Of all the praise heaped on the Seahawks’ offensive line in the locker room, the biggest compliment came from running back Robert Turbin.
“Man,” Turbin said, “they were in Beast Mode.”
That such a thing was said about Seattle’s offensive line, the biggest question mark on a team that doesn’t have many, might be the most promising development from Seattle’s 36-16 Thursday night throttling of Green Bay.
The Seahawks’ offensive line wasn’t good last year. The analytical site Pro Football Focus ranked the unit 27th in the NFL. Former players and coaches wondered all last season if the line would be the thorn that kept the Seahawks from winning the Super Bowl.
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And that is why Thursday’s performance was so promising, even if it is only one game and even if Green Bay’s defensive line is suspect.
With rookie offensive tackle Justin Britt making his first career start alongside the same four players from last year, the Seahawks mauled the Packers for 207 yards on 37 carries. They averaged 5.6 yards per carry. They allowed just one sack. They sprung Marshawn Lynch for 110 yards. And they helped pave the way for a seven-minute, 80-yard drive in the fourth quarter that shoveled the final scoop of dirt on the Packers.
Guard J.R. Sweezy said it was the best game the line had played in a long time.
“We’ve bought into our style of offense,” Sweezy said. “And that is our style offensively. We’re going to run the ball, repeatedly, and try to cram it down your throat. That’s basically what we did tonight.”
They weren’t perfect, but that’s almost the point. They don’t need to be.
Lynch doesn’t need much space to be effective. “You give him an inch,” Sweezy said, “and he’ll give you 10 yards.” And quarterback Russell Wilson and his receivers, particularly with a healthy Percy Harvin, present all sorts of problems for defenses.
The offensive line only needs to be adequate, and the Seahawks’ offense could be better than a year ago.
Lynch and Harvin combined for 151 yards on 24 carries, a lethal cocktail of speed and power.
“Especially with those two guys specifically, when you give them space, you see what happens,” tight end Luke Willson said. “The rushing total for us was, what, 210 today? For an NFL game that’s incredible.”
Sweezy and James Carpenter, Seattle’s guards, received the brunt of the criticism last season, but the pair played perhaps their best game together. It’s no coincidence that many of the Seahawks’ rushing yards came between the tackles.
Carpenter is finally healthy and in much better shape than last season. As Sweezy put it, “It’s hard to be that big, that fast and that powerful.”
In his third year, Sweezy is comfortable with the offense. “That’s a huge help,” he said. “Last year I just knew, ‘Block this guy.’ Now I understand that I’m blocking this guy because this is happening. It was just a progression.”
And while Britt was far from flawless in his first start, he also wasn’t a glaring problem. He should only get better as the season goes on.
There were a number of problems that contributed to last year’s struggles: injuries, a less-than-100-percent version of Carpenter and communication issues.
“Communication was off last season,” Turbin said. “Tonight it was solid. If you’ve got great communication and everybody knows what they’re doing, it allows you to play fast and physical and to play free. It showed tonight.”
For one night, at least, Seattle’s offensive line showed the kind of improvement coaches have spent all preseason talking about.
“Our offensive line did a hell of a job tonight,” receiver Doug Baldwin said.