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'Cool Play'? Coach Pete Carroll Admits Major Seahawks Ill-Fated Trick Play Goof in Loss to 49ers

In a major turning point on Sunday, Seattle put the ball in a running back's hands as a passer in a seldom-used personnel grouping and paid dearly with the worst outcome imaginable, swinging momentum right back to San Francisco.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Despite being down 13 points on the scoreboard, with under five minutes left to play in the first half, the tide appeared to be turning into the Seahawks favor in their NFC West opener.

Rolling out to his right to evade multiple oncoming pass rushers, quarterback Geno Smith had just completed his longest pass of the afternoon, linking up with Tyler Lockett on a 27-yard crossing route down to the San Francisco 13-yard line. After failing to advance past midfield on their first three possessions, they finally had reached the red zone, threatening to cut into the two-score deficit while having the advantage of receiving to open the second half.

Looking to catch the 49ers off guard, offensive coordinator Shane Waldron dusted off cobwebs from ancient playbook archives, subbing in all four of the Seahawks running backs into the game to form a wildcat, full house formation. To make the look legal, Smith slid out wide as a receiver, serving as little more than a decoy.

Taking the direct snap out of pistol, rookie running back Ken Walker III faked a handoff and then bolted to his right, turning what looked to be a tackle for loss somehow into a five-yard gain down to San Francisco's eight-yard line. Knocking on the door of the end zone, the gimmick probably should have stopped there, but Waldron wanted to keep the opposition on their heels with another wrinkle Seattle had game-planned all week.

Rather than move Smith back to quarterback, Walker, Rashaad Penny, Travis Homer, and Dee Jay Dallas all remained in the backfield. The rookie again took the snap, this time handing it off to Dallas, who rolled out to his right and reared back to pass as Seattle tried to execute a bit of old school trickery to climb back into the game.

Looking back afterward, in the aftermath of a dreadful 27-7 defeat at Levis Stadium, coach Pete Carroll wishes he would have stepped in and called timeout before the play ever happened.

"It was a really cool play to call and give a shot to, but it’s asking a lot. In that situation, I just wish I would have got us out of it," Carroll told reporters, admitting it looked like the 49ers defense had the play snuffed out from the sideline.

Despite having quarterback in his background dating back to his days at Glynn Academy in Brunswick, Georgia, Dallas seemed to double-clutch on the pass attempt. Amid windy, rainy conditions, the ball squirted out of his gloved hand without a spiral or much air under it, failing to come anywhere close to reaching his intended target DK Metcalf.

Instead, the pass was shot-putted right into the hands of cornerback Charvarius Ward, who caught the gift-wrapped interception and returned it to the 49ers nine-yard line, abruptly ending a promising drive for the Seahawks without any points to show for it. Any way you slice it, the play didn't pan out as drawn out, eliminating the possibility of tightening the game up before halftime.

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When asked how long Seattle had that play in its playbook, Carroll coyly responded, "It's been around. It's not a new play."

It was that kind of afternoon for Carroll's Seahawks, who extended their scoreless streak to six quarters while being blanked by the 49ers on Sunday. With his completion to Lockett being his longest of the game, Smith couldn't find any traction through the air, finishing with only 198 passing yards on 24 completions and uncorking an interception of his own. On the ground, behind a line that failed to generate any push in the trenches, Penny and Walker failed to eclipse 40 yards as a tandem.

Turning the football over three times and converting on just two out of seven third down opportunities, Smith and his counterparts never found a rhythm playing against one of the NFL's best defenses. When they finally did have something cooking, Carroll and Waldron took the ingredients out of their quarterback's hands and while the staff should be commended for thinking outside the box, they inexplicably gave them to a running back in a crucial situation in the game to throw the ball.

"I thought it was going to be a touchdown, honestly," Smith said when asked what went through his head on the play. "We had worked that play all week and we had a good look for it... Obviously, you don't want to have any turnovers, especially in the red zone. I thought it was going to be a positive play."

Ultimately, while Smith supported the call and thought it would go for six points after practicing it all week, any momentum gained driving into the red zone was lost after Dallas' throw was picked off and the Seahawks simply never recaptured it. After the half, they had the ball for four possessions, punting three times and only reaching midfield when the clock expired and the game had already been decided.

Laying a big, fat egg on the scoreboard, Smith as well as Carroll and Waldron will have to get back to the drawing board aiming to get the offense untracked with a home date with Atlanta looming in Wee 3. As for the four-back personnel grouping, it may be a smart idea to return the formation to where it came from collecting dust and not touch it again.

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