Maybe it says something about the state of the Seahawks that what they consider a work in progress could be viewed by others as a finished product.
The subject in question is Seattle’s running game, which by any objective measure is moving along just fine. As the Seahawks prepare for their Monday night game at St. Louis, they are first in the NFL in rushing yards per game at 154.4, just a little off the team-record pace of a year ago of 161.2.
And that comes in the context of a season when the NFL is setting records for passing yards (and conversely seeing rushing numbers lower than usual).
The Seahawks, though, are getting a healthy chunk of those yards a little more unconventionally than a year ago, many coming on Russell Wilson scrambles. And the majority of Wilson’s runs lately have come when he has taken off in the face of pressure.
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Wilson has 323 rushing yards on the season, with 269 in the last four games when the Seahawks have been without starting tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini. Wilson has averaged 10.25 attempts the last four games after rushing at least 10 times in a game only twice previously in his career.
So this week, when asked for his assessment of Seattle’s conventional running game (meaning non-quarterback runs), offensive line coach Tom Cable responded with a little smile and said “we’re not doing much of it.”
Actually, Seattle is still doing more of it than a lot of teams.
Before Sunday’s games, running back Marshawn Lynch ranked second in the NFL in both rushing yards (578) and attempts (138).
And his attempts are on pace with a year ago — he’s averaging 19.7 attempts per game this year, the same as last season.
What Lynch has yet to really do, though, is have that one, big highlight-reel performance. After rushing for 100 yards in a game 10 times last season, he has just one such game so far this year, getting 102 against Indianapolis.
His yards per carry average is also down from last season, from 5.1 to 4.2.
Seahawks coaches say none of that is a reflection on Lynch.
“I think he is running really hard,” Cable said.
Similar to the pass-protection issues, though, what’s hard to ignore in the running game is the affect of playing without two starting tackles. The football analysis site Pro Football Focus reported that when Lynch gained 91 yards last week against the Arizona Cardinals, 80 came after contact, and Lynch was credited with forcing eight missed tackles.
The Rams, though, present a chance for Lynch, and the running game as a whole, to have a breakout game.
While the Rams are known for their pass-rushing ability, they rank 30th in the NFL against the run, allowing 126.4 yards per game and 4.2 yards per carry.
Coach Pete Carroll said this week that he’d like to see the Seahawks take over games on the ground the way they regularly did a year ago.
“We still can get better and more consistent,” Carroll said. “We have been getting yards and moving the football all right, but I think we can still gain on the consistency of just running right down hill. …
“But I would like to see us have that opportunity, that if we can get in the right position in games in the second half of the season, where we can run the ball a lot and really zero in on it. We really haven’t felt like we’ve gotten to that point yet where the fourth quarter is a quarter that we own, and we can really hammer the ball and work on our stuff.”
The game also represents another chance for Seattle to prove that its road demons are a thing of the past, especially as 11-point favorites over a Rams team forced to go with backup quarterback Kellen Clemens in place of the injured Sam Bradford.
Seattle has won three of four road games this season and five of six dating to last year.
Cornerback Richard Sherman said this week he thinks this particular group of Seahawks has always played competitively on the road, but this season is simply getting the breaks “that we needed to win” in the past.
“Every game we played last year we were in,” he said. “So we never felt like we actually had a problem on the road. I think that was more of something created in the outside world. We always were confident in our abilities and we just continue to be that way.”
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @bcondotta.