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Seahawks need to regain their offensive identity

By Danny O’Neil

The Seahawks may have been up in the air, but their coach was already focused on getting back on the ground.

Pete Carroll sat down next to Marshawn Lynch on the team’s flight back from St. Louis earlier this week at about the time when Monday night turned into Tuesday morning. The two men talked about how Seattle would find the footing of its offense after Lynch had the fewest carries in any game in two years.

In a deviation from the Seahawks’ run-first approach, Marshawn Lynch carried just eight times against St. Louis. “That’s not how we play,” coach Pete Carroll said. (AP)

“We were both sitting in frustration over the exact same issue,” Carroll said. “We didn’t get the ball to him in ways that we had hoped to because of the way the game turned out.”

Lynch carried the ball eight times against the Rams, a symptom of both the Seahawks’ struggles in that win and the biggest question facing Seattle’s offense entering Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay: What is its identity?

There is some uncertainty about that for the first time in a while after the Seahawks’ offense bottomed out in St. Louis.

Yes, the Seahawks won that game, but gaining 135 yards on offense – 80 of which came on a single pass play – is a sign that there’s not just room for improvement, but a need for it.

“We didn’t perform up to our standards,” said Darrell Bevell, Seattle’s offensive coordinator. “We didn’t perform well enough all the way from the top to the bottom.”

OK, deep breath. The Seahawks are 7-1 and Lynch ranks No. 4 in the league in rushing. This isn’t a crisis or even a crossroads, but there is a need for a course correction heading into the second half of the season.

The running game has been more than just the bread and butter for this team. It has been the brick and mortar the Seahawks have used to build the foundation of this offense.

Yet through eight games, Seattle isn’t relying on that ground game as much as it has in the past. Through the first half of the season, the quarterback has been played as Seattle’s trump card in tight games. When the Seahawks couldn’t find their footing in the ground game in Carolina, it was Russell Wilson’s passing accuracy that made the difference. In Week 4 at Houston, Wilson carried the team to a win with his 74 yards rushing in the fourth quarter and overtime.

710 ESPN Seattle hosts weigh in on Seattle’s Week 9 matchup against Tampa Bay, finishing the sentence, “The Seahawks will win if… ”

Dave Wyman: They don’t turn the ball over.
Jim Moore: Marshawn Lynch runs for 100 yards and they sack Mike Glennon four times.
Dave Grosby: They show up.
Bob Stelton: They protect Russell Wilson long enough to allow him to go through his progressions and don’t commit any more drive-killing penalties.
Brock Huard: Marshawn Lynch rushes for more than 75 yards.
Danny O’Neil: They don’t commit more than three turnovers.

In St. Louis, the Rams put their cornerbacks in man coverage, loaded up on defenders to guard against the run and rushed the passer like crazy. The result was the most inept offensive performance the Seahawks have had under Carroll, and when it was over, the seven sacks of Wilson weren’t quite as jarring as the eight carries for Lynch.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t get him going,” Carroll said. “That’s not how we play. Hopefully, we’ll do better this time.”

A recalibration is in order. Eight carries was the fewest for Lynch in any game since October 2011. That was back in Tarvaris Jackson’s first month as a starting quarterback and Seattle, starting two rookies on the offensive line, was totally unable to sustain any consistency on offense.

This is a different time, the team enjoying unprecedented success and eyeing the long haul of this season. With eight games to play, there’s still time for the rushing attack to get back up to speed.

“I just want to see us get back to playing ball like we’re capable of playing on offense,” Bevell said.

That starts with the running back who has been here since the beginning. And even before the team landed in Seattle after Monday’s game, the coach was talking to the running back about getting back on the ground.