BRANDON GUSTAFSON

‘He’s finally back’: Seahawks’ Rashaad Penny breaks out in blowout

Dec 12, 2021, 3:13 PM
Seahawks RB Rashaad Penny...
Seahawks RB Rashaad Penny runs the ball for a touchdown during the fourth quarter against Houston. (Tim Warner/Getty Images)
(Tim Warner/Getty Images)

Pete Carroll always wants his Seahawks to be effective running the ball, but that’s been hard to do since Chris Carson’s season ended with a neck injury after just four games.

Fast Facts: Penny, Lockett lead Hawks past TexansInstant Reaction

Carroll certainly wanted to get the running game going against Houston in Week 14 as the Texans entered the week dead last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed. It just wasn’t clear who would be called upon to lead the charge.

Alex Collins has been Seattle’s lead back for the most part since Carson went out. But while he’s had some success here and there, it wasn’t Collins who powered the Seahawks to victory in Week 14.

That would be Rashaad Penny, Seattle’s oft-injured 2018 first-round pick.

Penny had arguably the best game of his career, rushing for 137 yards on just 16 carries and scoring two touchdowns, including a 47-yard score that clinched the game in the fourth quarter.

It was just the third time in Penny’s four-year career that he exceeded 100 yards rushing.

“It was a great day to see Rashaad Penny come out like that. We’re so happy to see that,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said after the game. “We’ve been waiting and (everyone’s) been waiting, too. I was thrilled to see (that) he really got loose and see the explosion and playmaking that he’s got in him. It was on full display today.”

Penny has showcased his dynamic ability in spurts throughout his career, but he hasn’t been able to do so on a consistent basis due to injuries.

Penny has missed eight games in 2021 due to various leg injuries, and that comes after he missed nearly all of 2020 as he recovered from a torn ACL he suffered late in 2019. That injury came right after Penny had two fantastic games back-to-back and appeared to be finding a consistent and effective role in the Seahawks’ offense.

In last week’s win over the San Francisco 49ers, Penny set season-highs in carries (10) and rushing yards (35). He obviously shattered both of those highs in this win over the Texans, but veteran left tackle Duane Brown thought Penny’s game last week helped pave the way for his breakout game in Houston.

“I think he’s got his confidence back. You saw that last week. This week we really fed him the ball a lot and he ran with a vengeance,” Brown said. “… We really rallied behind him and were able to pull out a lot of yards on the ground.”

Star receiver Tyler Lockett, who also had a big game with five catches for 142 yards and a touchdown, agreed that Penny’s mentality was on full display.

“The way he was running the ball, he was making a statement,” Lockett said.

Carroll said that Penny’s style against the Texans fired the Seahawks up.

“They were jacked because he was running so hard,” Carroll said. “Of course he had the big plays that exploded but he was running tough in everything. We’ve been waiting for a little juice in the running game and it was there today in a big way.”

While Penny got plenty of praise from his teammates and head coach, he felt like two groups deserved more credit – the offensive line and the Seahawks’ medical staff, which has worked with Penny extensively throughout his career.

“The O-line deserves this more than I do … They controlled the game,” Penny said.

He added later about the medical staff: “I tip my hat off to everybody. They deserve this more than I do because I’m just here to play ball and help win. They take care of me and do the right things.”

Penny’s been an easy target for Seahawks fans as a first-round pick who has failed to live up to that billing. Penny admitted that he spent too much time on social media early in his career seeing what people posted about him, but at the end of the day, the opinion of his coaches and teammates is what really matters.

“It’s a blessing,” he said of his huge game against the Texans. ” … These guys never gave up on me. Just go out to practice every day and keep working and this is the result.”

Carroll called Penny having back-to-back games with extensive touches and snaps “the accomplishment” more so than Penny’s big day in terms of yards and touchdowns.

“So now we’ve got to get him back out this week and get him out there and hopefully he’ll feel good about it and be able to contribute in a big way again,” Carroll said.

For Penny, his huge game was validation in the sense of how he’s trying to approach his touches.

“I’ve been telling myself just run more aggressive and hit the holes, and if nothing is there, just hit it,” he said. “(There) was an amazing hole there (on the first touchdown Sunday). It was all about hitting it and trusting your block and then it’s one-on-one with the safety.”

For Carroll, Penny’s game was validation not in terms of the draft pick but in that his young running back is finally ready and able to make the impact the Seahawks know he can make.

“These plays, he’s done this in the past. We’ve seen him explode and the big play ability that he has,” Carroll said. “It’s just been such a long time since his injury … He’s tried like crazy to get back. It’s not validation with the pick, it’s validation that he’s finally back.”

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