RENTON, Wash. - Seattle running back Chris Carson often speaks softly during interviews. Reporters must lean in and listen carefully to catch his words. It's a stark contrast to his personality on the field where his violent style of running the football screams loud and clear that the former seventh-round pick not only belongs in the NFL, but he could be developing into a star.
Carson, in his second season, ranks ninth in the NFL in rushing at 911 yards per game. That's the most for a Seattle running back since 2014 when Marshawn Lunch rushed for 1,306, which is the last time a Seahawks' back went over 1,000 yards. Carson could surpass the 1,000-yard mark on Sunday night at home against Kansas City (11-3) and it's 26th-ranked rushing defense.
Interestingly, Carson will reach 1,000 yards in the same bruising fashion that Lynch used while reaching that mark four times during his six seasons with Seattle (8-6). No single play defines Carson's running style more than his one-yard touchdown Sunday during Seattle's 26-23 overtime loss at San Francisco.
Seattle trailed 20-13 in the fourth quarter and faced a fourth down and goal at the 49ers' one-yard line. Carroll, demonstrating faith in Carson and the team's offensive line, didn't hesitate to go for the touchdown. Quarterback Russell Wilson handed the ball to Carson, who ran up the middle where he was hit by a San Francisco defender at the one. Carson went backward and to the left but didn't go down. Another 49ers defender hit Carson at the two. He again went backward a tad but never lost his balance. Carson shook off the defender and went forward into the end zone with an assist from left tackle Duane Brown.
"Duane did a good job of helping me get into the end zone," Carson said.
Carson, who said he enjoys watching highlights of hall of fame running back Eric Dickerson, who ran with an upright style and had sprinter's speed, indicated that he most enjoys fighting for a tough touchdown as he did Sunday rather than scoring on a smooth jaunt into the end zone.
"Because you work harder to get it," Carson said. "In my mind that's the better accomplishment."
The run so defied the odds that when Carson initially got hit, a few 49ers defenders began running off of the field in triumph while Carson continued to battle toward the end zone.
"If you look at it, it did seem like they stopped me," Carson said. "At one point I was going backward so I could see why they were excited about it."
According to Carson, he was inspired on the play by Wilson and wide receiver Doug Baldwin who during the drive repeatedly encouraged everyone in the huddle to not be denied and to get the ball into the end zone.
"I kind of took that to heart," Carson said.
Carson admitted that he didn't know it was fourth down when Wilson handed him the ball. He said he was so caught up in the pace and intensity of the drive that he didn't realize the situation until after he had scored and walked back to the sideline where running back Mike Davis told him how crazy it was that he pulled off that run on fourth down.
"He finishes everything and you can see it across the field, it just happened to be on the goal line this time," Carroll said. "It was great will, he should’ve been stopped – (Steve) Raible had him stopped (on his radio call). He had him stopped cold, dead, couldn’t make it, and then he came out of nowhere and finished it. It’s really one of my favorites.”
"My goal was just to make it through the season after hurting myself last year," said Carson, who missed 12 games last year with a fractured leg.
Carson has missed two games because of injury. But for the most part, he has proven to be durable.
"He’s probably one of the greatest athletes I’ve ever been around," Wilson told reporters. "To watch his ability to get into the end zone, he sees things that hardly anybody can ever see. He’s physical as can be. He can catch, he can run, he’s smart as can be too, and he’s humble while doing all those things. It was cool seeing him get into the end zone the other night being physical and not giving up. He has that attitude, so that’s what we love about him.”
Carson is a key reason why Seattle leads the NFL in rushing but he was not selected to the NFC Pro Bowl team. Nor were any of Seattle's linemen, although J.R. Sweezy was named as an alternate.
"I'm surprised," Carson said regarding Seattle's linemen not being represented. "But we leave all of that up to (the voters). I think everyone should be in the pro bowl in my opinion."
Carroll mentioned Brown's play when asked about his running game personnel not receiving Pro Bowl honors.
"Yeah, I don’t know how anybody had a better year than Duane Brown did," he said. "I don’t know how that would happen. He’s been there before, but the league is looking at the throwing game, maybe. Meanwhile, we’re running it.”
What's most important is that Carson and the offensive line have Seattle in position to make the playoffs. That doesn't happen without Carson's tough style of play, which Carroll said can be infectious to the rest of the team.
"Those guys, and watching the film today where they really could see it and really sharing the experience of it and see what he did and how he did it," Carroll said, "it does affect them.”