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O’Neil: Seahawks’ offense can’t just go back to way it was earlier this season

Teams have started to solve Russell Wilson and the Seahawks' explosiveness. (Getty)

The Seahawks should stop trying to get their offense back to what it was in September.

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In fact, the attempt to recapture that success may be part of the problem. That’s what Pete Carroll was hinting at the morning after Seattle’s loss to the New York Giants when we asked him about getting the offense going and he not-so-subtly pointed out what defenses were doing.

“It’s different now, you know,” Carroll said during The Pete Carroll Show on 710 ESPN Seattle. “They’re seeing us differently. We’ve been so explosive and had so many big plays and had so much notoriety about all that, certain teams they want to see if they can avoid that from happening.”

The Giants did that on Sunday much like the Rams did three weeks earlier. It’s part of a larger trend that has seen the Seahawks’ offense lose steam over the course of the season. Seattle averaged 37 points in September, 30.7 in October and 27.6 in November. Scoring just one touchdown and finishing with 12 points was hardly the kind of start Seattle wanted for its closing kick in December.

So what happened?

Well, at first it seemed like injuries had slowed the Seahawks. They lost their top two running backs at the same time with Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde suffering injuries in the Week 7 loss at Arizona. Neither played in the next two games and while Hyde returned in Week 10, Carson missed a total of four games with a foot that has remained a concern as recently as last week.

But getting those backs on the field hasn’t provided the boost that was expected, and Sunday’s game against the Giants was Seattle’s least explosive of the season. That’s not a metaphor but an actual measurement. Seattle classifies an explosive play as any run of 12 yards or more or any pass of 16 or more. Seattle had seven of them on Sunday, a season-low. The Seahawks managed only eight explosive plays in their Week 10 loss at the Rams.

It wasn’t for a lack of trying. In fact, quarterback Russell Wilson spent too long with the ball in each of those games, waiting for someone to come free down the field. The problem was the defense was stacked against him. The Giants and the Rams are two of the very best defenses in the league when it comes to limiting opponent’s big plays. The fact that Seattle was left sputtering once it couldn’t get the big plays downfield makes it very clear what the Seahawks need to do.

“We have to adapt to the way teams are playing us,” Carroll said.

More specifically, they have to take advantage. If an opponent is taking away opportunities for big plays down the field, it’s leaving other areas undefended, and it’s up to the Seahawks not just to find those areas but to capitalize.

“We have to be able to adapt,” Carroll said. “It was different earlier in the year than it is now.”

Going back to the way it was isn’t an option for Seattle. Opponents aren’t going to let that happen any more so now it’s the Seahawks turn to adjust. The fate of this season depends upon it.

Follow Danny O’Neil on Twitter.

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