The Seattle Seahawks were fighting for their season with under three minutes to play, and they decided to bank on their defense to stop Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s NFC divisional playoff loss.
Trailing by five points and facing a fourth-and-11 with 2:41 left, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll decided to punt on Seattle’s own 36-yard line instead of going on the first down and extending the drive. Giving the ball back to Rodgers turned out to be a mistake, as Green Bay got the two first downs it needed to finish off Seattle, advancing to the NFC Championship Game.
There was a reason why Carroll decided to punt: He didn’t like the odds of Seattle getting a first down, even with Russell Wilson at quarterback.
“We were thinking about going for it in that sequence but not at fourth-and-11,” Carroll said in his postgame press conference. “We thought our odds were so low. We had all the clock, we had the time, we had all the opportunities to stop them to get the ball back. So we didn’t want to put it all on one play. If it were fourth-and-5 or 3 — we went through the whole discussion, but it winds up being a sack unfortunately.”
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Seattle was facing a third-and-5 at its own 42-yard line, but Wilson was sacked by Preston Smith for a loss of six yards. That influenced Carroll’s decision to put the game in the defense’s shoulders.
The Seahawks forced two third downs on the Packers, but Rodgers hit DaVante Adams for 32 yards on third-and-8 with 2:19 to play and sealed the win with a 9-yard pass to Jimmy Graham on third-and-9, even though the spot was controversial. Graham appeared short of the first down upon review but officials found inconclusive evidence to overturn the ruling.
“It looked short,” Carroll said. “Had they called him short, then it would’ve been short. … That’s how it goes.”
The Seahawks finished 10th in the NFL on fourth down conversion rate (53.33%) and converted their lone fourth down opportunity earlier in the game. Given Seattle had the 24th ranked pass defense and finished 21st in the league in yards per pass allowed (7.1), Carroll certainly may come to regret i decision to take the game out of Wilson’s hands.
It wasn’t the first controversial decision Carroll has made in the playoffs, and probably won’t be the last.