‘We really felt Thomas today’: Rawls returns to Seahawks’ backfield, which he’ll now have to lead
Nov 21, 2016, 1:14 AM | Updated: Dec 5, 2016, 12:59 pm
Thomas Rawls caught the pass in the flat and turned up field at full speed, putting him a collision course with an Eagles defender. Anyone who has ever watched the Seahawks’ second-year running back and his inclination for seeking out contact could have predicted what happened next. Rawls, with no use for the nearby sideline, lowered his shoulder into Nigel Bradham, delivering a blow that knocked the 240-pound linebacker on his rear end to finish off a 9-yard gain.
Rawls looked like his usual self on this play and others Sunday, gaining 88 yards on 17 touches in his return from a fibula injury.
“I thought Thomas looked great,” coach Pete Carroll said following the Seahawks’ win over Philadelphia. “He was hitting it. He was getting tired. He had to come back out there and hang in there tough. It was great to see him play football. He’s a marvelous kid, and we saw exactly what we wanted to see. He was attacking and getting after it. A couple of great cuts to bust a couple runs, too. I thought it was a great first game for him.”
The Seahawks will need more like it with their backfield suddenly depleted by injuries.
Seattle’s plan was to ease Rawls back in on Sunday as he returned from a cracked fibula that had sidelined him for the last seven games. And that’s what the Seahawks did at first. C.J. Prosise made his second straight start and got most of the work through the first two quarters. But he went down in the closing seconds of the first half with a shoulder injury then Troymaine Pope sprained his ankle in the third quarter, leaving Rawls to carry the load for the remainder of the game as Seattle’s only available tailback. He played 40 snaps on offense, way more than Seattle would have preferred in his first game back.
“I’m not sure if that was in the game plan, but like I tell you guys, whatever it takes,” he said. “I think with a mentality like that and my work ethic, it doesn’t matter. Whatever it takes to help these guys. I also know that a couple guys went down in the backfield and I’ll be praying for those guys. But in the meantime, I’m going to have to hold down this backfield. No pressure.”
— Brady Henderson (@BradyHenderson) November 21, 2016
Prosise’s injury sounds serious. Carroll said he’s “going to be out for a while” and that he “he’ll have a chance to make it back,” which suggests there’s an equally if not greater chance that he doesn’t. Carroll called it a “bit of a high-ankle sprain” for Pope, which means he could be out for a matter of weeks himself.
The Seahawks entered Sunday with one of the worst rushing offense’s in the NFL, averaging 77.7 yards per game (30th) and 3.3 per carry (31st). They ran for a season-high 152 yards against Philadelphia, nearly half of them coming on Prosise’s 72-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. That play helped push their yards-per-carry average to 5.1 in this game.
Rawls finished with 57 yards on 14 carries for a 4.1 average. Prosise gained 8 yards on the play that preceded his long touchdown.
“There’s no question that C.J. got us started with a great couple runs,” Carroll said, “but we really felt Thomas today. It was great to have him back out there. It’s a good thing. The bad thing is that C.J. got hurt today.”
Prosise’s emergence and Rawls’ return were among the reasons the Seahawks last week waived Christine Michael, who had been there leading rusher and starter for most of the season before being passed up on the depth chart. He was then claimed by Green Bay, which means he’s not an immediate option to reinforce Seattle’s depth at running back.
Rookie Alex Collins, inactive on Sunday, will take on a bigger role. The Seahawks will have to sign at least one and probably two running backs this week, depending on what they learn about the timetables for Prosise and Pope.
Rawls said he spoke with Prosise after the rookie went down.
“I just told him just bounce back from it and if he needs me I’m going to be here for him the whole way,” Rawls said. “He also knows that I’m going to hold it down back here while he’s away. So best of luck to him and I’ll make sure I keep him up, his spirits high.”