Pete Carroll's decision to go for two Sunday night was the first time since 2010 he has made a call that goes against the famous coach's chart of when to eschew a PAT kick and go for two.
In further explaining his decision to go for two late in Sunday night’s win over New England, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Monday he was largely playing the percentages.
Recall that Seattle went for two after scoring to take a 31-24 lead with 4:24 left. A pass to Doug Baldwin failed, however, leaving the Patriots with a chance to tie or take the lead on their final possession.
That the Pats came up a yard short didn’t quell the debate later about Seattle not simply taking the kick and an eight-point lead that would have assured the Seahawks could not lose on just one New England possession, with even Pats coach Bill Belichick reportedly left confused.
Monday, Carroll began his answer to a question about the decision this way.
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“It’s kind of a math thing,’’ he said. “There are some numbers there. If we miss it at seven points, there’s a 79 percent chance (of winning). If you go for the two-point deal and you make it, your odds go up a little bit. If you just kick it, it goes up 6 or 7 percent chance of winning. If you go for two it goes up about another 6 or 7, so it’s about 10 to 12 percent better chance of winning.’’
It’s worth noting, though, that this was the first time in Carroll’s Seahawks tenure since 2010 when he made a decision to go for two that went against the famous coach’s chart first devised by Dick Vermeil in the early 1970s. That chart offers recommendations for what to do when ahead or behind by a certain margin.
Twice in 2010 in late-season games when Seattle trailed by 18 points or more Carroll went for two, getting it each time, decisions that also went against the chart. But the fact that Seattle trailed by big margins late in already unwinnable games of what was his first season as Seattle’s coach probably played into the decision.
Since then, the Seahawks have gone for two nine times in the regular season and twice in the post-season, and until Sunday, every decision went along with the recommendation of the chart.
That includes all five attempts last season, which was the only time since 2010 that Seattle had attempted more than one two-point try in a season in what was also the first year that the PAT kicks were moved back to the 15, which was done in part to encourage more two-point tries (a decision Carroll enthusiastically supported).
Seattle’s five attempts last year included three when the Seahawks trailed by five, another when the Seahawks trailed by two and another when they led by four — all times when the chart says to go for two (all also coming in the fourth quarter).
Further into his answer Monday, Carroll acknowledged that more than math might have been at play.
“The thing I liked about it was really an aggressive way to put the pressure on them if we could make it,’’ he said. “They would be in a different mode than they would be if they had a one-score game. We we’re going to play to that. I just wanted to put the pressure on them if we could. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to do that. But I like it, I thought it was aggressive and it gave us the best chance of winning. Different team it might be different.’’
Carroll also added of the Patriots that “they’re pretty good at two-point conversions by the way. Tom’s [Brady] pretty good at those situations. Going up the field once and having to do it again that’s pretty hard.” (FWIW, the Patriots have not attempted a two-point conversion in the regular season since 2014 and are 0-1 since 2014 and 4-8 since 2010).
In making the decision, however, Carroll was also trying to buck some of the Seahawks’ recent history.
With the failed two-point try against the Patriots, the first attempt of the year for Seattle, the Seahawks are now 1-9 on two-point tries since 2011 (the Seahawks, though, are memorably 2-2 in the post-season in that time including the improbable Russell Wilson to Luke Willson pass that proved pivotal in the 2014 NFC title game win. The other was a Wilson to Zach Miller pass in a 2012 wildcard playoff win over Washington).
That includes a 1-5 conversion rate last season.
The only time Seattle hit on a two-pointer last year was a Marshawn Lynch run at St. Louis that cut a 24-19 deficit to 24-21.
Two others came on failed pass attempts in an eventual 39-32 loss to Arizona (Seattle went for two when behind 25-23 and then when ahead 29-25).
And two others came on failed pass attempts against Pittsburgh when behind 26-21 and 32-27 (a game in which an early against-the-chart decision by Steelers’ coach Mike Tomlin to go for two, which turned a 16-14 lead into an 18-14 edge, changed the PAT dynamic for both teams the rest of the game).
Seattle, in fact, has now failed on its last seven passing attempts on two-point plays dating to 2010 (going 1-2 on runs, each by Lynch), with the caveat that it has hit on both of its passing attempts on two-point plays in the playoffs.
Carroll said the decision to go for two against the Patriots wasn’t spur of the moment (and he also did not indicate that the longer PAT kick came into affect, though it’s worth noting that Steven Haushcka is 16-19 on PATs this season and one had been blocked earlier in the game).
“We were talking about the 2-point thing and how we were going to do it in the third quarter, late in the third quarter if it came up,’’ he said, noting that he consults heavily with QB coach Carl Smith on such calls. “So we were in the conversation through the game.’’
What would he have thought had the Patriots scored and then went for two, meaning his earlier decision to go for two would have put in place a scenario where one play would determine everything?
“I would have really welcomed that,’’ Carroll said. “That’s a chance to win. One play to win I like that.”