Heaps: Seahawks punting late against Packers was the right choice

Jan 14, 2020, 11:39 AM
Seahawks HC Pete Carroll...
Seahawks HC Pete Carroll's decision to punt late against Green Bay has been scrutinized. (Getty)

After a big sack on third down in the fourth quarter, the Seahawks had the ball back down 28-23 to the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs with less than five minutes remaining in the game.

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After a first down completion, Seattle failed to convert for another first down and on third-and-5, quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked, making it fourth-and-11 from their own 32-yard line.

With three timeouts and the two-minute warning left to go, head coach Pete Carroll elected to punt the ball back to Green Bay and despite forcing the Packers into two third-and-long situations on defense, the Seahawks would never get the ball back and would lose by that 28-23 score.

Carroll said after the fact that if Wilson wasn’t sacked, they may have gone for it, but at fourth-and-11, they thought punting was the better play.

Some, like 710 ESPN’s Dave “The Groz” Grosby, have said that the Seahawks should have went for it on fourth down because Wilson was having a spectacular second half. Jake Heaps of 710 ESPN Seattle’s Tom, Jake and Stacy though Carroll made the right call punting it.

“I absolutely agree with it,” Heaps said. “The only time, like I said earlier on the show, for five seconds I thought, ‘Keep the ball in Russell Wilson’s hands. It’s fourth down, he’s the one who got you to this point so far.’ But that was just emotions talking.”

Wilson effectively took over in the second half, leading the Seahawks to three touchdown drives after entering halftime down 21-3. Heaps agreed Wilson had the hot hand, but field position and the situation did not call for him attempting to create more magic on fourth-and-11.

“He was making all the moves and getting them in that position (to come back and win), but (on) fourth-and-11 that’s not an ideal situation,” he said. “And at that point, if you don’t convert, you lose the game. Guaranteed, the game is lost. By them punting the football, it gives you an opportunity on the defensive side of the ball … they came up big on the last couple of possessions in that game and the momentum swing was to the Seahawks.”

Even though the Seahawks never forced a stop on defense, Seattle was very close to getting the ball back with ample time because of poor coaching on Green Bay’s end. The Packers threw an incompletion on second down, which stopped the clock and saved Seattle a timeout.

“You have to understand that (Packers head coach Matt LeFleur) handled the end of the game wrong (on offense),” Heaps said. “The Seahawks had three timeouts left and there was 2:32 left in the game. They run (on first down), then they try to pass on second-and-8 … Now you’re third-and-8 with 2:19 left to go in the game and they decide to pass the football. If that’s incomplete, now you’re sitting there (with) 2:10 left and you punt the ball. The Seahawks have one play before the two-minute (warning) and two timeouts left. So that’s the ideal situation that the (Seahawks) put themselves in.”

The Seahawks failed to get stops on two third downs, but a play on offense on their last drive was more key in their loss.

On the drive that Seattle punted the ball away, Wilson found Tyler Lockett on the first play for a first down. The next play, Wilson had receiver Malik Turner wide open in the middle of the field for a first down. Turner dropped the ball, and then after a 5-yard gain on second down, Wilson was sacked, which forced the punt.

“(Turner) dropping that football did not help,” Heaps said. “That was bad, bad, bad. Wide open, right in the chest, you’ve got to catch that one.”

Listen to the discussion at this link or in the player below.

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