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Originally published December 9, 2013 at 5:54 PM | Page modified December 13, 2013 at 3:26 PM

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Seahawks coach Pete Carroll says loss can be “learning opportunity”

Pete Carroll said his team was hurt by penalties in its loss to the 49ers on Sunday, including three that stopped drives.

Seattle Times staff reporter


Seahawks @ N.Y. Giants,

10 a.m., Ch. 13

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RENTON – For only the second time this season, Tell the Truth Monday yielded some hard realities for the Seahawks.

Coach Pete Carroll, though, said in the wake of Sunday’s 19-17 loss at San Francisco the defeat can also produce good lessons “if you utilize it. It’s a learning opportunity again, a reality check, how the littlest of things can determine the outcome of a game.”

Against the 49ers, those little things included penalties — Seattle had nine that were accepted, for 85 yards.

Three that were particularly crucial, according to Carroll, came on offense — a hold by Russell Okung, pass interference on Golden Tate and a face-mask call against Michael Robinson. The Tate and Robinson penalties wiped out gains of 16 and 20 yards, and all helped kill drives. The Seahawks had just 11 possessions, nine that weren’t in end-of-half or end-of-game situations.

“We had nine legitimate drives and three of them got stopped because of our penalties,” Carroll said. “That’s only six real good shots at taking the ball down the field. That’s difficult.”

Carroll said he wasn’t criticizing officials, instead saying “we need to stay out of those situations.”

Penalties have been a seasonlong issue for the Seahawks, who have had 104 enforced against them — second in the NFL to 106 for Tampa Bay. Seattle’s opponents, meanwhile, have had just 74 enforced against them, a minus-30 differential for the Seahawks that is the largest of any NFL team, for a differential of 268 yards.

Carroll said in close games against good teams “plays and calls and situations all get amplified.”

Another situation Carroll mulled Monday concerned whether the Seahawks should have let the 49ers score a touchdown on their final drive in an attempt to get the ball back with more time remaining.

Seattle led 17-16 when Frank Gore broke free for a 51-yard run to the Seattle 18-yard line, a play that began with 4:21 left.

Gore said after the game he purposely fell down inbounds to keep the clock running. San Francisco got another first down when quarterback Colin Kaepernick picked up 8 yards on a third-and-seven that began with 3:24 left and after Seattle had used its final timeouts. That allowed the 49ers to milk the clock so that there were just 26 seconds remaining after Phil Dawson kicked a 22-yard field goal.

Carroll said Monday he thought about letting the 49ers score, calling it “a serious decision that you can make.” He said he has confidence Russell Wilson and the offense “can go down the field in two minutes on anybody.”

Carroll said, though, that no one on his staff had experience with trying that, and that he couldn’t recall anyone in the NFL doing it and making it work. So he said he decided to see if Seattle could stop the 49ers. “See if we can knock the ball down,” he said. “See if we can get them out of there and just stay with the principles of doing it on defense.”

If the same scenario happened again, however, Carroll said he might play it differently.

“It (letting the team score to get the ball back) is one of the alternatives,” he said.

Carroll said weakside linebacker K.J. Wright will have surgery Tuesday to repair a broken bone in his foot and is likely out four to six weeks. Malcolm Smith will start in his place.

Center Max Unger has a strained pectoral muscle, but Carroll said “we think we’ll get him’’ for Sunday’s game at the New York Giants.

Carroll also said they’ll see Wednesday if receiver Percy Harvin can practice. He said there is no timetable on when they will hear about Brandon Browner’s appeal of his proposed suspension.

• Carroll said the defense simply “overran the tackle” on Gore’s run, on which he started left then cut back right. “A number of guys had a chance,” he said. “Kam (Chancellor) had a real shot at it, just floated over the top of the run. Earl (Thomas) had a shot at it as it came back underneath and it got back all the way to (Richard Sherman). Sherm got nicked by a blocker and just didn’t get off of it cleanly. ... They blocked it well up front but we had plenty of shots to keep it to being an 8-to-9-yard gain.’’

• The game drew another huge TV audience with a 46 rating (the percentage of all households with TVs watching) and a 78 share (the percentage of all households watching TV at the time tuned in). It had a rating of just more than 50 for the last quarter of the last hour.

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