The Seahawks in recent seasons have been about certain things. Bear-trap defense. Explosive plays. Morale-crushing rushing attack. But this year has been a stark change from anything we’ve seen in the last several years as the running game has struggled to get much going.

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Identity matters to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. It matters maybe more than anything else.

Just this week Carroll was asked about the keys to sustaining success, and you can guess what direction he took it.

“Staying true to who you are,” he said in part.


Seahawks @ New

England, 5:30 p.m., Ch. 5

We know who the Seahawks have been under Carroll. Bear-trap defense. Explosive plays. Morale-crushing rushing attack.

But this year has been a stark change from anything we’ve seen in the last several years. Carroll’s teams have always run the ball effectively; this season the Seahawks rank 30th in yards per carry and rushing yards per game. Carroll’s teams have also run the ball a lot; the Seahawks rank 25th in attempts per game.

Some of this, maybe a lot of it, has to do with the injuries that immobilized quarterback Russell Wilson. But that’s not the whole problem.

Christine Michael is averaging 4 yards per carry, but in his past five games that’s down to 3.4 yards per carry. The rest of Seattle’s backs have either been hurt or ineffective.

Carroll has maintained his intention to run the ball — that whole identity thing — but Monday’s win against Buffalo illustrated the difference in this year’s offense. Maybe it will be the Seahawks’ path forward.

That game marked the first time Wilson has been noticeably mobile since the first game of the season. Wilson’s inability to scramble and the coaching staff’s desire to protect him eliminated many of Seattle’s deep passing strikes.

But a healthy Wilson revitalized that element of the offense, and Wilson routinely took shots: a 50-yard pass to Doug Baldwin, a couple of pass-interference penalties deep and touchdown passes of 18 and 17 yards to Jimmy Graham.

Wilson throws one of the most accurate deep balls in the league, and the Seahawks once again unleashed that arsenal.

“We know through his history the ability he has to extend plays,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “We really weren’t giving him that opportunity. We were still trying to function with what he was going through and trying to keep him safe. So we kind of just took the reins off again.”

Wilson completed 20 of 26 passes for 282 yards and two touchdowns. The Seahawks ran the ball just 12 times for 33 yards. Once again, their offense ran only 42 plays.

“We were really being efficient through the air, and it was kind of the game plan going in as well,” Bevell said. “It’s not something that we’ve abandoned or something that we don’t think we can do.”

Then Bevell said something interesting. He was asked how he weighs the Seahawks’ past success running the ball against the strengths and weaknesses of this offense.

“We have our philosophy and we know what our philosophy is,” Bevell said. “We know what we want to be and how we play and how we’re best playing. But with that said, the most important thing is always doing what your players do well and putting them in positions to be successful. So we have different pieces than we’ve had in the past, and we’re going to try to use those to the best of our abilities.”

It was clear on Monday that the strength of the Seahawks’ offense was in Wilson and his receivers, particularly Baldwin’s shiftiness and Graham’s strength.

The Seahawks want to run the ball, and it sounds like they’ll keep hacking away. Maybe the run game takes off after Thomas Rawls returns. But what if it doesn’t get much better? What if the numbers through eight games tell the whole story?

Carroll and his staff have always made adjustments. He has always prided himself on playing to strengths, minimizing weaknesses. This Seahawks offense is at a crossroads between identity and adaptation.