It’s about midseason, which is usually when the Seahawks pick it up. Training wheels are being put away, and the O-line and backs will be called upon to get something done Monday.
At some point, the Seahawks are going to have to run over opponents in the fashion that water runs over Niagara Falls — remorselessly and everlastingly. Otherwise, coach Pete Carroll may as well turn in his chewing gum and hang with Will Farrell.
“We just need to keep slugging it out here as we find a way,” he said Monday. “We’re getting close.”
As offensive line coach Tom Cable put it Thursday, “We need to find tempo and rhythm offensively. We don’t have that right now.”
The returns to health of QB Russell Wilson and RB Thomas Rawls would be large in improving the Seahawks’ franchise-record-low rushing average of 3.2 yards per carry. The problem is that the season is rushing by faster than they are healing.
Besides that, the defense, upon which the Carroll empire is built, is getting tattered, if not battered. Although DE Michael Bennett’s arthroscopic knee surgery went well Wednesday, he remains out for another two or three weeks. Nor is the groin injury with SS Kam Chancellor likely to allow him to play in the Monday Night Football game against Buffalo at the Clink.
That leaves the offensive line, the Seahawks’ perennial punchline, to start punching back if the Seahawks are to make the traditional Carroll-era, hockey-stick growth on the November/December charts.
So I asked three of the stalwarts, RT Garry Gilliam, LT Bradley Sowell and C Justin Britt, what is the one thing each could do to help get the run game get off its 30th-ranked lips (or 27th, according to Football Outsiders). Typically, they answered with “we” instead of “I,” the latter pronoun an object of disdain in the linemen’s room.
“I’m going to give the safe answer — block better,” Gilliam said. “Block it up right, hit the holes right. Every once in a while there’s a little bit of a breakdown, or the defense plays the gap right, and there’s also penalties. But hey, the Raiders had, what? 23 penalties Sunday? We’re doing all right.”
The Raiders also won 30-24 in overtime over Tampa, despite a franchise-record 200 yards in penalties, and are 6-2 largely because a very good O-line can overcome all the miscues.
Sowell, who missed the 25-20 loss in New Orleans Sunday with a sprained knee and is listed as limited in practice for the Bills game, said volume would help.
“First of all, run it more,” he said. “Second, don’t get penalties. We get good runs, and then we get backed up. At second and 20, you’re not going to run the ball. Stop shooting ourselves in the foot.”
His backup, George Fant, a rookie in first career NFL game, was responsible for four penalties, two false starts, clipping and a block in the back.
Britt, the longest-tenured of the group, was a little more graphic in his description.
“I would say we could all finish better,” he said. “We’ve got to get back to our mentality of the Seahawks way: We’re going to come at you and get bloody and dirty and enjoy it, and we know the other team doesn’t enjoy it.
“We can do it all day. That’s the roots of our running game.”
With four of the five starting linemen new to their positions, and Fant and RG Germain Ifedi as rookies, there was no avoiding a brutal shakedown cruise during the season’s first half. It’s why QB Russell Wilson has had to endure three separate injuries.
But it may be time on the seasonal calendar when the fluffy boxing gloves come off and the O-line represents with some bare knuckles, as Britt suggested. It fact, it may be urgent, given that Bills coach Rex Ryan and his brother, Rob, the defensive coordinator, have coaching emphases that fit well for closing arguments in a dark bar at 2 a.m.
Anytime you play the Ryans, it’s going to be a bit of a mess — it can be dirty,” Cable said. “There’s always an element of surprise with them.”
Since the Bills lead the NFL in sacks with 26, the Seahawks would be wise to give Wilson less to do while shifting the production to running backs Christine Michael and rookie C.J. Prosise. Michael continues to get praise from Carroll, but when asked how the Seahawks are helping Michael avoid his occasional self-inflicted falls, as well as his tendency to go out of bounds instead of seeking an extra yard, Carroll was terse.
“We’re always coaching,” he said. We’re coaching our guys in all areas.”
Carroll was more effusive about Prosise, who against the Saints ran four times for 23 yards and caught four passes for a team-high 80 yards. He missed most of the preseason and four regular-season games with a wrist injury.
“He showed very well,” said Carroll said. “We’re really excited about his involvement and want to continue to keep him in the mix. (Sunday was like) his third preseason game. He’s way behind. So we don’t have all of the information that we need.
“He’s a great kid, studying, learning his stuff, he’s really applying himself. He hasn’t missed out on practice time, he’s just missed out on game time.”
His chance may be coming Monday. The Seahawks have a dignity-restoration project that’s overdue.
NFL admits three calls were bad
Without saying so directly, Carroll confirmed that the NFL agreed that three penalties called against Seattle Sunday were in error: The two pick plays in which Saints WR Willie Snead blocked CB Jeremy Lane to free up Brandin Cooks for key pass receptions that led to a touchdown and a field goal, and a defensive hold on CB DeShawn Shead against WR Mike Thomas.
Carroll said the calls were “pretty much the calls that you thought were obvious, were pretty obvious. Sometimes that happens that way. There were some other things that happened in that game that we learned from, as well. I wanted to gain some information on some of those things that is going on with the receivers and the (defensive backs). We learned some stuff there. So it was a good exchange.’’
Carroll acknowledged that the coaching staff has had weekly discussions about whether to rest Wilson or play him. “Every week it was a concern,’’ he said. “And as the issues changed he was able to work his way through it. But it was of a concern every week — we didn’t know if he was going to make it through the week. Had we sat him down, we would have had to sit him down for about five weeks for him to recover from everything.” . . . Bennett had successful arthroscopic surgery in Los Angeles to repair cartilage damage in his knee. Teammate and friend Cliff Avril said the two were on FaceTime 20 minutes after surgery, and expects Bennett in town Friday . . . Besides Bennett, Chancellor and Rawls being out, Carroll said TE Luke Willson (knee) is “really close” to returning Monday and WR Tyler Lockett (knee) is “close to full speed.”