The Seahawks have struggled to run the ball so far this season, but coach Pete Carroll said he thinks the team just needed a few more shots at it Sunday against the Falcons.
The statistics suggested another relatively lost day at the office when it came to the Seahawks’ rushing attack in Sunday’s 26-24 win over Atlanta — 72 yards on 27 carries, a 2.7-yard per carry average that was the second-lowest of the season.
And that dropped the Seahawks to hard-to-believe reaches of the NFL stats, with Seattle ranking 25th in rushing yards per game (88.8) and 30th in yards per carry (3.2) this week.
That latter number, in fact, is on pace to be the worst in Seattle history. The 1984 team holds that distinction, averaging just 3.3 yards per carry. That team, like this one has so far, rode defense and its passing attack to a 12-4 finish.
But if those numbers seem somewhat dire — and remember that Atlanta’s defense came in allowing 4.3 yards per carry — coach Pete Carroll didn’t sound overly concerned on Monday.
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The Seahawks had 43 yards on 13 carries in the first half — 21 coming on a Christine Michael run in the first quarter. And with Seattle holding a 17-3 lead at the time, Carroll said the plan at halftime was a similar one to many games of past years — to lean heavily on the rushing attack to run out the game in the second half.
That, though, didn’t happen when the Falcons launched their fourth-quarter rally, and Seattle was able to run it just 14 times, for 29 yards, in the second half (that total includes three Russell Wilson kneeldowns on the final three plays, for minus-four yards. Take those out and the Seahawks were at a slightly more-respectable 24 rushes for 76 yards for the game, 3.16 yards per carry).
Had the Seahawks not been playing from behind in the fourth quarter, though, Carroll says Seattle would have run it more, and likely piled up more impressive numbers.
“We just didn’t run it enough,’’ he said Monday. “(Offensive line coach) Tom (Cable) and I were clear about it at halftime. We were going to get this thing going in the third quarter and we were going to come back in the fourth quarter and run it 15 times in the fourth quarter and put the game away. Which we always do, that’s how we do it. But the game didn’t go that way.’’
Indeed, Seattle ran it just three times for four yards in the fourth quarter when the Seahawks ran only 10 plays overall.
The two fourth-quarter scoring were built almost solely on the pass — Wilson was 10-15 for 110 yards in the quarter when Seattle had 135 overall (with a pass interference penalty also helping), finishing 25-37 for 270 yards.
“We really were on it protection-wise,’’ Carroll said, “We were moving the ball by controlling it that way. That’s why we went that way. … If we stayed ahead, we’d run the ball tons in the fourth quarter but we didn’t get a chance to do that.”
Wilson was sacked just one time and hit only five times, and Wilson has been sacked only 10 times this season and with a sack percentage of just 5.6. That’s vastly down from last season when he was sacked 45 times with a sack percentage of 8.5.
Carroll said Monday the team’s pass protection is “much improved. The connection between Russell and the fits and feeling the pockets, nice job that Bradley Sowell did, and Glow (Mark Glowinski) on the left side did a really nice job yesterday. I thought you could see Russell very comfortable and he took advantage of moving subtly to make space for himself and find receivers and make plays. That’s a good improvement for us.’’
One player who struggled, though, was rookie guard Germain Ifedi, of whom Carroll said “he had a hard game. He did some great stuff, but he did have some plays that he would like to get back and just things that can get fixed fundamentally… It’s not a physical question, it’s not a mental thing, it’s just fundamentals and identification and stuff like that that we can really fix.’’
Carroll, though, resists the idea that this team is better pass protecting than run blocking, saying instead that the passing game has simply picked up where it left off last season, when a switch to more empty sets and quicker throws at mid-season led to a revival in the offense.
What Carroll also didn’t think was a huge factor to the running game Sunday was Wilson’s mobility. While Wilson looked better than in other games this season, he still wasn’t the statistical factor running that he usually has been throughout his career, with three carries for 11 yards until the final three kneeldowns.
That Wilson has 35 yards rushing on 21 carries for the season — he still has a career average of 35.7 rushing yards per game — is obviously impacting the rushing attack, and the hope is once he back to normal the rushing attack will be, as well.
Carroll, though, said he thought he saw signs of the old Wilson Sunday.
“I thought he looked great,’’ Carroll said. “I know you other people say, ‘Oh well he didn’t look like he always looks.’ Maybe that’s the case, but he sure moved the ball. He made a lot of plays with his quickness, he took off and ran and got something out of stuff. He didn’t get any big plays running but he had some chances in the running game, too, some reads and stuff that we did not restrict him in that regard, the reads just didn’t allow him to run the football. I think that we’re really back on track and we’re really fired up.’’
A return to health by Wilson isn’t all that could change down the road. Rookie C.J. Prosise might be back this week, and with Alex Collins averaging 1.9 yards per carry and C.J. Spiller struggling with dropped passes last week, is likely to get thrown in quickly and often if he’s ready. And Thomas Rawls will also be back in a few weeks or so.
And while the Seahawks’ have had a long-held identity as one of the best rushing teams in the NFL — ranking in the top four each of the last four seasons — proof that one isn’t necessarily needed to be successful these days comes in looking behind them in the statistics. The team with the worst rushing yards per carry average — the Minnesota Vikings, at 2.5 — is also the only undefeated team in the NFL.