How the carries and touches get divvied up between Chris Carson and a suddenly resurgent Rashaad Penny may be a source of great fascination and debate to those on the outside.
But to those in the middle of it, all that matters is doing what it takes to win.
And if you don’t want to just take them at their word, Penny offered up what he felt was the most vivid illustration possible of the relationship he has with Carson.
After Carson carried for 25 yards to the Minnesota 5-yard line on Seattle’s first drive of the third quarter, he tapped his helmet asking to come out, with Penny taking his place. No matter that he might be giving up the honor of scoring a touchdown.
Penny then got the ball on the next two plays, scoring from 1-yard out to help spark Seattle’s 37-30 win that put the Seahawks in first place in the NFC West.
“I was surprised (Carson) actually told me to come in at the 1-yard line,” Penny said. “Because I’m not the 1-yard running back. But that shows you how much he cares and how much love there is between me and him.”
Penny further referred to the relationship he has with Carson as “a bond together that I don’t think anyone can break.”
Not even the pesky media, which as Penny has surged the last two weeks has wondered if there is a growing tailback controversy.
But the way coach Pete Carroll sees it, there really isn’t anything to talk about when it comes to the Seahawks’ tailback position.
All that matters, he says, is that Seattle has two healthy, productive players at the spot as the season is hitting the stretch drive.
The rest, he says, is so much hot air — such as, the debate over how Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny are used.
“You guys keep asking me,” Carroll said to reporters following Seattle’s 37-30 win over the Vikings on Monday night. “But there’s no plan on this one. They’re just playing. And when we see how the game goes, we might give a guy a few more here or a few more there. We don’t know, because they’re both really good. Chris is the starter, so he winds up getting some more carries. But they’re playing as one and two, and I don’t know who is one, and I don’t think who is two.’’
The tailback rotation became the topic of much debate after last Sunday’s game at Philadelphia after Penny came off the bench to rush for a career-high 129 yards on 14 carries while Carson was held to 26 on eight and had a fumble.
It seemed further complicated when Carson suffered a hard hit to the head thanks to the thigh of teammate Jacob Hollister on the first series of the game and spent a few minutes being evaluated for a concussion.
But Carson passed the concussion protocol and returned to the game and Carson and Penny spent the rest of the game splitting snaps.
Carson finished with a bounce-back 102 yards on 23 carries and a touchdown, and Penny had 74 on a career-high 15 carries and scored twice — once on the ground and another on a 13-yard pass.
Carson and Penny each said after the game the split in carries is fine with them.
“It’s good,” Carson said. “It keeps both of us healthy not putting the load on one person. We complement each other really well. It’s good to see that.
“We have two different running styles, so it keeps the defense on their toes. They don’t know what to expect.”
Lockett still ailing
Seattle’s leading receiver, Tyler Lockett, finished the game without a catch, though he had three passes thrown his way, including one late in the second quarter in the end zone when he appeared briefly open.
He has just one catch in the past two games after suffering a shin contusion against San Francisco.
This week he was also one of at least eight Seahawks who caught a flu bug.
Carroll said all of that caught up to Lockett this week.
“He was real sick again,” Carroll said. “He’ll be better this week if he can stay away from it. I know a lot of teams had this flu thing. It was legit. We played right through it.”
Lockett and David Moore — who also had the flu during the week — wore onesies with the Canadian flag, an homage to teammate Luke Willson, who they said had helped nurse them through their illness.
Carroll noted the support of teammates saying “guys contributed to helping them and it was not a factor for us at all tonight. We played right through it.”
Ansah leaves with stinger
Defensive end Ziggy Ansah continued his breakout of last week with a tackle, a game-high three quarterback hits and a pass batted down at the line of scrimmage.
But he left the game on Minnesota’s final offensive series and was evaluated for a stinger.
Carroll indicated that it was not serious.
“He had a stinger,” Carroll said. “I don’t know how bad, but they did not think — it was resolved, so that’s a good sign.”
Defense rues miscommunication
The Vikings scored 30 points. But the Seahawks felt as if they mostly had themselves to blame for most of them.
Minnesota’s first defensive series was keyed by two big plays in which Seattle missed tackles.
The Vikings didn’t have another offensive touchdown until the fourth quarter when a blown coverage led to a 58-yard TD pass from Kirk Cousins to Laquon Treadwell.
Carroll said players simply were not on the same page as to what defense the team was in (it appeared as if Shaquill Griffin passed off Treadwell to Bradley McDougald, who was not playing deep).
“We just blew it,” Carroll said. “It’s just a regular adjustment, but we just didn’t get it communicated. It’s just a blunder on our part.”
But Carroll noted it was the only time Seattle has had that kind of a blown coverage in two years.
Said McDougald: “You can’t have half the defense playing one thing and the other half of the defense playing one thing. It really shows. They just happened to capitalize on one.”
Moore comes through
From a production standpoint, Moore has been somewhat of a disappointment. Given his time with the Seahawks, which includes 16 games last season, he has been a non-factor at receiver this season with rookie DK Metcalf taking over a starting role and recent acquisition of Josh Gordon cutting into his opportunities.
Maybe that’s why the Vikings left him so open on a simple pass route up the seam that turned into a 60-yard touchdown catch.
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes initially covered Moore off the snap but seemed to just let him run by, thinking there was safety help. There wasn’t.
“He just kind of let me go inside,” Moore said. “He just kind of ole’d me and it worked out of for the best.”
Rhodes was 10 yards behind Moore when he corralled the long pass from Russell Wilson and sprinted into the end zone untouched.
Moore’s second touchdown catch of the season meant another choreographed celebration with his fellow receivers. They lined up and performed a dance reminiscent of the days of the Temptations and Four Tops, but people familiar with 1980s pop groups knew it was from the band New Edition.
“It’s New Edition’s ‘If It Isn’t Love,’ ” Moore said. “We got it from the music video.”
While the group had bigger hits, they didn’t have the dance moves. So the Hawks chose that song because of the dancing in the video.
“It was a group decision,” Moore said. “We wanted to go back to old school a little bit and New Edition was something we came up with. When you have a group effort like that, you have to practice it. And we’ve been doing some practicing.”