BRADY HENDERSON

Big games from Seahawks’ Thomas Rawls, Tyler Lockett show they’re back to form after injuries

Dec 5, 2016, 12:04 AM | Updated: 1:01 pm
Thomas Rawls had his best game for the Seahawks since returning from a cracked fibula. (AP)...
Thomas Rawls had his best game for the Seahawks since returning from a cracked fibula. (AP)
(AP)

Pete Carroll saw Thomas Rawls’ big game coming. He even predicted it.

Seattle’s coach raved a few times last week about how Rawls was looking in practice, saying it was evident that the running back was feeling as strong as he has since coming back from the cracked fibula that sidelined him for two months. Rawls had returned to Seattle’s backfield two games earlier, but it wasn’t until this past week that he felt and looked like he was all the way back physically.

Sunday night’s game was proof of that as Rawls rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries in the Seahawks’ 40-7 win over Carolina.

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“Thomas looked like Thomas. I think this was the first time,” Carroll said. “I think I was trying to let you know that there was something different this week about his preparation, the way he felt. He finally got his legs back underneath him and he looked great.”

The Seahawks produced 240 yards rushing and 534 yards of total offense against Carolina, both season highs. The overall production was encouraging on its own given how Seattle’s running game specifically and its offense in general have ranged from underperforming to downright awful at times this season. Also encouraging was who it came against, a Panthers defense that despite not playing as well as it did during the team’s Super Bowl season a year ago still entered Sunday’s game ranked second against the run.

And it was especially encouraging because of two players that it came from. Like Rawls, wide receiver Tyler Lockett looked like he’s back to form after being slowed by an injury earlier in the season.

He filled up the stat sheet with a 75-yard touchdown run on an end-around, five catches for 63 yards – 40 of them coming on a bubble screen – and one kickoff return for 46 yards. That was the type of impact that Lockett was expected to have this season after a stellar rookie year but hasn’t due in large part to the knee injury he suffered in Week 2. It impacted his speed and, for a while, his availability in practice and his playing time.

But a performance like the one Lockett delivered Sunday night felt like it was building given how he has seemed to regain his speed of late. Lockett said he began to feel like himself in Week 6 at Arizona, when he ditched the knee brace he’d been wearing since the injury. It’s looked like it ever since then but never more so than in the third quarter Sunday night, when he outran Carolina’s defense on his 75-yard touchdown.

“I don’t know that I’ve seen a guy look faster than when he finished that run tonight,” Carroll said. “(Safety Michael Griffin) was going to run him down for a second. He knows he had an angle on him and Tyler didn’t let it happen. He just looked unbelievably fast to me from the sidelines. It was a thrill to see that play.”

Rawls had a long touchdown run of his own, breaking free for a 45-yard score in the second quarter. That gave him the first two-score game of his career.

It was a play he may not have made before Sunday night.

Rawls returned two weeks earlier against Philadelphia, rushing for 57 yards on 14 carries (4.1 average). Injuries to C.J. Prosise and Troymaine Pope in that game forced Rawls to play 40 snaps on offense, which was way more than the Seahawks wanted given he was returning from a two-month absence. He felt it the next week, Carroll said, and then rushed for 38 yards on 12 carries (3.2) in Seattle’s loss to Tampa Bay.

Rawls averaged 7.1 yards per carry Sunday night and also had a catch for 12 yards. He missed a stretch during the second quarter while being evaluated for a possible concussion and returned after being cleared.

“I just knew this morning after waking up that I was feeling loose,” Rawls said. “I felt different, I felt lighter on my feet, I felt like I could make some cuts that I wasn’t making at first.”

Carroll wasn’t surprised.

“You could just see it, you could tell it was coming,” he said. “I kind of talked about him in the team meeting last night, that we could see Thomas really go and explode because he had such a great week of preparation. I think he finally felt like he was fully back. He demonstrated it. I thought his runs were fantastic tonight, all kinds of different styles. He made some cuts that were just crazy.

“It was great to see that. We’ve been imagining this, and finally tonight we got to feel it.”

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