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Seahawks’ running game stumbles out of the blocks in win over Miami

Christine Michael led the Seahawks' underwhelming run game with 66 yards on 15 carries Sunday. (AP)

Russell Wilson threw a career-high 43 passes against Miami.

The fact that the Seahawks needed each and every one of them to beat the Dolphins was testament to more than just the toughness of their quarterback who appeared to stretch every strand of ligaments in his right ankle in the third quarter.

It showed an overall inability to do the one thing that Pete Carroll wants to do most on offense: run the ball.

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The Seahawks weren’t able to run over Miami. Not in the first quarter when Seattle started the game with five straight passes. Not in the third quarter when the Seahawks faced fourth-and-1 at the Miami 31 and opted for a pass that fell incomplete. And even in the fourth quarter, during the Seahawks’ high-wire act of a final drive, when they ran the ball on fourth-and-1 it was out of a shotgun formation.

This wasn’t Seahawks football. Not like we’ve come to expect under Carroll, and this was about more than just the absence of the still-retired Marshawn Lynch. For 50 minutes on Sunday, Seattle’s defense was as unyielding as it has ever been, and the Seahawks’ offense was largely incapable of taking advantage of that.

Now, maybe that’s a testament to the strength of a Miami defensive line that is anchored by Ndamukong Suh.

“That’s about as high-powered a group of guys as we’re going to face,” Carroll said. “Until next week.”

That’s a nod to the Week 2 date with the Rams.

Certainly an ankle injury to Seahawks rookie Germain Ifedi earlier this week didn’t help as Seattle substituted J’Marcus Webb and had all of two days of practice to prepare him.

But if an 11th-hour injury to a rookie on the offensive line unplugs Seattle’s ability to do the very thing its coach has declared an unwavering priority, it’s worth wondering whether the Seahawks are going to be able to run the ball like they want to this season.

Christine Michael finished the game with 66 yards on 15 carries, forced to fill in as a third-down back because C.J. Prosise suffered a sprained wrist. Thomas Rawls gained 32 yards on 12 carries in his first full game back from a broken ankle.

There were too many penalties, three of them going against Seattle’s offensive line, too many broken plays and not nearly enough daylight in the running game.

“We didn’t get as much as space as we thought we would,” Carroll said. “That’s not the way we expect to run the football.”

But Sunday’s game plan wasn’t like anything that was expected of the Seahawks considering the five straight times to begin the game. The ball was coming out, and it was coming out quick. The Seahawks didn’t run the ball at all on their first possession. They handed the ball off only three times on the 12-play drive that followed, netting a field goal.

Of the Seahawks’ three scoring drives, two came in end-of-half situations when the Seahawks increased the tempo and limited substitutions.

The reason that’s concerning is that this wasn’t a game where situation demanded the Seahawks move away from the run. In fact, this game was played at the Seahawks’ tempo.

Miami gained four first downs in the first three quarters. The Dolphins had the ball in Seattle’s half of the field only five times all game. Two of those were the result of Seattle turnovers, which gave Miami possession in Seahawks’ territory. Miami had the ball inside the Seattle 30 once before the third quarter.

And despite all that, the Seahawks were left to white knuckle their way to victory with a 14-play procession that required a pair of fourth-down conversions.

It shouldn’t have taken that. That’s not a commentary of the talent level in this game so much as a criticism of Seattle’s offensive efficiency.

There were certainly concerns about Seattle’s offensive line entering Sunday’s game. Those concerns focused on the pass protection, though. The Seahawks got a great push from the interior of the offensive line in the preseason.

Then came Sunday’s game when the Seahawks did not exactly hit the ground running.

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