It may be simply a coincidence, but the Seattle Seahawks have found more success when they base their offense around Marshawn Lynch and the running game.
Seattle may want to stick with what’s working given the tough competition on its remaining schedule, a brutal stretch that begins with a visit to the streaking Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
The Seahawks averaged 28.3 rushing attempts while splitting their first six games, but they’ve won three straight after bumping that average up to 36.3. They ran 45 times for a franchise-record 350 yards in last week’s 38-17 win over Giants, with Lynch rushing for 140 and scoring a career-high four touchdowns.
Russell Wilson added 107 and a touchdown on the ground to make up for throwing two interceptions, joining Michael Vick in 2004 and ’06 as the only quarterbacks with three 100-yard rushing games in a season.
Seattle now leads the league with 5.51 yards per carry and an average of 170.9 yards on the ground after racking up 206 per game during its winning streak. Lynch’s six rushing touchdowns over the last two games give him an NFL-best nine on the season.
"We’ve been in a mode where it’s really been focusing on the running game and trying to make sure we get that done," coach Pete Carroll said on Monday. "I think it’s worked out. I think it’s helped us. I think we’re more like we’ve been and we like it. We’re going to keep going."
That may not bode well for a Kansas City defense that ranks 30th in yards per carry, allowing 4.73. Coach Andy Reid has a tough task ahead of him knowing that Wilson can be just as dangerous as Lynch in the Seahawks’ ground attack.
"It wasn’t just one guy doing it," Reid said. "They had one that did the majority of it, but the quarterback was also involved in that. So, I mean they had some guys that were putting up yards. You’ve got to be prepared for that."
Another solid performance could go a long way in helping Seattle begin a tough stretch on a positive note. The Seahawks trail Arizona by two games in the NFC West and host the Cardinals the following week before a road matchup Dec. 21. NFC East-leading Philadelphia and two dates with San Francisco remain, as well as the season finale against a St. Louis team that gave them their last loss Oct. 19.
Seattle will have to fight through without defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, who is out for the season with a torn hamstring suffered last week. He’s been a key piece in helping the Seahawks rank second in the league by allowing just 3.19 yards per carry.
"There is nobody like Mebane," Carroll said. "He’s a unique player. He’s had, I think, the best season he’s had since we’ve been here – most consistent. So that’s a big hit to take.
"But our guys that go in play good football, too, so we will expect them to play up and maintain the level."
The Seahawks will be facing a Chiefs unit that ranks just 22nd in the league in total offense, but one that has done enough during a four-game winning streak.
Jamaal Charles and quarterback Alex Smith each had touchdown runs in the fourth quarter to help Kansas City (6-3) overcome a 10-point deficit entering the final 15 minutes of a 17-13 win at Buffalo last week.
The Chiefs finished with just 278 yards of total offense, marking the third time they’ve finished with fewer than 300. They lost the previous two.
"These wins are different, that’s for sure," Smith said. "I think it’s a different type of confidence you get when you win games like this and you keep that momentum going. There’s certainly going to be a lot for us to look at and how we can grow from that."
Smith still hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass to a wide receiver all season, something Reid doesn’t find to be an issue despite how much it’s been discussed.
"I think (Smith is) doing a nice job of spreading it around and then taking advantage of what’s there," Reid said. "I don’t think any of the guys really get caught up in any of that. They just go play. Ball comes to them, then it comes. If it doesn’t come to them, then they are blocking. Very unselfish guys."
The Chiefs will look to Charles to break through Seattle’s stout run defense. Charles ran for 98 yards last week, and he’s scored in four straight. He’s yet to crack the 100-yard mark, but his 4.72 yards per carry rank 10th in the league.
Charles rushed for 173 yards and Dwayne Bowe caught three TDs in Kansas City’s 42-24 win at Seattle in 2010.