If you thought RB Chris Carson’s touchdown run against the 49ers Sunday was the Seahawks’ most startling one-yarder since the mark of the Beast (Mode), imagine what he might have done had he known it was fourth down.
QB Russell Wilson “was out there hurrying everything up,” he said this week. “I didn’t realize it was fourth down. We got back on the sideline (after scoring), and Mike Davis said that was crazy on fourth down. I was like, ‘Fourth down? Wow.'”
Actually, wow times 10, or so. The momentary lapse in math skills only enhances the stories about Carson’s ferocity. The run lit up the Seahawks sideline, embarrassed the 49ers, helped tie the game at 20 and underscored the vote this week that made him a Pro Bowl alternate.
Here’s how LT Duane Brown, who knows a bit about Pro Bowls, having twice been invited himself, saw it:
“It was a great play we really needed. I don’t think there’s a tougher runner in the league. He’s all heart and passion.”
Rewind to the top of the fourth quarter when the Seahawks trailed 20-13. They just covered 74 yards in nine plays (penalty-free!) to reach fourth and goal at the Niners’ one-yard line. Coach Pete Carroll knew he was going for it. The 49ers knew it. Everyone on both sides was certain Wilson would hand the ball to Carson.
Five yards deep, Carson went straight ahead and was hit at the two and stopped. But broke free and slithered left, only to be gathered up at the three by LB Elijah Lee, who shed Brown’s block and wrapped both arms around Carson, stopping him. A couple of nearby 49ers players started celebrating the apparent tackle for loss.
But Lee surrendered his grip. Carson kept churning, falling toward the goal line as WR David Moore barely held off CB D.J. Reed Jr. Brown sidled up behind Carson, left hand down on the ground in the final yard, to help push him across the line a nanosecond before his knee touched.
Carson chose not to mock the 49ers’ premature exuberance.
“If you look at it, it did look like they stopped me,” he said. “At one point I was going backwards. So I could see why they got excited about it.”
The reason the enhanced review is worthy because the Seahawks will need Carson to provide even more hard yards than his season-high 119 (on 22 carries) in the bog at Santa Clara. Beating the visiting Kansas City Chiefs (11-3) Sunday requires they be run down with vigor and violence.
Spectacular as has been the Chiefs offense behind young QB Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs’ rushing defense is tied for last in the NFL in average yards per carry (5.0). They give up 127 yards a game on the ground, 26th overall. Meanwhile the Seahawks continue to lead the league in rushing at 155 yards per game.
So it stands to reason that on a wet, breezy afternoon, giving Carson, Davis, J.D. McKissic, maybe a healthy Rashaad Penny, along with this week’s emergency hire, rookie Bo Scarbrough, the ball about 10 times per series should go a long way toward making KC coach Andy Reid’s cheeks as red as his team’s rain gear.
At 8-6, the Seahawks don’t have to beat the Chiefs to make the playoffs — here’s a playoff scenario explainer — but the idea of waiting until the final week to fiddle with a lousy Arizona team that nevertheless plays well in Seattle seems a tad unpleasant.
Putting the load on Carson has had good results. He’s ninth in the NFL in rushing yards (913) and a master of going low, high and sideways. Carroll was almost giggly over Carson adding spectacle to his one-yarder.
“It’s really one of my favorites,” he said. “That was a great one. He has had a number of great finishes at the goal line. He finishes everything. They had him stopped cold, dead, couldn’t make it. Then he came out of nowhere and finished.”
One of the more remarkable parts of the seventh-round pick’s backstory is thast until well into his senior year at Oklahoma State, Carson’s style was that of a make-you-miss juker. After a teammate watched Carson in weight room squat-lift 600 pounds, he told Carson he’d never seen him run over a defender.
“I thought he was trying me,” Carson said. “So I said, I’ll show you. Next week, we played TCU and I ran over a couple of people. From then on, I said, I like that feeling better, instead of trying to juke somebody.
“I just never tried it.”
Good as he is, Carson surprisingly has never had a 1,000-yard rushing season, due to injuries and playing behind others. That could change Sunday.
“If we make the playoffs, it means a lot,” he said. “A lot of running backs want to get over that mark, but we got three running backs (Penny and Davis) who can go over 1,000.”
Davis (439) and Penny (413) won’t get there this season, but they are sufficiently productive to spell Carson with minimal falloff. A year ago, Davis led the Seahawks running backs — Carson missed the final 12 games with a broken leg — with 240 yards for the season. Wilson led the team with 586. This year he has 321.
For Carson, the rest is helpful. In two years combined at Oklahoma State he had 214 carries and a single touchdown. This season he has 201 and six, with at least two games left.
“Of course, you get tired, but we have great running backs,” he said. “It makes it easier if you get tired. You don’t miss a beat.”
The way Carson runs, one yard can be a long, hard road.