Pete Carroll wants Seahawks to play until the end, but not go 'over the top'

Golic has no problem with Seahawks trying to force fumble (1:49)

Mike Golic and Mike Golic Jr. disagree on Seattle's decision to try to force a fumble on a kneel-down play. (1:49)

RENTON, Wash. -- There's a saying the Seattle Seahawks have on defense, "Give us an inch of grass and we'll defend it." It represents their emphasis on finishing, something they've credited for being able to pull off some improbable plays over the years.

There was safety Earl Thomas' goal-line strip against the Rams in 2014, which saved a touchdown and caused a touchback, and an eerily identical play he made earlier this season. Safety Kam Chancellor had a similar last-second save against the Lions in 2015, when he punched the ball out of Calvin Johnson's hands as the receiver was falling into the end zone.

Coach Pete Carroll, ever the optimist, teaches his players to finish everything, even if the outcome of a play or a game seems all but determined. That's why he had no issue with Seattle's defense crashing the Jacksonville Jaguars' victory formation in the closing seconds of Sunday's loss.

Carroll just regretted what it led to.

"I really, really don't like the way the game ended for us, and we never want to see football games look like that," he said Monday. "The level that we play at, that's not an excuse for going over the top like that, and so all these guys have heard that and they understand that and we don't ever want to look like that."

The ugly ending to Sunday's game included scuffles on consecutive plays, both of which were kneel-downs by the Jaguars that Seattle's defensive linemen contested. Sheldon Richardson and Quinton Jefferson were ejected while Michael Bennett and Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette were also penalized.

It got even uglier when Jefferson briefly attempted to climb into the stands to confront fans who had thrown drinks on him as he was exiting the field.

The entire episode only added to the growing perception of the Seahawks as ill-tempered sore losers. After all, the scene -- minus the Jefferson part -- was a familiar one for Seattle.

In the most out-of-hand instance, Bennett and Bruce Irvin fought with Patriots players at the end of Super Bowl XLIX, right after Malcolm Butler's decisive interception. That incident and lesser scuffles last season with the Rams (Week 2) and Falcons (playoffs) -- among others -- all came under similar circumstances: opponents kneeling out the clock, Seattle's defensive linemen continuing to fire off the ball, with Bennett at the center of it all.

Carroll defended Bennett on Monday amid criticism that the Seahawks defensive end had bad intentions when he dived at the legs of Jaguars center Brandon Linder, which precipitated the first scuffle Sunday night. Carroll said it was an unintentional result of Bennett attempting to force a fumble by swiping at the ball as Linder snapped it.

"That is something he has tried before and that's why he was way down there on the ground like that, because he was trying to time it up and hit it, trying to force a fumble, trying to get the ball back and so he winds up underneath the whole pile of stuff," Carroll said. "The stuff that happened after that was wrong. He was trying to get the ball. But after that, that got messy.”

The Atlanta scuffle last season also came after Bennett attempted a swipe. Asked if it has gotten to the point of Bennett needing to abandon that tactic, Carroll said he has already been told to.

It never worked for Seattle anyway. But in Carroll's always optimistic mind, maybe it could have.

"I've not seen it work yet, but we've heard that it has and so that was passed along to us a few years ago and we have not seen anyone pull it off yet," he said. "It would take impeccable timing to get it done."

Bennett won't be swiping, but that doesn't mean Carroll will have his defense concede in end-of-game situations where a turnover would give the team life.

"There's a chance for the ball to come back to us there and there's things that happen," he said.

Carroll referenced the "Miracle at the Meadowlands" from 1978 as a famous example. The Eagles were trailing by five points with 31 seconds left. The Giants botched a handoff and Herm Edwards ran back the fumble for the winning touchdown.

"So it can happen," Carroll said. "So to just let it go, you're not competing. We're always trying to figure out a way to find a way to win the thing, so there's still opportunities. We don’t want to take advantage of anybody in that regard. It's just to see if we can get the ball back. If the game isn't out of hand, you're within one score and there’s some time on the clock and all of that, there's a chance. We have to think about if we can get it done.

"It should’ve been a pretty benign attempt [on Sunday], but it just didn't wind up like that."