Moore: With stifled run game and banged up defense, time for Seahawks to let Russell Wilson air it out
When Richard Sherman tore his Achilles last Thursday night at Arizona, did you throw up your arms and think: “There goes the season?”
If you did, can’t blame you for that. For as much as Pete Carroll will talk this week about “next man up,” the next man up – whether that’s Jeremy Lane or someone else – is not nearly as good as the last man down. Sherman is a future Hall of Famer, a player with 32 career interceptions, six more than any other defensive back since he entered the league in 2011.
I don’t think the season is shot because of Sherman’s injury; I actually thought it was pretty much shot before the Seahawks’ All-Pro cornerback went down. Though they’re 6-3 and right in the thick of it as a playoff contender, the 2017 Seahawks strike me as being a good team, maybe even a very good team, but one that falls short of being a great team, the kind of which wins Super Bowls.
Before I go off on a tangent that will no doubt make little sense, you already know two of the reasons why they won’t win their second Lombardi Trophy this year – lack of a running game, and I’d argue that their defense is more vulnerable than it’s been in the past. In the last two home games, the Seahawks’ defense coughed up fourth-quarter leads to Houston and Washington. Their pass defense will take a hit with Sherman out, and their run defense, though it suffocated Adrian Peterson, was surprisingly so-so in the first half of the year.
Things could change this month and next, but as it stands now, four NFC teams are better record-wise than the Seahawks – the Eagles, Vikings, Saints and Rams – and one – Carolina – is also 6-3. Almost by the minute, I change my view of the Seahawks. Sometimes I think they still have a shot at being the No. 1 seed in the NFC, and the three times that’s happened in the past, they’ve made it to the Super Bowl every time.
I’m not sold on the Eagles, Vikings, Saints and Rams, but I don’t know why that’s the case. But how can you not be sold on the Eagles, a team that has lost only one time in nine games? And the other three? They all pummeled their opponents Sunday, and the Vikings and Saints did their pummeling on the road. I don’t believe the Vikings can keep it up with Case Keenum as their quarterback, yet there he was throwing three touchdown passes in the second quarter alone against the Redskins. Keep in mind that the Seahawks had only two touchdowns in four quarters against the Redskins.
I spend more time looking at the teams ahead of the Seahawks, wondering if they can catch them, when I should be looking at the teams behind them, closing in, posing more of a wild-card challenge to Pete Carroll’s team. Detroit, Green Bay, Dallas and Atlanta are all 5-4 and capable of overtaking the Seahawks. In fact, the Falcons are here next Monday and can catch the Seahawks with a win at CenturyLink Field. It’s certainly a possibility with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones facing a rookie right cornerback in Shaquill Griffin and Sherman’s replacement at left cornerback.
As things stand, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Seahawks finished 11-5 and won the NFC West or finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs. That’s how back and forth it feels when you mix my natural pessimistic and realistic tendencies with a dash of optimistic hope.
But here comes the tangent, the solution that could give the Seahawks a chance to reach all of their goals. I don’t think it will take much for you to work with me here, but it will require a change in philosophy by Carroll, who wants a balanced offense in the worst way. He believes, and has a track record to prove it, in the importance of a running game. I get it, this whole idea of wearing down the opponent, imposing your will, playing a hard-nosed brand of football, controlling time of possession, keeping your defense fresh, closing games out on the ground, all of that stuff.
Sounds great, but they don’t have a running game this year. They’ve tried to generate one through nine games; what makes anyone think they’ll magically find one in the next seven? With that in mind, why not admit that it’s not going to happen this year and go to Plan B? Go ahead and revisit the running game next year with Chris Carson, but this year? It’s time to forget about it for the most part, but my solution also offers hope for the running game this year too.
Let’s start with making J.D. McKissic the every-down back, and if you insist on continuing to use Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy, fine, make them the change-of-pace backs. Whoever said you can’t go with the quicker, shiftier back as the No. 1 guy and use the more physical backs as the change-of-pace guys?
Plus with this solution, I don’t want McKissic to carry the ball that often anyway. The Seahawks need to sprinkle in handoffs to McKissic and read-option plays with Russell Wilson like they used to, but most importantly, it’s time for Carroll to let the best quarterback in franchise history let ‘er rip.
For the time being, forget about being a balanced offense and take advantage of your strongest assets – Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham, Paul Richardson and Tyler Lockett. Keep in mind, too, that the offensive line – by a small margin anyway – appears to be better at pass-blocking than run-blocking. And even when the pass-blocking isn’t top-notch, Wilson still makes it happen with his feet, improvising, turning huge losses into big gainers downfield.
Another reason to embrace an air attack is it would increase the chances to score more points, which might be a necessity given Sherman’s absence. It’s not the Seahawks’ formula, but what’s the difference between winning a shootout and winning a low-scoring game? Nothing, in my mind.
Maybe you’ll counter by saying you need a running game and defense to win in January, particularly if the Seahawks have to play on the road. I’d tend to agree, but if those aren’t your strong suits, why not try something else?