NFL: Lynch, Seahawks ground game come alive
RENTON, Wash. (AP) – For once, Marshawn Lynch didn’t need to dance around, waiting and hoping for a hole to emerge.
Seattle’s lagging run game finally provided a little punch last week.
“I think for any runner, any runner wants to see the looks and you want to get a feel for the line of scrimmage and how things are moving and then they start to take advantage of what they’re seeing,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “There’s no question that that happened with Marshawn.”
Carroll and his staff made a commitment last week to better what was the worst rushing offense in the NFL. After weeks of relying on the pass and supplementing Matt Hasselbeck’s throwing with a mostly ineffective run game, Seattle flipped the script.
The result: 30 of 31 carries coming from Seattle’s running backs and a season-high 161 yards produced on the ground, the Seahawks’ best rushing effort since Week 12 of the 2009 season. It may not seem like much, and it came against the 1-11 Panthers, but it was a huge step forward.
“We just kept doing what we were doing and eventually they (wore down),” Seattle fullback Michael Robinson said. “I think it was more that than the holes getting bigger. We ran the same plays in the first half, it was just we kept doing what we do and we stayed with it.”
The renewed focus on running the ball was mostly evident in the second half when Seattle outscored Carolina 28-0. The Seahawks rushed for 126 yards in the second half, with Lynch gaining 57 yards and scoring all three of his touchdowns during that stretch. Justin Forsett also added 60 yards and averaged 10 yards per carry.
The most evident improvement was Lynch no longer searching for holes to open. Seattle’s offensive line – which has seen eight different starting lineups this season – began wearing down Carolina’s defense in the second half and the running lanes were there for Lynch to exploit.
Lynch was the first Seattle running back with three rushing TDs since Shaun Alexander in his MVP season of 2005.
“I just think collectively, with the quarterback putting us in the right position, with the playcalling, he might have checked out of something and put us into a better look. I think that was a big help to us,” Lynch said. “We just executed better overall on the day.
For Lynch, last Sunday was the kind of game he expected when Seattle brought him in from Buffalo in exchange for a pair of future draft picks in early October.
His second game in Seattle, Lynch ran for a season-best 89 yards against Arizona on Oct. 24 and then watched Seattle’s running attack bottom out, the result of facing some talented defenses and constant changes on the offensive line. During that time, Carroll and offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates put more of the offensive weight on the arm of Hasselbeck, believing their best chance to win during that stretch was to pass first and spot the run game every now and then.
The plan didn’t necessarily work as Seattle hoped. While Hasselbeck was putting up huge numbers in a few of those games, Seattle lost four of five and first-place in the NFC West. The only game Seattle won, a 36-18 win at Arizona, the Seahawks added 110 yards rushing to the 380 yards passing that day.
Carroll said he pulled his running backs aside before making that decision to let them know the direction they were headed.
The Seahawks also had the benefit of a fullback for the first time since Week 7 with the return of Robinson. Along with having an extra blocker, Lynch said just what Robinson sees and can share is a major plus.
“Their attitude was great. They never griped about anything. They wanted to do anything we wanted them to do to help us,” Carroll said. “But naturally, they wanted to do their part and contribute more and so we definitely have always been pointed in that direction, and the fact that we now have come back in this last week and got it going the way we like, we’d love to keep it.”