DANNY ONEIL

Seahawks decide it’s time to go with passing attack in win over Bills

Nov 7, 2016, 11:32 PM

Jimmy Graham had two touchdowns in Monday's win as the Seahawks turned to the air to beat Buffalo. ...

Jimmy Graham had two touchdowns in Monday's win as the Seahawks turned to the air to beat Buffalo. (AP)

(AP)

The Seahawks offense is playing with one hand tied behind its back.

And judging from Jimmy Graham’s pair of one-handed touchdown catches against Buffalo, that’s not as impossible as you might think.

It is, however, an improbable offensive formula for a team that ran its way to the top of the league. But that was a different time, and (obviously) a different style of team. This has nothing to do with the retirement of Marshawn Lynch or to the absence of Thomas Rawls or even the presence of Christine Michael.

The Seahawks just can’t run the ball right now. At all. And given the way Seattle threw the ball down the field in the first half on Monday, that’s the route the Seahawks should take – or more specifically the routes the Seahawks should have their best players running.

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Seattle’s biggest threats on offense are a wide receiver who always seems to beat cornerbacks deep even though no one thinks he’s that fast and a tight end who needs only one hand to catch touchdown passes and is also known to leap over defenders in a single bound. Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham, with a quickening Tyler Lockett thrown in for good measure.

It’s time to go.

That was the resolution the Seahawks coaches reached on the way back from that loss in New Orleans.

“We hadn’t even landed,” Carroll said, “and we already decided what we were going to do. We were going to go for it.”

For two months, they had drawn up a game plan to limit the exposure of their injured quarterback. That restraint came in spite of Russell Wilson’s desire to open things up, and finally, after the offense had scored just one touchdown over two games that totaled nine quarters, the coaches reached a decision.

It’s time to go.

That’s exactly what the Seahawks did. Four touchdown drives, three of which consumed less than 2 minutes off the clock and none of which lasted more than six plays.

Seattle looked deep. Often. The Seahawks did that in the first quarter when Wilson completed a 50-yard pass to Baldwin to set up Seattle’s first touchdown. The Seahawks did it in the second quarter, too, when Baldwin drew a pass-interference penalty that set up first-and-goal at the Buffalo 3.

And in the second half, when the Seahawks’ offense sputtered, they were still looking down the field. A pass interference penalty turned out to be the most significant gain in a fourth-quarter field-goal drive, and Wilson narrowly missed what would have been a 31-yard scoring pass to Jermaine Kearse in that period.

This is not the offense that Seattle has grown accustomed to. It hasn’t been for a while, and the fact that Seattle finally got its offense going by letting Wilson drop back and shoot from the hip probably tells you the direction Seattle is going to take in the near future.

Seattle rushed for 33 yards in the game. That’s the fewest the Seahawks have had in any game since Week 2 in 2011 when Seattle was shut out 24-0 in Pittsburgh.

Here’s what the Seahawks have right now: An offensive line whose pass protection is better than anyone expected, but a running game that seems sunk before it started. Christine Michael is the starting running back. The only one of his five carries to gain yardage was his 3-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

Of Seattle’s 33 rushing yards, 13 of those came on a fly sweep to Lockett, a receiver.

And yet this offense, which had scored a total of 19 points in the previous nine quarters, had 28 points by halftime. And while it got close in the second half, the Seahawks still managed to win a game in which an opponent scored 25 points for only the second time since Wilson was drafted in 2012.

This wasn’t the Seahawks offense that we’ve grown accustomed to, but after two months of intermittent, gear-grinding struggles, that was a good thing. Even a coach whose desire to run the ball will never waver saw Seattle’s passing game as a sign of significant progress.

“This is not the format that we want,” Carroll said, “but it’s the format that we have right now, available. I thought tonight was a great illustration of adapting and adjusting.”

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