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Grip on Sports: Pete Carroll’s decision making comes up short most of the night in Seahawks’ loss to Atlanta

Seattle Seahawks’ J.D. McKissic (21) tumbles between Atlanta Falcons De’Vondre Campbell (59) and Damontae Kazee on a carry in the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Nov. 20, 2017, in Seattle. (Stephen Brashear / Associated Press)
Seattle Seahawks’ J.D. McKissic (21) tumbles between Atlanta Falcons De’Vondre Campbell (59) and Damontae Kazee on a carry in the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Nov. 20, 2017, in Seattle. (Stephen Brashear / Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Max Smart had it right oh so many years ago. Blair Walsh missed it by that much. But unlike the Washington defeat, in which Walsh had to shoulder the blame for a close defeat, last night’s 34-31 loss to Atlanta lies squarely on Pete Carroll’s shoulders. Read on.

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• See, Carroll’s decision to challenge an obvious incompletion Monday night was the second-worst decision he’s ever made. (As in the joke from “Get Smart,” you can fill in your own answer to the “what’s the worst decision he’s ever made” question.)

That cost the Hawks time they could have used on their final drive, a drive culminated by Walsh’s 52-yard field goal attempt that fell just short. Of course, that field goal would have been for the win if Carroll hadn’t decided, out of the blue, to call a fake field goal at the end of the first half.

Maybe he didn’t have faith Walsh could convert a 35-yarder. (That’s a joke. If Carroll thought that, then the Seahawks would have a different kicker.) Or maybe he thought no one would believe he would make such a dunderheaded decision. (You know, they fooled everyone but Grady Jarrett with the old “no one would be that silly” trick.)

Whatever, the Hawks went to the locker room without three points they could have had and headed back there a couple hours later having lost by three points.

It’s not hard to make a straight-line connection.

But that might have been the only thing that was easy-to-connect last night. The Hawks, with a depleted secondary, held Matt Ryan and the Falcons to 195 yards passing. (Either they did or Steve Sarkisian, in his return to Seattle, this time as Atlanta’s offensive coordinator, did, calling sure-to-fail running play after sure-to-fail running play.)

Of course, Ryan threw for 84 of those yards on third down, as the Falcons were 9-of-14 on the get-off-the-field down.

And Russell Wilson was magnificent, when he wasn’t throwing an interception right at a Falcon defender or scrambling into a fumble that resulted in a back-breaking seven points.

But that’s always been the way with Carroll’s teams. They do a lot right. And then something that makes us shake our heads and mutter, “would you believe …”

Most of the past few years they have been good enough to overcome such blunders and self-inflicted wounds. But this season?

If you want me to tell you I believe they are going to get it back together and make a late-season push to another Super Bowl appearance, I can’t.

They seem closer to fading into oblivion than they are to playoff relevance. And, yes, I know you asked me not to tell you that.

But it’s true. Sorry about that, chief.

•••

WSU: Rivalry games are always extra important, right? Well, not to Mike Leach. We’ve known that for a few years, sure, but he reiterated it during his media session yesterday. Theo Lawson has more in this story. … Chris Petersen is also playing it cool this week and no wonder. He’s 3-0 in Apple Cup games. … The Cougars’ defense impresses Petersen. … Will the late bye week be a good thing or a bad thing for the Cougars?

Elsewhere in Pac-12, we have even more power rankings to pass along. And some thoughts about UCLA’s decision to fire Jim Mora now. … Oregon State’s interim coach Cory Hall became a dad again this week. And now he’ll try to get the Beavers ready for the rivalry game with Oregon, which seems to have found its stride. … Colorado says it recharged with its bye week and is ready to face a Utah team coming off a last-second loss helped along by a coaching decision. … If a beat-up Arizona team handles Arizona State easily, will Todd Graham lose his job? … UCLA has to win this weekend against California to become bowl eligible. And the Bruins will try with a first-time head coach in charge. … USC is resting up for the Pac-12 title game. … In basketball yesterday, Creighton, which comes to Spokane later this year, defeated No. 23 UCLA. Cal led most of the game but No. 6 Wichita State rallied late for the win in Hawaii. … No. 9 North Carolina raced past Stanford. … Utah still hasn’t lost.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs are ranked 17th in both polls. Jim Meehan shares that news with us this morning. … The volleyball team finished the WCC regular season at .500.

EWU: Eastern Washington athletic director Bill Chaves was bent over at the waist yesterday, dealing with a gut punch administered by the FCS playoff selection committee. He told our Jim Allen how surprised he was when the Eagles were left out of the postseason. … The basketball team lost to Georgia Southern in a Las Vegas tournament. … Around the Big Sky, Montana decided to fire coach Bob Stitt and Northern Arizona decided to make a U-turn, bringing back coach Jerome Souers. … NAU hosts San Diego in a FCS playoff game Saturday. … Big Sky champion Southern Utah may have the FCS coach of the year. … In basketball, Portland State remained undefeated with a win over Utah State. … Sacramento State is ready to face tougher competition.

Empire: Never thought there would be another Spokane Empire link, not after the team folded. But we have one. It concerns former coach Adam Shackleford. Jim Meehan has a story on his newest coaching job.

Seahawks: John Blanchette was in Seattle and he has this column from the Hawks’ 34-31 loss. … I was in my living room watching like most of you, on TV, and had a quick three takes on what we saw. … What we saw included the final tying field goal coming up short, players being injured, some incredible kickoff returns and the usual playmaking by both teams.

Sounders: It’s been a tough year for Seattle but the Sounders have a chance to make it a great one, starting tonight in Houston.

•••       

• Games like last night’s can be so tough to watch at times. Fun, sure, but tough. Sort of like wading through a column with a bunch of references to a TV show that went off the air about 50 years ago. But I’m guessing your first thought was, if you are of a certain age, to respond with a “… and loving it.” Until later … 

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