BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 12/31/2014

Thiel: With little new, Seahawks’ offense better

Despite the first-half shutout Sunday, Seahawks are the NFL’s ninth-ranked offense. And that’s with 4th-stringers at TE and C. Bouquets to the backups.

Patrick Lewis (65), the Seahawks’ fourth-string center, joins James Carpenter leading the way for Robert Turbin Sunday against St. Louis. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Feel free to rub your eyes in disbelief, but the Seahawks offense you saw get shut out in the first half Sunday against St. Louis was the ninth-best in the NFL this season, by the measurement of yards per game. That’s right: The No. 1 defense in the NFL now is paired up with a top-10 offense.

Whoda thunk?

Recall the casualties:

WR Sidney Rice and FB Michael Robinson retired; RT Breno Giacomini and WR/PR Golden Tate left in free agency; injuries cost TE Zach Miller, FB Derrick Coleman and OT Michael Bowie most or all of their seasons; and, of course, the midseason firing of WR Percy Harvin. Even a guy like backup OL Paul McQuistan (free agency) caused some pining.

The Seahawks needed many new players just to stay close to even with last year. In fact, given the replacements, the offense should have regressed, particularly when they had to start a not-ready-for-prime-time rookie, Justin Britt, at right tackle.

Sure, every team loses free agents, has injuries or suspensions or other drama. But the Seahawks somehow improved statistically despite not adding a single offensive player whose production was noteworthy.

The Seahawks finished 1oth in points (24.6 ppg), ninth in yards (376 ypg) and third in time of possession (32:20). In the Super Bowl year, the Seahawks were eighth in points (26.1), 18th in yards (330) and 14th in TOP (30:32).

At times, including Sunday, the Seahawks were down to fourth-stringers at two positions: Center, where Patrick Lewis followed Max Unger, Steve Schilling and Lemuel Jeanpierre, and tight end, where Tony Moeaki followed Miller, Luke Willson and Cooper Helfet.

Then there’s Will Tukuafu, the 285-pound fullback/defensive lineman, who had his first carry Sunday, a third-down run for four yards and a first down.

“His effect has been obvious from the beginning — a 285-pound fullback?” Carroll said, grinning. “That’s pretty cool. He lays the wood.

“He contributes on special teams, he plays defense — we work him right into the rotations when we need him. That’s unique. He’s a remarkable kid. He’s really fit in well, he’s tough as nails, and he’s really been a great addition.”

Lewis, Jeanpierre, Moeaki and Tukuafu were midseason pick-ups off the street or practice squads, and yet they were part of of the single greatest day in Seahawks offensive history — the 596 yards at Arizona 10 days ago.

Obvious as are the virtues of Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and Doug Baldwin, it’s a testament to Carroll and his staff that they can get close to average NFL performances out of guys who might be driving the team bus as much as riding in it.

“The thing that stands out the most is I think the coaches did a really good job of developing the backup guys,” Carroll said. “When the time came for them to be called on, we didn’t lose anything. We didn’t have the continuity in the offensive line much of the year. I think (assistant Tom Cable) did a great job fitting guys together and making it work. We led the league in rushing and that’s hard to do. A lot of guys contributed.”

Critical was the ability of GM John Schneider and his scouting staff to turn over the right rocks.

“I think it’s also a statement about John’s work on the roster to make sure we have great depth,” he said. “We lost a lot of guys — I think we had 16 or so guys who were on injured reserve during the course of the year.

“We weren’t free of injury (as was largely the case the previous season). But we had very good fortune with the guys stepping up and making plays and the young guys coming through.”

When the NFL landscape is scanned in December, casualties lay thick. Freakishly, the Seahawks stand a small chance of having everyone on the 53-man roster (not counting the season-ending injured-reserve list) healthy by the playoff game Jan. 10.

The more obvious uptick in late-season intrigue is rookie WR Paul Richardson, who in the past two games had 10 catches after 19 in the previous 14. The injury absence of WR Jermaine Kearse provided the opportunity for a breakthrough Sunday, particularly on one play — a leaping, 32-yard catch along the sideline that required Wilson to believe in Richardson’s ability to fetch a 50-50 ball over good coverage.

“He’s much more comfortable with what we’re asking him to do,” Carroll said. “Russell is really comfortable with him. Russ really can feel him on his routes. They’ve timed up a lot of things in the last month or so that have looked really high class for us.

“We’re really growing with him and we think we’ve got a really good player there.”

Carroll has said all along that playing young guys early in their careers, as well as early in individual seasons, pays dividends late. The proof is rolling out weekly during Seattle’s playoff run of nine wins in 10 games when the obscure get center stage, if only for a play or two.

One more believe-it-or-not stat: The Seahawks had 174 fewer penalty yards this season than last season. The new guys even know how to play by the rules.


  • Raymond Meyers

    Some day somebody will look back and notice that Russell Wilson deserves to be mentioned among the best quarterbacks who ever played the game – for what he’s already done. I’ve heard all the arguments to the contrary, and it’s all hogwash. He has excelled behind an iffy-at-best offensive line. I’ll bet he hasn’t had the same five butts pointed at him three weeks in a row all year. And he hasn’t had a stable group of receivers to throw to all year. He’s had Doug Baldwin throughout, and that’s good because DB is an awesome receiver; everybody else has been in and out including Richardson and Norwood – rookies – Sunday. Through all that turmoil, he still has the most wins of any quarterback in the first three years ever. EVER. W-L is the only statistic that really means anything. All the rest is for padding a resumé.

    • Kevin Lynch

      Right, W-L is the only stat, as you say. There are two QB’s in NFL history who are 100 wins over losses and no one else is even close. Those are the two greatest of all time with maybe one exception, for Montana.

      • art thiel

        See answer above.

    • art thiel

      It’s nice to say wins are the only stat that matters, but that limits appreciation of QBs on lesser teams, through no fault of the QBs. I think Romo is a better QB than most give him credit for, but he can’t help that Jerry Jones is the chief roadblock to team success.

      I think Wilson certainly is a top 10 active QB, who also benefits from a great org and coach. Time will spell out his place among all-timers.

      • Raymond Meyers

        You could’ve gone all day without saying “Jerry Jones.” The Cowboys were one of the teams I loved to watch way back when. Then Jerry Jones and the Amazing Ego showed up and fired Tom Landry, one of the great gentlemen of the game. Ever since then it’s been more about one self-important, limelight-loving, pompous horse’s ass than anything related to great football in Dallas. He even managed to ruin my appreciation of Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith because of his constant mugging for the camera.

        Not that I have any strong feelings on the subject.

  • jafabian

    The Hawks are without their top 3 WRs from last season in Harvin, Rice and Tate and the safety valve in Zach Miller. Statistically it shows, especially in regards to Russell Wilson’s performance this season but the current group still keep secondaries honest and are among the best hands in the league for WRs. They know the offense inside and out. Also like what I’m seeing with Richardson and Norwood. If they follow Terry Bradshaw’s advice to Wilson and not let the playoffs get too big for them they’ll make the offense even better than what it was during the season. How can defenses prepare for that? They can’t.

    THREEPEAT. Because you know we’ll repeat.

    • Raymond Meyers

      Exactly. And then there’s Beast Mode and Tukuafu, not to mention Turbo and Michael. Who do you focus on? I’m really hoping for a Hawks/Pats Superbowl. Because when the Pats get their tushies handed to them maybe, just maybe, we’ll get to see some talking heads eating some crow.

      • art thiel

        Pats are my bet to make it. Their consistent excellence deserves all the credit coming their way. Which will make any Seahawk opportunity all the sweeter.

        • jafabian

          Thought it would be the Steelers but looks like they’ll be without Bell. Pats barely have a rushing game though.

    • art thiel

      At 3 already, John? Wow. You read it here first folks.

      • jafabian

        It was when they played the Cardinals at the CLink. They got their swagger back right then and there. That’ when I was convinced they’ll repeat.

  • Gerald Turner

    Pats got videogate karma, out, Denver qb 90 years old all of a sudden, Bengals first round losers, colts Mickey mouse, that leaves Pittsburg pukes or ravens