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Four days after that loss at Green Bay, where the Seahawks opened this season without scoring a touchdown, offensive-line coach Tom Cable addressed the media with a gripe. Straying from its traditional strategy, Seattle called runs on just 15 of its 48 plays, prompting Cable to express discontent.
“Fifteen is not near enough,” said Cable after that 17-9 defeat. “Can’t win in this league running the ball that many times.”
Three years ago, this would have made perfect sense coming from a Seahawks coach. Unfortunately, this was two weeks ago. And three games into the season, the question is worth asking: Should the “Seahawk way” be a thing of the past?
Seattle once again struggled to run the ball in its 33-27 loss to the Titans on Sunday, gaining 69 yards on 22 carries. It is 18th in the NFL in rushing this season, after finishing 25th last year.
Moreover, if you subtract the 100 yards Russell Wilson has amassed on his 21 carries, the Seahawks are averaging just 3.4 yards per rush. That’s not a run game so much as it is a team running itself into the ground.
There was a period, of course, when Seattle boasted what might have been the NFL’s most formidable rushing attack. From 2012-15, the Seahawks were among the league’s top four running teams every season.
Then again, they also had more capable offensive linemen and a running back named Marshawn Lynch. To not be run-first in those days would have been flat-out irresponsible.
Things are different, though. Much different. Consistent run-blocking has been absent since 2016, as has a reliable ball-carrier.
Impressive as Chris Carson was in the second half against the 49ers in Week 2 — a good chunk of his 93 yards came on a couple bursts toward the end of the game. Plus, well…it was the 49ers. There’s no track record with Carson yet — and like Thomas Rawls and Christine Michael before him, he very well could fizzle out despite an eye-popping performance or two.
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On the other hand, Wilson does have track record. He led the NFL in passer rating in 2015, has become one of the game’s better pocket passers, and threw for 373 yards and four touchdowns Sunday.
Sure, he misfired on a handful of throws early — just as he did throughout the Week 2 win over San Francisco — but once he found his rhythm, he reminded everyone why he was considered a preseason MVP candidate by some NFL pundits.
The truth is, the Seahawks are better when they allow Russell to let it fly. It’s how they set franchise records in 2015. It’s how they beat the Patriots in Foxborough, Mass., last year. And it’s how they can reach the playoffs and rack up a double-digit win total for a sixth consecutive season.
To be fair, it’s not as though the Seahawks have been afraid to use their quarterback. Wilson’s 49 attempts Sunday were a career high, and his 115 attempts this season are the fourth-most in the NFL.
Considering he has gone from 25th in attempts as a rookie, to 12th in 2015, to 10th last season, it’s safe to say Seattle’s offensive philosophy has evolved. But it also seems as though coach Pete Carroll still wants the offensive identity to be based in the run game.
The best coaching staffs let their personnel dictate their style as opposed to forcing a style on their personnel. You might have a craving for a certain meal, but you can’t cook it without the proper ingredients.
Offensively, the Seahawks bear no resemblance to the one that went to consecutive Super Bowls. They have a vastly improved quarterback in Wilson, a vastly improved No. 1 receiver in Doug Baldwin and one of the game’s most athletic tight ends in Jimmy Graham. They should embrace that.
Running the ball down opponent’s throats? Protecting the ball at all costs? Wearing down foes one bruising rush at a time? Yeah, that was the Seahawk way.
Emphasis on “was.”