BY Art Thiel 09:10PM 11/20/2016

Thiel: Rawls and the return of Seahawks’ ferocity

Return of RB Thomas Rawls ignited the Seahawks offense in ways not seen since, well, when he did it in the second half of the past season. The turn from crappy to happy has begun.

What the Seahawks offense has lacked: Giving the ball to RB Thomas Rawls. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Yes, the Doug Baldwin-to-Russell Wilson TD pass was a laugh riot. But let’s set that aside.

Let’s also set aside for a moment concerns about injuries, the funky red-zone offense, the defense’s third-down mistakes and kicking-game errors. Instead, let’s consider the second-quarter touchdown drive of 92 yards Sunday against the Eagles as it represented how the Seahawks do November/December.

“In the past when we’ve been good, those situations have really not bothered us,” said coach Pete Carroll in the wake of a quirky yet familiar 26-15 win over Philadelphia. “That’s kind of what it showed like today.”

Trailing 7-6, this was how it went:

Two false-start penalties set back the Seahawks to second-and-20 and their own eight-yard line. Wilson hit on consecutive passes to WR Jermaine Kearse for 17 yards and TE Jimmy Graham for six. First down.

After an incompletion and a five-yard holding penalty on the Eagles, the Seahawks called on returning RB Thomas Rawls on five consecutive plays  — for rushes of nine, one, 18, three and one yards to reach the Philadelphia 30. But an offensive pass interference penalty cost 10 yards, five of which came back on an Eagles offsides foul.

On third-and-11 at the 35-yard line, Wilson scrambled out of the pocket, bolted left to buy time and, nearly out of bounds, pumped his arm a couple of times, turned his shoulders even with the line of scrimmage sent a fastball that hit Graham 15 yards down along the sideline.

In the clutches of a defender, Graham tore away and weaved through other would-be tacklers for the go-ahead touchdown and a 13-6 lead.

To summarize: The Seahawks overcame three penalties to exploit the talents of three elite players that have been injured and/or recovering most of the season to deliver a length-of-field slash to one of the NFL’s best defenses, via a shocking third-and-11 conversion behind an offensive line whose coherency has sometimes resembled a blender full of doorknobs.

As important to the season as was the previous Sunday’s 31-24 win in New England, the drive against the Eagles was every bit as significant for the perpetually tumultuous offense.

“That was a great accomplishment,” Carroll said. “A crappy situation. We back up once, we back up again, then we go bang-bang. You overcome it. That was a really good drive and really good belief that we can get it done and pull it out.”

Harrowing as it was electric, the Seahawks deployed a crafty passing game and punishing running by Rawls to look almost exactly as they did in the second half of the last season. And really, for the entirety of the Carroll regime, which is now 30-6-1 in the final two months of the regular season.

It’s as if September and October are an extended exhibition season until the Hogwarts students are ready to unleash against the Voldemorts of the NFL.

While Graham and Wilson have shown increasing effectiveness, the mystery was Rawls, out since he broke his fibula in week 2. His uncommon ferocity was close enough to the retired Marshawn Lynch that he requires a special accounting from defenses.

“I thought it was a great first game for him,” said Carroll, who started rookie C.J. Prosise so Rawls wouldn’t feel as much pressure. “He was attacking and getting after it. He’s a marvelous kid. We saw exactly what we wanted to see.”

What they didn’t want to see was the injury to Prosise’s left scapula (shoulder bone), which Carroll indicated will keep him out “for a while.” He left after four carries, so Rawls had to go for about 40 snaps, which included 14 carries for 57 yards and three catches for 31 yards.

The second-quarter drive’s five consecutive runs was something Carroll loves to do with a running back, but couldn’t with former Seahawk Christine Michael, and at least not yet with Prosise.

“I don’t think that was the game plan, but whatever it takes,” Rawls said, still giddy nearly an hour after the game. “You know me, I’m going to get fired up after a one-yard run. I want that energy to not just run through this team but throughout this stadium as well.

“That’s one of my main goals: To bring, that energy, passion and drive to the running back position.”

That’s what Lynch so often brought. Rawls is not near Lynch’s polished skills and cleverness, and is a far different personality, but he is the kind of load that makes defenders cringe.

As C Justin Britt explained: “He looks for contact instead of trying to juke you out, just like when Marshawn was here. I love blocking for that type of person; someone who’s going to sacrifice their body no matter what’s going on with themselves.

“Makes us want to do the same for them.”

The partial result was to follow the season high of 420 yards of total offense against the Patriots with 439 against the Eagles and an average gain per play of seven yards. It’s hardly perfect, not with the red zone stalls that plagued both games. But it is not nearly the crisis mode that developed after the 6-6 tie with Arizona.

That was October. Now it’s November. The days are shorter, the games are bigger, the boys are becoming men. And the Seahawks have had no turnovers in six of the past seven games.

Turning crappy to happy.



  • Diamond Mask

    Prosise might be the friendlier version of fine china that Percy Harvin was/is. Talented but breakable. I hope not.

    Good win for the Hawks. Next up for the Northwest is the Apple cup on Friday in Pullman. Thank goodness for football :)

    • art thiel

      The local football industries have indeed provided relief.

  • antirepug3

    “…a blender full of doorknobs.”

    The visual and audio of that going off in my head…*shudder*!

    • Effzee

      Its a great line. XD

    • art thiel

      A key to gooder writing: Vivid metaphors.

      • antirepug3

        Don’t weaken! I really dig your style of writing!

    • ll9956

      That term struck me as well. A gem for sure. How does Art dream these up???

  • DJ

    Love the Sept – Oct extended training analogy, but it requires extra patience by all. So far the Seahawks have delivered well after this lull, but it’s kinda like starting up that old mower for the first time of the year……there’s a lot of finger crossing going on, waiting for it to fire up after a handful of cranks and no sputter. It might safe to say that the Seahawks fired up for the season week 10 against the Pats.

    Whatever the case, the Hawks continue to reinvent themselves into yet another, more refined threat to the opposition as well.

    Sorry to see Prosise getting hurt this quickly. If they can just get all of the prime players out on the field at the same time, the Seahawks would be unstoppable. GO HAWKS!

    • art thiel

      Been there with the mower. Good analogy.

      And every NFL team would share the view of your last remark. Never happens.

      • John M

        It seems there were a lot of players hurt yesterday all around the league. One of those weeks . . .

  • Effzee

    I still have no idea what Bevell is trying to do, philosophically. He’s about as A.D.D. as his Head Coach. Oh, wait. It all makes sense now. If I have no idea what Bevell is trying to do on offense… Then maybe the opposing defense doesn’t either. Its freakin’ genius. So, then the philosophy I’ve been searching for is: The Seahawks D tells you exactly what its going to do, it does it what it does, and it makes you beat it. The Seahawks O is the exact opposite. There is almost no way to prepare for them, because Bevell is the most inconsistent play-caller in the history of the game. Also, the QB is a magician. Its perfect. I think I actually get it now. This helps me with my PTS(eahawks)D coping ability. And, if I’m wrong, I don’t want to be right. Go Hawks!

    • art thiel

      Well, I think you get it. Sorta.

      But I will say 98 percent of fans and media who criticize an OC’s overall game plan during a season aren’t qualified to pass judgment.

      Single plays? Sure.

      • Being an offensive coordinator with Russell Wilson as your QB has to be the distilled essence of mixed blessings. I’m thinking that Mr. Bevell has to spend whole games feeling like he’s dancing blindfolded on the edge of the abyss, while at the same time knowing that Russell will somehow make things work one more time. He can’t be too secure in his sanity. Criticizing his game plan would be foolishness of the first water.

    • John M

      Your paralogical explanation is obviously based in sound logic. There was darkness and now I can see. Carroll is a witch and Wilson is his intern. The O-line was imported from a prison farm in Iceland . . .

      • Effzee

        I mean, seriously. How is this not true? We are watching some true modern day wizardry, I tells ya!

      • art thiel

        I think the term you seek for Wilson is sorcerer’s apprentice.

        • John M

          Actually, a sorcerer and witch run their shops differently, though for a witch you could be an apprentice. But there is new worry, TB just beat up on KC in their yard, and they’re a good team. This next long road trip might be tougher than we had hoped . . .

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  • Once again, Art, a great write-up on a fun game. The injuries suck, but that was a fun game to watch on a lot of different levels. Carson Wentz looks like he’ll be a good QB, but the LOB exposed him as still a rookie. Russell is healthy again, which should scare the bejabbers out of DC’s from coast-to-coast. And really, how often does a player give the finger to his offensive coordinator when offered the chance to throw a touchdown pass?

    • art thiel

      Baldwin said later it was a sarcastic but friendly gesture to Bevell, because Doug wants to score TDs, not throw them.

      • I have six younger brothers, Dad was a jazz piano player, and Grandpa was a former Marine Drill Instructor. I grew up in that exact environment. The finger was just letting the other person know you care.

  • tor5

    Art, you note that Rawls is a far different personality than Lynch. True enough. But in listening to the post-game interview with Rawls, I couldn’t help but wonder if a verbose Lynch wouldn’t be expressing similar thoughts…. physical mentality, personal pride, supporting teammates. You gotta love it.

  • Tex

    Art Thiel- Best Sports Writer in US. We are lucky to have you covering our teams so well and for so long. Still shocked your not running the show at the Seattle Times. Blender of door knobs….instant classic.

    • art thiel

      Thanks. In that case, Tex, you and your friends should feel free to donate to the cause. Is the Seattle Times still persisting in the dead-tree delivery thing?