What We Learned: Seahawks’ run defense is just fine

Dec 30, 2013, 3:47 PM | Updated: 4:27 pm

Bobby Wagner helped Seattle hold St. Louis to just 13 yards rushing, tying a Seahawks single-game record. (AP)

By Danny O’Neil

Three things we learned:

1. Rumors of Russell Wilson’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.

He completed two-thirds of his passes against St. Louis, averaged more than 10 yards per completion and connected with Golden Tate on a 47-yard touchdown pass. That may not constitute a truly spectacular bounce-back performance after Wilson threw for a career-low 108 yards against Arizona last week, but he kept Seattle completely in control and never came close to committing a turnover. ESPN’s Ron Jaworski should take a look at this game after suggesting Wilson was not seeing things as well over the past month as he has been. Wilson is the single biggest strength for this offense, not any sort of concern.

2. Seattle’s run defense is no longer a concern.

The ability to stop the run was one of the Seahawks’ chief concerns entering the playoffs last season, a worry that was well warranted given the fact Atlanta – the league’s worst rushing team in the regular season – gained 167 yards on the ground against Seattle in the divisional round. This year? Seattle’s run defense is solid as bedrock, having held three of the past five opponents to fewer than 50 yards rushing. The Rams finished with 13 yards rushing, tied for fewest ever by a Seahawks opponent, providing quite a contrast to that Monday night game in St. Louis back in October when the Rams rushed for 200 yards against Seattle. Coach Pete Carroll pointed out linebacker Bobby Wagner afterward: “He hit so many of them at the line of scrimmage or in that backfield. That was a fantastic game for him.”

3. Breno Giacomini is a gracious host.

He even waved goodbye when Rams defensive lineman Kendall Langford was ejected after raising his hand and making contact with a game official. Penalties have been a problem for Seattle this season, but they were an absolute epidemic for St. Louis, which is not exactly shocking considering the reputation that Jeff Fisher-coached teams have for putting a little extra pepper in their play. The Rams were penalized 12 times in the game, including six personal-foul penalties in the span of five plays in the third quarter. Seattle seemed like the portrait of restraint in comparison. Especially Giacomini, who hasn’t had a personal-foul penalty since the first half of last season.

Three things we’re still trying to figure out:

1. Is Seattle’s offense ready for the playoffs?

The Seahawks scored 170 points over the final four games of last season, going 4-0 in that stretch. They scored 77 points over the final four games this season and went 2-2. Wilson has thrown for four touchdowns and was picked off twice over the past four games while Marshawn Lynch hasn’t rushed for more than 100 yards in any of the past six games. That’s not any sort of death knell for Seattle’s playoff chances. After all, the Ravens fired their offensive coordinator in December of last year, went 1-4 in the final month of the regular season and shuffled their offensive line before entering the postseason. All the signs pointed to Baltimore’s offense being in a free fall, and the Ravens won the Super Bowl. Can Seattle find a similar groove?

2. Will Seattle stick with the red-state playbook on offense?

More coverage of Seattle’s Week-17 win over St. Louis at CenturyLink Field.

Recap | Stats | Photos | Postgame interviews
O’Neil: Seahawks’ offense a question mark
O’Neil: Potential divisional-round scenarios
‘The Pete Carroll Show’: Lesson learned
Henderson: Golden Tate does it again

Because the Seahawks have been pretty darn conservative this month, a factor that has certainly contributed to the scoring decline. Coach Pete Carroll has said that given the way his defense is playing he prioritizes field position and avoiding turnovers on offense. That approach got Seattle to 13 regular-season wins and the top seed in the NFC playoffs, but after losing two games played in that nip-and-tuck style in December, will he be more likely to take a risk or two in the playoffs? We’ll have to wait and see.

3. How big will the loss of Luke Willson loom?

The injuries are adding up among Seattle’s receivers. Percy Harvin could be put on injured reserve as soon as this week, and Jermaine Kearse was in uniform for Sunday’s game but did not play after suffering an ankle injury last week. Then Willson suffered a high-ankle sprain in the second half, which was better than the initial fears that his ankle was broken. It’s still unlikely he’d be back any time before the Super Bowl, and even making it back by that game would constitute a pretty quick recovery. No player on Seattle’s roster has improved more from the start of training camp than Willson. His absence makes Kellen Davis the No. 2 tight end and leaves Seattle with some questions about its receiving corps.

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What We Learned: Seahawks’ run defense is just fine