Seattle converting that 4 and 11? Sometimes the other team makes a play when they absolutely fricking have to.

  44. There are plenty of factors that were the difference…Like missing the block on the two point conversion that would have made it a three point game…So to pin the loss on the punt would be unfair.

  45. Pete gets away with everything in Seattle. If you criticize his eroding in game coaching skills, all you get back is basically how dare you, he is who he is, gotta take the bad with the good. Which is a great CEO of the ‘culture’ but a baffoon for 3 hrs every game.

  46. Carroll made the right call. His defense had forced the Packers to punt on their two previous possessions and he had all his TO’s. The odds of making 4th and 11 are slim at the best of times and the Packers had just sacked Wilson on the previous play. You punt, play for a stop and then Wilson do his thing. It didn’t work out, but that is how you play it. Suggesting a team go for it on 4th and 11 and likely losing the game right then and there if they don’t make it is nothing but hindsight criticism without understanding the situation.

  47. The right decision at that split second decision was to punt, if you cant hold them without 2 first downs you don’t have a super bowl defense anyway. If anything criticize for not taking a timeout at 4th down since changing to punt team consumes max clock anyway, and you would have time to possibly think of a 4th down play to get 11+ yards.

  48. Seahawks have the 4th youngest roster, and overachieved in a rebuilding year. Nothing to hang your head about.

  49. Pete is the drunk guy at the card table who has, despite all logic and reason, amassed a pile of chips on some really lucky calls.

    When your margin of victory is 4 points for a whole season, the luck runs out at some point. It’s too bad that the entire franchise has been placed on RW’s shoulders. But that’s what the team is, and as long as things don’t change they will stay the same.

    Forever 1-2’s.

  50. They wouldn’t even have been in that situation if the refs, as usual, hadn’t gifted the Packers that crucial third down conversion.

  51. They were consuming max clock just about every 2nd half drive. This team plays like Pete Carroll’s age. I can hear AOL loading while they take the playclock down inside 5 seconds down 18, 11, 5….its painful to watch.

  52. If you think you have the MVP on your roster, you don’t take the ball out of his hands and give it Aaron Rodgers with less than three minutes.

  53. If he doesn’t punt there, and they happen to miss getting the 1st down, the game is over. Game management and trying to give your team the best chance to win says Punt the ball there. I think it was the right call.

  54. I am ok with this decision. I can see going for it too, but no issue with punting it away and playing some defense.

    But I also agree with wondering why the punt team didn’t hurry-up and get the ball in play.

    Hoping they relieve Ken Norton Jr of his DC responsibilities. Maybe a return of Kris Richard or someone new for DC

  55. The punt made no sense. You have everything to gain and essentially nothing to lose (that you haven’t already lost) and Seattle is back home, where they belong.

  56. Let’s see, team is behind, offense has a 4th and 11 vs giving the ball back and losing. Guess I would try the 4th and 11. Brady has made that play in plenty of crunch moments in his career.

  57. Surge92 says:
    January 13, 2020 at 2:32 pm
    They wouldn’t even have been in that situation if the refs, as usual, hadn’t gifted the Packers that crucial third down conversion.
    _________________________

    I do think the ball should have been respotted and measured… I also think he would have been given the first down when the pull out the official chains that ACTUALLY mean something and not the yellow line.

  58. They passed up one more play on offense for 0 more plays on offense. In the end it was the wrong decision, and they lost.

    It wasn’t some bum QB you were punting too, it was Aaron Rodgers, probably the best 3rd down qb in the game.

  59. Should have gone for it instead. Here’s why….on 4th and 11 at your own 36 yard-line, your task is still to get a “three and out” on defense no matter what. If you fail to convert and Green bay gets the first down, the game is still over. This is true whether you’re on your 36 yard-line or Green Bay’s 36. If you fail to convert and Green Bay kicks a field goal, you’re down by 8 which still results in a one possession game. Field position meant nothing in that situation folks. Having the ball in Russell’s hands on 4th and 11 in that situation is infinitely more important. If you disagree with this, you’re just plain wrong.

  60. I haven`t stopped scratching my head since the goal line slant that got picked in SB49.
    Pete fooled me again!

  61. It’s really stupid because, if they don’t make it, you can force a FG attempt. That puts the game at 8 with the ball coming back + time on the clock.

    A punt just gives Aaron a ton of room to pick apart your defense. You go for it and don’t make it, you all but concede the three but leave a lot more time (and possibly time out or two) to make your TD.

    You need a TD either way; this strategy just means you also need the 2 pointer. I say that’s a fair trade-off to force the Packers hand a bit.

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