BRADY HENDERSON

Seahawks’ offense finally gets untracked in win over 49ers

Sep 25, 2016, 9:47 PM
Christine Michael rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries Sunday. (AP)...
Christine Michael rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries Sunday. (AP)
(AP)

It took the Seahawks 43 seconds to score their first of four touchdowns on Sunday, which quadrupled their total from the first two games combined. Their backup running back topped 100 yards – something they didn’t even do as a team the week before – while two receivers topped the century mark. And they converted nine times on third down, which was many as they converted during their 1-1 start.

Those are a few illustrations of how much better the Seahawks were on offense in their 37-18 win over San Francisco after a pair of woeful performances to begin the season.

The degree to which the Seahawks have resolved their offensive issues remains to be seen, especially considering their line is still unsettled and their quarterback is now playing with an injury on each leg. But it was awfully encouraging that the Seahawks’ offense on Sunday looked more like the one that stream-rolled through opposing defenses in the second half of last season than the one that could only manage 15 points through the first two games.

“I thought it was a game that we needed,” coach Pete Carroll said. “After the first two weeks, we had not really got on track.”

Especially in the running game. Seattle had averaged only 89.5 yards over its first two games and only 3.2 per attempt, which both ranked in the bottom half of the league and were well off the production the Seahawks have become accustomed to.

But on the third play from scrimmage Sunday, Christine Michael shot through a hole on the left side of Seattle’s offensive line and raced 41 yards untouched for the first of his two touchdowns. Michael, starting in place of the injured Thomas Rawls, finished with 106 yards on 20 carries while Seattle finished with 127 as a team, though that total takes into account a kneel-down and a backwards pass that both lost yardage. Excluding those, Seattle averaged 4.6 yards per carry, an improvement of almost a yard and a half.

“The past two games that we’ve had, we’ve known that we’ve left a lot of plays out there and that we could do a lot more,” right tackle Garry Gilliam said. “Especially in the run game, which was our emphasis this week. Not that our plan was any different, but just having that pride to go out there and run the ball. We’re Seattle and that’s what we do, we run the ball. It’s just a matter of digging down deep and taking that to a man, winning the one on-one battles and running the ball.”

The Seahawks were only 9 of 29 on third down over their first two games for a rate of 31 percent, which ranked 25th in the NFL. That was more so a symptom of their offensive issues as opposed to a cause considering how many times they left themselves with unmanageable distances on third down after not getting enough yardage on first and second.

That was again an issue on Sunday, only this time the Seahawks repeatedly overcame it. Of their nine third-down conversions (on 14 chances), four of them required between 10 and 17 yards. That included a 59-yard completion to receiver Doug Baldwin on third-and-14 and a 40-yarder to tight end Jimmy Graham on third-and-17.

Russell Wilson even picked up one third down with his legs, but he did most of his damage with his arm while going 15 of 23 for 243 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions before leaving in the third quarter with a knee injury. He was sacked twice.

“I thought he played great today,” Carroll said.  “I love the way he played.  He did everything we needed him to do.  I thought he played terrific. We were 65 percent on third downs, and he’s controlling it, and hitting the big plays down the field.”

Asked about Seattle’s offensive line, Carroll said the group is “really close” and singled out J’Marcus Webb for the progress he’s made at right guard while filling in for injured rookie Germain Ifedi.

“You’ve seen us improve in the three weeks,” Carroll said about the line as a whole.

On Sunday, that was most evident in Seattle’s run game, something Baldwin mentioned on a day in which he set a career high with 164 yards receiving and also caught a fourth-quarter touchdown pass.

“It definitely does feel more like Seahawks football because of the fact that we ran the ball in the manner in which we did,” Baldwin said. “That’s our calling card. We want to be able to run the ball, control the game with the ground game. So we were fortunate enough to do that.”

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