GLENDALE—When the Seahawks took possession of the ball with 10:21 left in the game and a 10-point lead, they were looking to both use up some clock, and ideally to extend their lead.
They accomplished both of those things with a 15-play, 75-yard drive that took 8 minutes, 8 seconds off the clock, all but clinching Seattle's 27-10 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
And while C.J. Prosise finished the drive off with an impressive 9-yard touchdown run, the running back driving most of that game-clinching possession was Chris Carson, who put the punctuation mark on a great individual performance with two big plays on the drive, a 12-yard catch on which he broke one tackle, then drove another defender about 6 yards down the field before finally going down, and a 12-yard run on which he ran through Cardinals cornerback Kevin Peterson on his way to another 12-yard gain.
Even without any extenuating circumstances, Carson's performance would have been an outstanding one. He rushed for 104 yards on 22 physical carries, and he caught four passes for a career-high 41 receiving yards. But there were extenuating circumstances for Carson heading into this game, and the way he bounced back from some early-season fumble issues was big both for Carson and the Seahawks offense.
That's why, despite all that went well for Seattle—a big day for the defense, which included a Jadeveon Clowney pick-six, and another strong performance by Russell Wilson, a big game for Will Dissly on same the field where his season ended a year ago due to a knee injury—Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said, "the guy I'm probably most excited about is Chris. Chris Carson had a great game, sending the message about his style of play and our style of play riding on his shoulders was really obvious today. He had 40-something yards receiving as well as 100-something running. But it was more about the style. It was more about what he brings to us. So I was really fired up for him.
"I was waiting for Chris to just put that stuff to rest and get going. He ran really tough all day long, didn't change his style at all. If anything he ran as hard as he's run all year. Really, I'm just fired up for him, because we need Chris running like that."
Carson had lost a fumble in each of Seattle's last three games, including one that was returned for a touchdown in last week's loss to the Saints. But throughout the last week, Carroll and his team expressed repeatedly that they had faith in their running back, and on Sunday he rewarded their trust with a huge game in which he not only put up big numbers, but also took care of the ball without sacrificing his big-play ability.
"They always showed love, even when things weren't going too well," Carson said. "They always showed love when things weren't going good, and I appreciate them for that, and it just feels good to get a win."
Asked if any doubt had started to creep in, Carson said, "No, there wasn't any doubt. I trust my game. It's not the end of the world if you fumble the ball, it's just football, you have to move on and have a short memory. I trusted my game, so didn't really have any doubts."
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said that when talking to Carson during the week, he brought up Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton, who fumbled 30 times in his first three seasons with the Bears, then had 56 over the next 10 seasons.
"What was great was seeing Chris Carson just battle," Wilson said. "He's a star. He's a guy that's worked so hard. I told him earlier this week on Monday, I said, 'You know, Walter Payton has fumbled before too.' So at the end of the day, if you want to be great—you're going to have a lot of amazing plays, and there's going to be some tough ones in between—the key is the great players, they overcome it. They move on. They let it go. He has been able to do that, so it's been cool just to watch his progression throughout his career so far, and throughout the game today. He just made some huge runs.
"I think we have one of the best running backs in the league. We all mess up, we all have plays that don't work out the way we want them to, I know. But I also know that the great players respond, they believe in what's going to happen next, and he's one of those guys. So we had all the confidence in the world in what he was able to do and what he was going to do and how he was going to play. He ran the ball with no fear today, just running hard, caught the ball well, made some key blocks, key plays, real special today."
And while Seahawks players and coaches were quick to support Carson publicly, they didn't feel like he needed too much extra support, because the Chris Carson who dominated Sunday's game in Arizona is the player they've come to expect.
"We didn't have to say much," left tackle Duane Brown said. "He knows how big a part he is of our team and our offense. He knows we have all the faith in the world in him. He's a competitor and today he displayed what he's capable of. That's what we were used to last year. He might have a couple rough patches with the fumbles, but we never lost faith in him and he knows that. He has all the confidence in the world in his running ability. When he goes like that our offense is a lot more explosive and dangerous."