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Monday, September 16, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Who knows what play Seahawks should have called?

By Matt Calkins Seattle Times

ST. LOUIS – It is the question folks are asking on every street corner in Seattle.

It is the mystery flummoxing 12s from Bellevue to Bremerton to Bonney Lake.

Marshawn Lynch was on the field, and all the Seahawks needed was one lousy yard. So Pete Carroll, explain – why didn’t you just THROW the ball?!?!

Yes, fans have actually wondered this aloud since the Hawks’ 34-31 loss to the Rams in overtime on Sunday. On fourth-and-one from the St. Louis 42, Lynch took a handoff from Russell Wilson and got stuffed at the line of scrimmage.

As a result, the Rams rushed the Edward Jones Dome turf to celebrate their victory. But what if — and hear me out on this one — what if Carroll picked up a win, too?

For the past seven months, the Seahawks opting to pass on second-and-goal from the 1 has been the most ridiculed decision in sports. By all accounts, taking the ball out of Lynch’s hands was the singular reason Seattle didn’t repeat as Super Bowl champs.

This isn’t me casting stones. I can’t. Like the rest of my media brethren, I torched Carroll for what I believed to be the worst play call in NFL history.

It’s just that … was it? Was it really?

The Lombardi Trophy wasn’t in the building when the Seahawks played the Rams on Sunday. There weren’t 110 million television viewers, nor was the outcome decided on the goal line.

But from a strategic standpoint, Lynch getting the handoff from Wilson when his team desperately needed a yard was exactly what the 12s wanted against the Patriots last February. Except it didn’t work. So why are we so sure that it would have worked in the Super Bowl?

Dude, are you kidding me, Calkins? Beast Mode was getting whatever he wanted against New England! Of course he would have scored.

Hmm. What you call “getting whatever he wanted,” I call “averaging 4.2 yards.” Divide Lynch’s 102 yards by his 24 rushes in the Super Bowl and that’s what you get. Against the Rams on Sunday? Lynch averaged 4.1 (18 rushes, 73 yards) which is a pretty negligible difference.

What isn’t negligible, however, is how potent Lynch was in the second half against the Rams – amassing 53 yards on eight carries. If anything, such data would suggest that Marshawn was a better option in the final seconds of the St. Louis game than he was against the Brady and Belichick crew.

Um, nice try, Matt. But the Seahawks were going against the best defensive line in the league on Sunday. That makes for a completely different circumstance.

Actually, as dominant as the Rams’ pass rush is, their run defense ranked just 14th in the NFL last year. The Patriots were ninth, and allowed 0.2 fewer yards per carry than St. Louis. Maybe the Rams have improved on that front since 2014, but there is no tangible evidence suggesting they would have made Lynch’s one yard any tougher.

Even if I’m buying that, newbie, I am not buying the play design. Why on earth would they hand it to Lynch out of the shotgun formation?

Rising out of last year’s devastating Super Bowl loss, the Seahawks are still positioned to make a strong run at their third consecutive Super Bowl. For players and fans alike, the expectation of a third Super Bowl remains strong.

Um, because the Seahawks run out of that formation all the time. In fact, last season – when it wasn’t Wilson running the ball – Seattle averaged 5.0 yards out of the shotgun vs. 4.4 when running under center. That’s significant.

Oh, and if you look at the play-by-play from Sunday, you’ll notice that all eight of Lynch’s second-half carries came out of the shotgun, including runs of 12 and 24 yards. That’s even more significant.

Critics squawk that Carroll (or offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, whoever you prefer to blame) deviated from what was working for the Hawks in the Super Bowl. So why would it make sense to deviate from a formation that was equally effective Sunday? That read-option (Wilson could have kept the ball if he wanted) has been one of Seattle’s most basic and successful running plays.

Look, you don’t understand. Pete and Darrell just manage to bungle everything all the time. Logic and reason don’t matter. They’ll find a way to blow it.

They can’t be that bad. Last year, the Seahawks rolled up more yards per play than any team in franchise history. They also averaged more yards than any Seattle team since 2006. I’m not saying Carroll and Bevell aren’t without their flaws, but constantly bashing a head coach and offensive coordinator after back-to-back Super Bowl appearances? Like a bad play call, that’s lazy and predictable.

And just to make clear – I’m not saying with certainty that Carroll’s decision to pass on that last play in the Super Bowl wasn’t the botch of the millennium. I’m just saying that Lynch getting stuffed Sunday makes it hard to label the play call seven months earlier as definitively idiotic.

Remember, if Wilson’s final pass against the Pats was simply incomplete, Seattle would have had two more plays. And in case you weren’t aware, of the five previous runs Marshawn had from the 1 last year, only one resulted in a touchdown.

So did Carroll cost Seattle a Super Bowl? Well, that infamous interception is the reason the Hawks lost, meaning second-guessers will always have that argument. But in all honesty, the closer you look, the less epic the screw-up appears.

(Awkward pause)

OK, but … what are we all supposed to complain about now?

Hey, there’s always Kam.

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