Seahawks have redefined, accepted clear style to win
SEATTLE (AP) — By the time December rolls around, the Seattle Seahawks may have more regret than they currently do about what transpired the first two weeks of the regular season.
Because in hindsight, those first two games appear such outliers from where the Seahawks are headed based on the way they’ve played for the past month.
“I’ll never not be frustrated by the way we started this season, but we’re moving,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “This is kind of how we’ve done it over the years and we got a chance to be a really nice team.”
The Seahawks sit at 3-3 going into their bye week, but a .500 record doesn’t fully tell the story of what Seattle has shown through six games.
For two weeks, the Seahawks were lost in trying to discover their identity. No matter how much they said during the offseason they were committed to running the ball, relying on field position and defense, putting that mission statement into practice when the regular season began proved difficult.
That’s why Seattle seemed so out of whack offensively during season-opening losses to Denver and Chicago. It was counter to everything Carroll and his staff preached leading into the opener.
And it’s why a reset before Week 3 has proved the difference in putting the Seahawks in position to be part of the playoff conversation as the season progresses.
The reset Seattle made offensively before facing Dallas in Week 3 involved two key aspects. The first happened on the offensive line. D.J. Fluker returned from injury and was slotted in at right guard, sliding veteran J.R. Sweezy over to left guard. The shuffling on the line instantly made Seattle a significantly better run-blocking team. Fluker has put together his own personal highlight tape of flattening defenders in recent weeks, while Sweezy’s demeanor and style is akin to the Seattle teams he played for several years ago when the Seahawks were making Super Bowls.
The second came with Seattle’s stable of running backs. Rather than trying to be equitable, as the Seahawks were through the first two weeks, the decision was made to make Chris Carson the primary ball carrier. No more splitting carries just for the sake of doing so. Only when Carson needed a break would another back get the chance.
The results for the past four games — when the Seahawks have gone 3-1 — have completely changed the course of Seattle’s season. In those four games combined, Seattle is one of three teams to have rushed for more than 600 yards, along with the Rams and Cowboys. The Seahawks’ 180 total rushing attempts are second only to the Rams. In the past four games, Seattle has 142 rushes, the most of any team during that span.
And the Seahawks are getting these yards with only limited contribution from Russell Wilson as a running threat a year after he was Seattle’s leading rusher.
At a time the league is going wild with passing and scoring, the Seahawks are bucking the offensive trend in the other direction with a formula that appears to be working.
“This is winning football,” Seattle wide receiver Doug Baldwin said. “You run the ball, you convert on third down in passing game when you have to. You play stifling defense and stopping the run, and you don’t turn the ball over. Usually you win the games when you do that.”
The most telling stat comes from looking at Wilson’s numbers. In the first two games, he was sacked 12 times, completed just 59.4 percent of his throws and had a passer rating of 89.3. In the four games since, Wilson is completing 67 percent while attempting significantly fewer throws; has a passer rating of 116; and has been sacked seven times.
Just as eye opening is his lack of runs: Wilson has just 17 rushes for 62 yards through six games. Last year, Wilson had already run 32 times.
“Russell’s doing more than he’s ever done before. He’s orchestrating and controlling the play calling, the adjustments at the line of scrimmage when he can,” Carroll said. “He’s just been brought to a different level of responsibility and he’s doing a nice job with it. He’s putting us in position to run the ball effectively now as well as in the passing game, so he’s grown, yeah he’s improved.”
Whether that formula is capable of keeping Seattle in the playoff race will be tested when it returns from the bye. The Seahawks face a challenging five-week stretch in which four of the five opponents have above-.500 records. Three of those games — at Detroit, vs. Green Bay, at Carolina — come against teams Seattle could end up competing against for a wild-card berth.
“There’s a real style about it where we can sense now. It’s one week at a time, we just need to keep riding that and see how far it takes us,” Carroll said.