BY Doug Farrar 03:46PM 12/07/2010

Xs-and-Os: Big Walt’s Weakside Run

MIchael Robinson was the unheralded key to Seattle’s run game

Marshawn Lynch finds a gap inside as Michael Robinson blows up a linebacker (Drew McKenzie/Sportspress Northwest)

Apparently, something beyond Seattle’s coaching staff was needed to get the Seahawks’ running game on track. How appropriate that the most effective playcaller for the Seahawks in their 31-14 win over the Carolina Panthers was the spirit of Walter Jones. On the same day that Jones, the greatest player in franchise history (I will brook no argument) saw his name and number hoisted to the rafters at Qwest Field, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said that many of the Seahawks’ best running plays on the day came from Walter’s past.

“We came out with a three-wide, two-back run in honor of Walter,” Hasselbeck recalled after the game. “(Offensive coordinator) Jeremy Bates talked about it last night, and he said, ‘here’s a run this guy helped make famous, and we’re going to run it one time for him.’ We ran it and got six yards, and it was a good look. We ran it again, and we kept running it. We ran it the other way, made some plays off of it, designed a play off of it, gave the ball to (fullback) Michael Robinson off of it, and had a naked bootleg off of it. It ended up working out for us.”

Most of the three-wide, two-back looks had Robinson as the fullback and Marshawn Lynch as the halfback, and it’s worth looking at that combination again to give more exposure to the most underrated aspect of Seattle’s season-high 161 yards rushing – Robinson’s blocking was brilliant.

The play I liked the most out of that formation, and the one that may have been most reminiscent of the 2005 Seahawks rushing offense that just enforced its will on its opponents, was Lynch’s 12-yard run off left tackle with 14:12 left in the third quarter. It was the third play of the Seahawks’ 96-yard drive to open the second half.

Against the Panthers’ nickel defense, left tackle Russell Okung took right defensive end Tyler Brayton to the edge, while left guard Mike Gibson and center Chris Spencer double-teamed tackle Nick Hayden. Great seal blocks against both defenders, but that left a lane open for linebacker James Anderson (50), perhaps the Panthers’ best defensive player this season.

As Anderson came through to take Lynch down in the B-gap, Robinson (26) came up and executed a perfect block from a technique perceptive – he didn’t just push Anderson back; he guided Anderson toward the center and took him out of the play immediately. That allowed Lynch to turn on the jets and get to the second level, where he could use his power to drag linebacker Jon Beason a few yards past initial contact before Beason dragged him down.

A lot has been said about those three-wide sets, and how they were possible because Walter Jones was good enough to make a blocking tight end superfluous. But the Seahawks’ amazing mid-decade run game was as much about fullback Mack Strong as anyone else, and Robinson woke up the echoes with his stellar performance. Receiver Golden Tate also made a great edge block on cornerback Robert McClain, proving that when it comes to blocking, nothing succeeds like success.

Who would know that better than Big Walt?