Seahawks Insider Blog

Pete Carroll asks Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson for help explaining physics of Russell Wilson’s flip

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson flips a lateral back to running back Mike Davis in the fourth quarter of the Seattle’s 24-10 win over the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday night at CenturyLink Field. Coach Pete Carroll has asked famed astrophysicist Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson to explain why Wilson’s pitch looked forward (which would be illegal) back was by science backward.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson flips a lateral back to running back Mike Davis in the fourth quarter of the Seattle’s 24-10 win over the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday night at CenturyLink Field. Coach Pete Carroll has asked famed astrophysicist Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson to explain why Wilson’s pitch looked forward (which would be illegal) back was by science backward. drew.perine@thenewstribune.com

RENTON Russell Wilson’s been so otherworldly his coach is now turning to a master of the Cosmos to explain his play.

Pete Carroll said Monday he’s asked renowned astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson to explain for everyone why Wilson’s wowing, downfield lateral to running back Mike Davis in the Seahawks’ win over Philadelphia Sunday night was in fact backward and legal--despite giving the appearance of being forward and illegal.

"He hasn’t called me back yet. I’m waiting for a call," Carroll said, his tongue in his cheek Monday, the day after Wilson’s wowing play in Seattle’s most impressive victory this season, over what had been the NFL’s best team.

Carroll called the play "amazing." So he’s asked an expert in the extraordinary to explain it for all.

Early in the 2016 season Carroll and the Seahawks invited Dr. Tyson, the host of television’s Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, to a practice. Tyson accepted. He broke down the players in their post-practice huddle in the middle of the field--while telling the Seahawks about the universe.

Wilson’s improvisational flip to Davis while two Eagles converged on the quarterback added 17 more yards to a 23-yard play in the fourth quarter Sunday night, when the Seahawks were holding onto a 17-10 lead.

In lieu of an immediate response from Tyson, Carroll did his best to explain why the ball appeared to float nearly forward to Davis to set up Seattle’s final, clinching touchdown in its 24-10 win.

The officials on the field ruled Wilson’s pitch backward and thus legal. The Eagles could have challenged that ruling and called for a replay review, but Philadelphia coach Doug Pederson never did.

“Real time, it looked fine. It looked legit,” Pederson said after the game. “We didn't get all the necessary looks (from Eagles coaches in the press box). They hustled to the line. But at the same time, it looked good, and I trust the guys upstairs making those decisions and didn't challenge that. I already challenged one in the half and lost that, so I didn't want to risk another timeout."

Or maybe Pederson watches Dr. Tyson’s Cosmos, too.

"It looked like the guy was running really fast, pitched the ball backwards like he is supposed to," Carroll said, pantomiming Wilson’s right-handed flip, "and as the speed of the ball that was traveling with the ball carrier at the time, it was passed along the football. And it all just happened, so…

"I just want to see what Dr. Neil has to say about that. To try to help you guys out.

"It clearly looked like he pitched the ball backwards. But everybody kept moving."

Carroll moved his hand forward to mimic the path of Wilson’s pitch in flight.

We could get into the velocity of the ball in flight and the effect of momentum on the direction the ball traveled. But let’s just wait for Dr. Tyson’s expected response, eh?

Carroll vowed to share it with all, if and when he gets it. And the coach was clearly, publicly baiting the famous "master of the universe" for a response his query.

"He did visit here, so we had an afternoon together," Carroll said. "He really likes football, so I felt like that’s enough of an open ticket to get ahead and give him a call on something like this.

"He’s kind of the national resident on stuff like this. I’m really hoping—I’m counting on him responding before long, so we can put it out there."

Wilson joked the lateral down the field is "not in the progression" of receivers he looks for on a given play.

"The lateral is definitely not in the progression," Wilson said.

"You grow up playing in the snow, you grow up playing recess and playing around. Do you practice those things? Sometimes. There’s little things you visualize, and next thing you know, he’s right there to my right.

"He’s a baller. When you play pickup basketball, you want to get ballers on your team. We have some great ballers. Mike Davis is one of those guys."

Wilson didn’t sound like he needed Dr. Tyson’s breakdown of the physics of his lateral being backward.

"I just stepped up. I knew I was past the line, I was about to run for the first down, and the next thing I know, here comes Mike Davis," Wilson said. "Like I said, I had a baller to my right, and I gave him a chance, and he gets a big first down, a huge first down. It really kept the clock running, kept the drive running, and I believe we scored that drive.

"That was huge."

And fun.

Carroll said he in fact coaches Wilson, a master of taking care of the ball, to take that risk of pitching the ball back in the open field to an uncovered back.

"I do not not coach that," Carroll said.

"I was taught a long time ago, really by Coach (Bud) Grant (when Carroll was a 33-year-old assistant with Grant’s Minnesota Vikings in 1985), that if you have really good players and really good athletes and they feel comfortable, laterals are one of the best plays in the game. He said that years ago.

"There’s some guys you tell, ‘You can’t do that.’ There are some guys. Russ made the point in working with Mike; Mike, you can see, was looking for the ball. So sometimes those special things happen, with a terrific player that can pull it off.

"But it’s not something that’s going to happen on a regular basis."

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