Pete Carroll has Seahawks where they shouldn't be — on playoffs' fringe

Before Pete Carroll gets burned at the stake for the way the Seahawks lost to the Falcons on Monday night, remember all the teams whose seasons have fallen apart as they’ve lost crucial players to injury. They’re not the Packers, Cowboys, Texans, Colts, Giants … it’s a long list, and the 6-4 Seahawks, still one game out of the NFC West lead and holding the tiebreaker on the Rams, aren’t on it.

On the other hand, before Carroll gets any Coach of the Year votes … a fake field goal? Really? Then, and there? And even with that … Blair Walsh, actually still earning your trust? And, once again, that offensive line, still fine with you?

This year in Seattle, Carroll giveth, and Carroll taketh away. It’s felt at times like an entire season of throwing at the 1-yard line in the final seconds of the Super Bowl.

PLAYOFF PICTURE: Seahawks fall to  eighth in NFC with loss

It absolutely felt that way Monday night in Seattle, seeing the Seahawks lose 34-31 (after, yes, a Walsh miss), knowing Carroll had risked a likely three points at the end of the first half with a fake field goal, then seeing the play fail and getting them nothing.

It’s what you live with with Pete Carroll. High stakes, high risk, high reward on the biggest stages, in games that matter. And they just keep on mattering, because Carroll also has his team competing even though, in this case, it didn’t have Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor against Matt Ryan and a Falcons offense that’s finding itself again.

The Seahawks’ last four games are: a 41-38 shootout win over Deshaun Watson and the Texans; a 17-14 loss at home to Washington with a shot at a Hail Mary on the final play; a comparatively comfortable 22-16 win in Arizona; and Monday night’s loss.

The offense has been depleted all season. The decimation of their running backs is well-documented. So has the franchise’s ongoing neglect of the offensive line, although they finally addressed it in part with a desperation trade for Duane Brown. So was the two-game absence of Earl Thomas. So was the loss of Cliff Avril last month.

TAKEAWAYS: Legion of Boom is no more

So has the genius of Russell Wilson, who should be talked about as an MVP candidate far more often than he is, considering how he’s hoisted the Seahawks on his shoulders even more than usual. He got them in position to force overtime yet again, much the way he dragged them to the win over the Texans and gave them a brief lead against Washington with similar late heroics.

Carroll’s contributions, though, aren’t detailed as often. But he faces down the obvious shortcomings, figures out how he can compensate for them, and has the Seahawks ready every week. The saying about how games are often won or lost before Sunday (or Monday, in this instance) is proven every week in Seattle.

No one would have been shocked had the Falcons won 44-31, or 51-31 … but they sweated out the Blair Walsh Experience at the end instead.

Other teams buckle because they don’t have a clear Plan B in case of emergency, no adjustments or no reliable backup or no motivation to handle the adversity.

That’s not the case in Seattle so far.

SN LIVE BLOG: Falcons 34, Seahawks 31 as it happened

What is the case is that Wilson ends up not having enough tricks in his bag in the end. Or Walsh ends up missing when everything is set up for a kicker to do the job he’s hired to do.

Or the otherwise resourceful, masterful head coach outsmarts himself.

“That would’ve been a really good call if we’d have made it,’’ Carroll said with a straight face Monday night, speaking of the fake field goal. “The defensive tackle (Grady Jarrett, who swallowed up Luke Willson immediately) made a better play. He wasn’t supposed to be there.’’

Carroll, to his credit, is an expert on who’s not supposed to be where they are. Jarrett was there, like Malcolm Butler was there.

On the other hand, in spite of everything, look where the Seahawks are.

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