To the question of what might help Russell Wilson get back to the MVP form he flashed most of the first two months of the season, coach Pete Carroll on Monday suggested a simple answer — the return of Chris Carson and/or Carlos Hyde, and with it, a running game that might again inspire a little more fear in opponents.
In other words, yep, being more balanced.
Whether a run-pass balance really matters is a hotly debated topic in football analytic circles. But Carroll has never doubted that it does.
And after Seattle lost its second consecutive game Sunday, this one against the Rams in Los Angeles, and third in the past four, with Wilson throwing two picks and losing a fumble, Carroll says the return of a more effective running game might help.
“I want to balance this out more,’’ Carroll said Monday when he talked to media members via Zoom. “It has felt somewhat out of balance last couple weeks, and I just like to get it back in shape so everything fits together like we’d like it most.’’
Monday, Carroll said he anticipates Hyde being available for a rematch with Arizona, and is still holding out hope Carson might also make it back. Hyde (hamstring) was listed as taking part in practice on a limited basis on what was an estimation of a practice report, while Carson (foot) remained out.
“I’m told that Carlos is going to go today in our work,’’ Carroll said. “Chris is working to get back. He’s trying to make it. Carlos is a little bit ahead of him now and so we’ll see how it goes. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen Thursday night yet, but both those guys are trying hard this week to get back.”
Adding some urgency is that the Seahawks also are suddenly dealing with a knee injury to Tyler Lockett, who showed up as a DNP (did not participate) on the injury report Monday, with Carroll saying it might not be clear until Thursday if he can play.
“Yeah, he’s got a bit of a knee sprain in general,’’ Carroll said. “He’s already had it checked out, and MRI’d and all that kind of stuff. So he’s in a little bit discomfort, a little bit swelling today. But it’s not a serious knee injury, so we’ll look to see how he does day to day and take it until Thursday.”
Seattle lost both Carson and Hyde to injuries in the 37-34 defeat at Arizona on Oct. 25 that started the Seahawks’ skid after a 5-0 start.
In the three games since, Seattle has had to rely on rookie DeeJay Dallas, second-year player Travis Homer and practice squad call-up Alex Collins.
Seattle has 281 yards rushing in those three games, but Wilson has gotten 88 of those on 16 carries.
Dallas and Collins have been the early-down backs, while Homer has mostly served as the two-minute/third-down back but has also battled a few injuries, and played just seven snaps Sunday against the Rams due to a thumb issue and was listed as limited Monday. The trio has combined for 153 yards on 48 carries, or 3.1 per attempt, against the 49ers, Bills and Rams.
That compares to Carson’s season totals of 323 on 66 carries and a 4.89 average, and Hyde’s 125 yards on 31 carries, or a 4.0 average.
Collins had some decent moments early against the Rams with 22 yards on five carries and a 13-yard touchdown in the first quarter. But with Seattle falling behind, Collins got just six more carries the rest of the game for 21 yards.
And Sunday marked the last time the Seahawks can use a practice-squad elevation on Collins, meaning from this point forward if the team wants to use him he has to go on the 53-player roster (Collins officially reverted to the practice squad Monday). Seattle last week also signed Bo Scarbrough to the practice squad and he could now be called up twice for depth, if needed.
But ideally, the Seahawks will get back Carson and Hyde — each 1,000-yard rushers a year ago — as soon as possible.
Asked how much he thinks the difference in the running game the past few weeks might have impacted Wilson, Carroll said, “That’s pretty subjective.’’
But then he said he thinks it has.
“I can feel it,’’ Carroll said. “ … I’d like to get back to the kind of balanced approach we’ve always had.’’
That might not excite fans who liked the team’s high-flying ways in the first half of the season, as Seattle has thrown it 63% of the time — the seventh-highest percentage in the NFL — while Wilson has thrown 28 touchdown passes, on pace to break the NFL season record of 55 by Peyton Manning in 2013.
But Wilson didn’t throw a touchdown pass Sunday for the first time this season (he had thrown two or more in each of the first eight games).
“We thought we could throw the ball like we had been and we weren’t able to in this game,’’ Carroll said.
A good Rams secondary obviously was a factor, with three-time Pro Bowl corner Jalen Ramsey taking the primary role of defending DK Metcalf and holding him to two receptions for 28 yards.
It was the second time this year Metcalf was held to just two catches, the other coming against Arizona — not so coincidentally Seattle’s opponent Thursday — when he was primarily defended by Patrick Peterson.
So, with Lockett potentially not as healthy as when he torched Arizona for 15 receptions and 200 yards while Peterson was shadowing Metcalf, and with Carroll surely hoping to limit the number of possessions for the hot Cardinals offense (which has scored 30 or more points in five consecutive games), Seattle might turn to a little more old-school approach Thursday.
“We’ve got to make sure we stay balanced,’’ Carroll said. “We’ve got to keep our game together.’’