Pete Carroll's fake field goal call proves costly in Seahawks' loss

SEATTLE -- After a 2011 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, Seattle Seahawks Pete Carroll had an interesting way of explaining what he admitted was a poor coaching decision. Down 17-3 with no timeouts and 14 seconds left in the first half, Carroll had opted against a chip-shot field goal to go for it on fourth-and-2 from the 3-yard line. It backfired when Marshawn Lynch picked up a first down but was stopped short of the end zone, and Seattle couldn't get lined up in time to run another play.

In a postgame mea culpa, Carroll famously said it's what happens when a coach gets "hormonal."

He could have said the same thing about a similarly ill-fated move Monday night. Carroll, though, stood by his decision to attempt a fake field goal in the closing seconds of the first half, which proved ever so costly in Seattle's 34-31 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

The only thing Carroll regretted was that it didn't work.

"It was something we saw, that we wanted to do," Carroll said. "It was a terrific opportunity, right where we wanted it."

Not content with a 35-yard field goal that would have made it 24-20 heading into halftime, Seattle dialed up a fake that called for holder Jon Ryan to shovel the ball to tight end Luke Willson, who was lined up on the left wing and sprinted back across the formation. It failed spectacularly when Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett blew through the gap between long-snapper Tyler Ott and a pulling Mark Glowinski to bury Willson for a 4-yard loss, resulting in a turnover on downs and a wasted opportunity for Seattle.

Carroll explained that the Seahawks thought Willson could have scored easily if the play was hit right. If he didn't, their thinking went, he could run out of bounds after picking up the first down and still leave Seattle with time to a attempt a field goal from a few yards closer than it would have been.

"It was a chance to make a big play," Carroll said. "We had a chance to make a touchdown, or get out of bounds. If that pops, he might walk in. We were prepared. We had worked on it, we saw something that we liked. We didn't expect the nose tackle to make the play. We felt we would get him knocked off and we didn't. So it didn't work out. But that was being aggressive and going for it and trying to get a touchdown there."

Said Willson: "It was kind of a look that we were waiting for. It's something that they've done all year. I don't know why, but for this game they changed it up and it was a first-time thing for them, so obviously it didn't work. It is what it is I guess."

It was head-scratching decision, to say the least.

The problem wasn't so much the play itself but the decision to run it in that situation. Willson has good speed for a tight end, but expecting him to get around the edge and outrun Atlanta's defense 20 yards to the end zone is ambitious. Though the Seahawks might have been thinking that, at worst, Willson would run out of bounds to stop the clock, there also was a risk that he could be tackled short of the goal line and time would expire before Seattle could call a timeout. The clock went from seven seconds at the start of the play to four when it ended, and Willson never even made it out of the backfield.

The hot take would be that Carroll's decision cost the Seahawks a victory, but that would be overlooking everything else Seattle did to lose this game.

There was plenty.

The Seahawks committed turnovers on two of their first three possessions. Russell Wilson threw well behind Tyler Lockett for an interception on his second pass attempt, then lost a fumble that the Falcons scooped up for a touchdown to go up 21-7.

Defensively, Seattle couldn't get off the field -- allowing Atlanta to convert nine of 14 third downs -- and couldn't get nearly enough pressure on quarterback Matt Ryan. The Seahawks didn't so much as hit him in the first half and their only sack didn't come until two minutes left in the game.

Blair Walsh didn't get enough leg on his 52-yard field goal attempt that would have sent the game to overtime. And Seattle's season-long penalty issue continued with nine more for 106 yards.

And the fake field goal might not have been Carroll's worst decision Monday night. Midway through the fourth quarter, he wasted a timeout with an ill-advised challenge of an incompletion on third down. Carroll said he was persuaded to throw his challenge flag when Doug Baldwin insisted he got his arms underneath the ball, even though replays clearly showed it hitting the ground after he bobbled it.

The ruling was confirmed -- as opposed to it merely standing -- which means the call wasn't anywhere close to being overturned.

The Seahawks could have used that timeout on their final possession, but they had none left when they took over at their own 25 with 1 minute, 46 seconds left.

They sure could have used those three points going into halftime as well -- especially in a game they lost by that many.

"It would have been a really good call if we would have made it," Carroll said.