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Failed fourth-down run comes back to bite Seahawks

By Brady Henderson

These decisions were supposed to be a thing of the past.

Pete Carroll had supposedly learned his lesson, realizing that fourth-and-1 situations aren't gimmes in the NFL like they were in college.

Maybe not.

The Seahawks turned the ball over on downs Sunday when Carroll eschewed a short field-goal attempt in favor of a running play. That was in the second quarter. Plenty happened between then and when the Falcons finally won 30-28 after a wild finish, but the two-point margin of defeat makes that fourth-down decision even more questionable.

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The Seahawks came away with no points when coach Pete Carroll eschewed a short field-goal attempt in the first half, a decision that will be second-guessed. (AP)

Carroll was asked after the game whether he was kicking himself for that call.

"No, I don't look at it that way, but you can," he responded.

There are plenty who will.

It seemed like Carroll would have played it safe based on what he told reporters when the subject came up last week. Carroll talked about how he had developed a formula to avoid making what he once called "hormonal" decisions, those driven by his competitiveness and an inclination he developed during a dominant run at USC.

"I have guys that jump in my face and get right nose-to-nose on me when those decisions come up so that I think clearly because I always like to go for it," Carroll said Wednesday. "I've got a little format. You watch [special teams coach Brian Schneider], he jumps right in from of me, grabs me by the ears and makes me rethink it.

"I got going for nine years straight of going for everything every single chance you get forever. So I think we've cleaned things up we've got a good formula for doing it. I've got the guys talking in my ear. But we're looking for those chances. It's interesting because it hasn't come up as much. We haven't had that many dramatic opportunities to go for it or not."

Sure enough, they would Sunday.

Trailing 13-0 and faced with a fourth-and-1 from Atlanta's 11-yard line in the second quarter, Carroll decided on a handoff to fullback Michael Robinson instead of a 28-yard field-goal attempt. Robinson was stopped in the backfield, squandering another prime scoring opportunity for Seattle.

"We've got to make six inches or whatever the heck it was. We had a little screw-up on third down there and we didn't get the communication clear, so fourth down we thought we could knock it out," Carroll said. "They did a real nice job, got a nice little stunt and hit us in the backfield on a running play that we make first downs all the time."

Atlanta took over on downs and scored four plays later when Matt Ryan connected with Roddy White for a 47-yard touchdown. Just like that, the Seahawks trailed 20-0, a deficit they would take into halftime after failing to score during another trip into the red zone at the end of the second quarter.

A miraculous second-half rally put gave the Seahawks a one-point lead with less than a minute remaining before Ryan put the Falcons in field goal position with a pair of long completions. Matt Bryant nailed the 48-yard attempt, and the Seahawks' Hail Mary attempt was intercepted in the end zone.

Seattle's season has ended. Let the second-guessing begin.

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