The second-year running back from Oklahoma State carried 32 times for 102 yards and a touchdown, showcasing the attitude the Seahawks' offense has been searching for all along.
Chris Carson looked gassed.
So says Pete Carroll, the Seahawks’ ninth-year head coach. A week ago, in a 24-17 loss to the Chicago Bears, Carson — a 5-foot-11, 222-pound Hummer in shoulder pads — received just six carries and didn’t play in the second half of a one-score game. Immediately after the loss, Carroll said that Carson looked “gassed” on the sideline, which prompted the inexplicable disappearance of the Seahawk starter. A day later, he backtracked, claiming responsibility and calling the whole thing an unfortunate misunderstanding.
In the first quarter of the Seahawks’ eventual 24-13 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Carroll looked Carson’s way again.
“He looked tired in the first quarter,” Carroll said with a grin and a shrug. “But it didn’t matter. I got it now. I got it. OK, I screwed that up last week. I’m OK now.”
The conclusion, of course, is that Carroll’s eyes keep lying. But this time he didn’t trust them.
And the Seahawks reaped the rewards.
In the win over the Cowboys, Carson carried a whopping 32 times for 102 yards and a 5-yard touchdown. He added two catches for 22 yards. He also matched his total workload against Chicago on Seattle’s opening drive and touched the ball on 50.1 percent of the Seahawks’ offensive plays.
Carson kept coming, battering and bullying a Cowboys defense that allowed just 35 rushing yards against the New York Giants the week before.
“He’s a workhorse. Just look at him, man,” said Seahawks left tackle Duane Brown. “The guy is built like a house and he runs behind his pads. He makes defenses pay when he runs. We’re very happy to have him.”
Likewise, Carson is happy to have this current incarnation of the Seahawks’ offensive line. Without starting center Justin Britt (shoulder) and left guard Ethan Pocic (ankle), Joey Hunt started in Britt’s spot and J.R. Sweezy shifted to the left side for the first time in his career.
And yet, the Seahawks achieved a season high in rushing yards (113) and allowed a season-low in sacks (2).
But Carson isn’t getting carried away.
“I’m probably going to show them love and everything like that,” Carson said, when asked if he’d be willing to buy dinner for his offensive line. “But they eat a lot so I’m not trying to buy anybody dinner.”
The second-year running back might not be capable of doing much of anything Monday after the adrenaline subsides and his body starts screaming. Carson’s most carries in his rookie season were 20 (for 92 yards) against San Francisco on Sept. 17, 2017. He never received more than 21 carries in his two-year run at Oklahoma State.
Even so, the former seventh-round pick was all smiles after 34 touches (and tackles) Sunday.
Maybe Carson isn’t capable of shouldering 32 carries every week. The specific number is not important.
But the attitude? That’s essential.
“We still have some runs out there. We left some yards on the field,” Brown said. “I think we all know that, but we’re all happy with our performance as well. This is what we want to get done. It’s a commitment that we have to have up front, a mentality that we have to have.
“We know Chris is going to continue to run the way he’s running. The coaches have faith in us, so we just have to keep going.”
That goes for Carroll, too, who insists he’s learned his lesson. When Carson looks tired, he might just require another carry.
“I know the kid,” Dorian Rowe, Carson’s stepfather, told The Times earlier this month. “Once he gets into the third or fourth quarter and he’s gotten warmed up, it’s even harder to stop him.”
The Cowboys certainly had trouble stopping Carson on Sunday. They also struggled to contain quarterback Russell Wilson, who threw for two touchdowns, and wide receiver Tyler Lockett, who high-stepped emphatically down the sideline for a 52-yard score.
In their home opener, in front of 69,047 fans at CenturyLink Field, the Seahawks didn’t get gassed.
Their offense finally got going.
“This is the offense that we planned to be the whole offseason — to be a balanced attack, to run the ball, to throw the ball, put points on the board,” Carson said. “So it just felt good to do it today.”