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Commentary: Seahawks’ Chris Carson puts costly fumbles behind him

Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Carson runs against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (Rick Scuteri / Associated Press)
Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Carson runs against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (Rick Scuteri / Associated Press)
By Matt Calkins Seattle Times

GLENDALE, Ariz. – About 20 minutes after Sunday’s game, a reporter asked running back Chris Carson about the 12-yard gain he had in the fourth quarter to give the Seahawks a critical first down. Carson, however, didn’t know which play she was talking about. That’s when fellow running back C.J. Prosise chimed in with a reminder.

“The one where you ran over five people,” he said.

Hey. Short memory. That’s what Carson had been preaching all week.

The seven nights that passed between last Sunday and this one might have been the most sleepless of Carson’s career. In a six-point loss to the Saints last week, he lost his third fumble in as many games and played sparingly in the second half.

Carson didn’t bemoan his struggles publicly, though. He stressed the confidence he had in his ability and the importance of moving on from the past.

What followed was one of the best games of his career and a Seahawks win. Perhaps this isn’t a memory he wants to move on from so quickly.

“I think probably the guy I’m most excited about is Chris,” said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, whose team beat the Cardinals 27-10 to improve to 3-1. “This was really just waiting for Chris to put that stuff to rest and get going. He ran really tough all day long, didn’t change his style at all. If anything, he ran as hard as he has run all year. Really I’m just fired up for him because we need Chris running like that.”

Carson finished the day with 104 rushing yards and no fumbles on 22 carries. He added four receptions for 41 yards, leaving him 3 yards short of his career-high for total offense.

He was particularly bruising in the middle of the fourth quarter, when he took a short pass from Russell Wilson on second-and-nine, steamrolled an array of Cardinals, and gave the Seahawks a first down on their game-sealing drive.

How did you do that, Chris?

“We just practice that,” he said.

Maybe Carson told himself to be as protective with the ball Sunday as he is with his thoughts every day. The third-year player has always been polite but never verbose.

He did, however, praise his teammates for their incessant support over the three-game skid preceding Sunday, particularly Wilson, who told him that “even Walter Payton fumbled.”

“My teammates, they always showed love,” Carson said. “Even when things weren’t going too well.”

Wilson, by the way, might have just had the best four-game start of his career. With eight touchdowns, no interceptions, a completion percentage of 72.9 and a passer rating of 118.6, he has established himself as an early candidate for NFL MVP. But Wilson also knows the Seahawks’ offensive success centers around the running game, which requires Carson to excel.

Sunday, he did just that.

Carson tallied 54 yards on 10 carries in the first half, including consecutive runs of 4, 7, 6, 8 and 11 yards on Seattle’s last drive of the second quarter. He racked up 50 rushing yards in the second half and caught three passes, none bigger than the bowling-ball impression mentioned earlier.

Perhaps this would have meant more if the Cardinals (0-3-1) didn’t enter the game with the league’s second-worst defense and third-worst rushing defense. But it was still an impressive effort from a running back whose confidence cup needed a refill.

“I think we all mess up and we all have plays that don’t work out the way that we wanted to, but I also know that the great players, they respond. They believe in what’s going to happen next, and he’s one of those guys,” Wilson said of Carson. “He ran the ball with no fear today, just no fear.”

One great game does not erase a series of mistakes from earlier in the season. It can, however, remove a cloud of doubt hovering above a player’s head. It wasn’t long ago that Carson looked like one of Seattle’s most vulnerable players. Sunday, he looked like one of its best.

Next up for the Seahawks are the defending NFC-champion Rams on Thursday night. A turnover against a team that good could easily amount to a loss. Carson should still be concerned, but after his performance Sunday, he shouldn’t be as worried. This is one instance in which a longer memory would come in handy.

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