Chris Carson began the game as the Seahawks' starting tailback, but he mysteriously disappeared in the second half. Pete Carroll later explained why.
CHICAGO — If it struck some as odd that Seahawks starting tailback Chris Carson didn’t get a single carry in the second half of Seattle’s 24-17 defeat to Chicago, and spent most of it watching from the sideline with his helmet on, coach Pete Carroll’s initial explanation seemed odder — that Carson didn’t see much time down the stretch because he was “gassed” from an increased role playing on special teams.
That explanation grew even more curious when the official snap counts were released Tuesday morning showing that Carson saw just two on special teams — he had played in six the week before at Denver.
And by later Tuesday morning, Carroll was changing his tune some, saying it wasn’t necessarily that Carson was actually gassed but that Carroll assumed he was, not realizing that Carson had been taken off of some special teams.
“I make mistakes,” Carroll said during his weekly coach’s show on ESPN 710 Seattle. “I misread a little bit of something happening. I was off on the thing I said about Chris. He was on special teams a couple plays, but I thought that was what happened and I just misread him on the sidelines a little bit and didn’t clearly understand. I just wanted to give Rashaad (Penny) a chance to go play when he did, and Chris never really gets back in the game. It feels like, ‘What, did you bench him or something?’ That didn’t happen. It was just the way that things turned, so I missed it a little bit.”
Carroll said he made the assessment of Carson by looking at him on the sideline.
“He looked like he was kind of worn down a little bit,” Carroll said. “And I knew that he was a factor in special teams, and I just missed it. Brian had taken him off on a couple of (special teams) things because he was running the ball well. I just missed it. I thought that’s what happened when I looked at him. But it wasn’t to bench him. It wasn’t like I was disappointed with him. We still wanted to see what the other guys would do and mix them in and that’s just the way it went. I didn’t read it right. When I commented about that, I wasn’t clear. I just misread the situation.”
With Carson not getting a carry after the 11:51 mark of the second quarter it was Penny — the team’s first-round pick in April — who got the bulk of the work the rest of the way.
Penny gained eight carries for 28 yards in the second half to finish with 30 yards on 10 carries for the game while Carson had 24 yards on six carries, all coming in the first two quarters.
Immediately after the game, Carroll said Carson had been tired from having to do some increased special teams duties because of the team’s injury issues.
“He was a little gassed from working on special teams and helping us,’’ Carroll said. “We had some guys that were out so he had to kind of double dip, and we really wanted to see how we could do with Rashaad and get him some playing time and get him out there.’’
Specifically, Carroll indicated injuries to strong safety Delano Hill and linebackers K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner — as well as another injury during the week to backup linebacker Jermaine Grace, who was waived as injured — forced other players such as Carson to have to do more on special teams.
“We were so low on safeties and linebackers that he had to play,’’ Carroll said. “He is a fantastic special teams guy, so he just had to stay in there. That was not the design going into the season. But this week he had to do it and had to help us out.
“But he will play, and there was nothing about his play that keeps him out of there. We didn’t get enough chances, and I wanted to get Rashaad going a little bit and see where he is in his development.’’
The snap counts showed that Carson played 19 on offense and two on special teams. He had played 25 on offense and six on special teams in the opener at Denver when Carroll had said Carson’s snaps were limited in part due to the altitude and wanting to split time between Carson and Penny to try to keep each as fresh as possible.
Last week Carroll implied Carson would get more work against the Bears saying he had taken “the lead” at the tailback position ahead of Penny, Mike Davis and C.J. Prosise.
And it looked early like Carson would indeed get significant work as he had carries on the first three plays of the game and four in the first quarter. He had two more early in the second quarter, the final carry coming with 11:51 to play in the first half.
But then he never got another carry the rest of the game with Carson, Penny and Prosise all on the field for basically the exact same time — Penny had 20 snaps, Carson 19 and Prosise 18. Davis had nine.