Rost: No excusing away Seahawks’ ugly run D issues after latest loss

Dec 11, 2022, 9:03 PM | Updated: 9:03 pm

Seahawks Panthers Chuba Hubbard...

Panthers RB Chuba Hubbard runs against the Seahawks on Dec. 11, 2022. (Photo by Jane Gershovich/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jane Gershovich/Getty Images)

The Seahawks’ defense has gone from abysmal to just plain weird.

“Weird” in this case still means ugly — make no mistake. But their continued struggles defy logic.

Seahawks need to ‘get our act together’ as run D struggles continus

Barring a month-long stretch in the middle of the season of great play and back-to-back games allowing under 100 rushing yards, the Seahawks have struggled against the run all year. For the first few weeks, it was fair to wonder whether that issue was the result of a transition from a base 4-3 defense to a 3-4, which can open weaknesses on the ground. And for a while afterward, it became too easy to add context. Who doesn’t want to add context to a bad situation?

They gave up 189 yards to the 49ers in Week 2. But Kyle Shannahan’s offenses have always excelled with the run, and Seattle’s offense couldn’t stay on the field.

They allowed 179 yards to Cordarrelle Patterson and the Falcons in Week 3. But Patterson was looking like a force — he’d run for 120 against the Saints two weeks prior!

They got a break against Detroit, a team short its top running back. But it didn’t matter: Jamaal Williams rushed for 108 and scored a pair of touchdowns. The Seahawks allowed 145 rushing yards. But that felt like an improvement from nearly 200 in each of the last two games, right?

It was pick your poison against the Saints in Week 5. Alvin Kamara was back healthy for New Orleans, and both he and Taysom Hill finished with more than 100 yards on the ground. The concerns were growing and the game was lost, but the offense was a top-five unit at this point through the first month-and-a-half of the season. Guess when you play in shootouts, you win some and you lose some.

Kyler Murray rushed for 100 in Week 7. No matter, Seattle got the win at home.

They strung together two solid performances against the Chargers and Giants, the latter then the No. 2-ranked rushing offense in the league. Finally, this defense looked like it was improving. Against Saquon Barkley and Austin Ekeler, no less!

Then those excuses became harder.

The Bucs had their best game on the ground. Rookie Rachaad White finished with 105 yards. The field conditions in Germany made things hard on both teams… but weren’t the Bucs supposed to be the worst rushing team in the league?

The Seahawks managed to shut down Davante Adams in a game against the Raiders. Problem is Josh Jacobs rushed for 229 yards, including the game-winning touchdown in overtime.

Then came the Rams, who had struggled with the run all year but got 60 yards and a pair of touchdowns from Cam Akers.

And against the Panthers on Sunday, they allowed 74 yards apiece to D’Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard, and 224 total rushing yards from the entire offense.

Context can be added to any situation in an effort to lighten the load. But those excuses feel flimsier when you consider this: eight separate players have run for a season-high in rushing yards against the Seahawks. Cordarrelle Patterson, Jamaal Williams, Alvin Kamara, Taysom Hill, Rachaad White, Josh Jacobs, Chuba Hubbard, and even Kyler Murray. Cam Akers’ season high is 61 yards; he had 60 against Seattle.

The common denominator here isn’t a murderers’ row of running backs, nor the field conditions, nor the offensive line, nor the play caller. It’s this defense. A defense that’s surrendered 960 rushing yards over the last five games alone.

Ultimately, this is what’s driving fans (and surely this team) crazy: despite some fair concerns, this defense has plenty of reason to be better than it is right now. Seattle isn’t an overly young team; every regular starter in the front seven is a veteran. The defense has been giving up too much yardage for years but didn’t struggle nearly as much against the run last season (113 yards per game in 2021 compared to 155 per game in 2022).

There are players who are talented and have made big contributions. Outside linebacker Uchenna Nwosu is closing in on 10 sacks, which would be the first single-season double-digit sack total recorded by a Seahawk since 2018. Cornerback Tariq Woolen has set a new franchise rookie record with sixth interceptions this year.

Worse still, week after week, opposing offenses know they want to run the ball — and Seattle’s defense knows that, too. The Seahawks aren’t being fooled by offenses; they’re just not stopping them.

“Our guys are trying, they’re working hard to get it done,” coach Pete Carroll said postgame. “We went through the process during the week to line it up so we knew what they were doing. We were not fooled by anything today. We were on it. But you have to play the line of scrimmage, you have to get off the blocks, you’ve got to play together, everybody’s got to fit together. And it’s always about those fits. It wasn’t good enough. It just plain old wasn’t good enough.”

The real shame is that the Seahawks’ offense is good enough, and there’s a path to the playoffs because of that. But the Seahawks won’t be able to seize that opportunity unless they fix a problem that’s been staring them in the face for 14 weeks.

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