The run game is Seahawks’ offensive identity, but it hasn’t found its footing

Sep 23, 2019, 9:10 AM | Updated: 10:35 am
Seahawks RB Chris Carson...
Top Seahawks RB Chris Carson has fumbled in each of Seattle's first three games. (Getty)

In Week 3 of the 2018 season, something clicked for the Seattle Seahawks’ offense.

Saints 33, Seahawks 27: O’Neil’s column | Notebook | 710 reacts | Recap

Prior to that game, the Seahawks – a team that had committed to revamping the run after one of its worst rushing seasons under head coach Pete Carroll – called for a combined 30 carries across two contests, with lead running back Chris Carson seeing seven in Week 1 and six in Week 2. In neither outing did the team surpass 75 yards on the ground.

But in a game against the visiting Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 23, Seattle launched headfirst into the run. Carson finished with 102 yards on 32 carries, both career highs, and the Seahawks beat the Cowboys 24-13.

“We were trying to get to our formula, and we just didn’t get started well in the first couple games,” Carroll said afterward. “But this is how we want to play. We couldn’t be any more specific about it: We want to run the football, we want to play defense, and use the kicking game as much as we can to control the field.”

Following that win, the Seahawks didn’t have a game with fewer than 150 rushing yards until Week 12. By season’s end, Seattle led the league in rushing yards per game (160) and Carson became the first Seahawks running back to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a single season since 2014 (Marshawn Lynch). The Seahawks’ approach under new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer drew its share of criticism – the team was occasionally deemed predictable, conservative and inflexible. But the approach also got Seattle to 10 wins, enough for a trip back to the postseason.

So entering the 2019 season, the Seahawks have knew exactly what kind of offense they wanted to be. And at times it’s worked. Carson rushed for one touchdown and caught another in Week 1, exemplifying Schottenheimer’s goal to get Carson more involved in the passing game. And in Week 2, Carson and Rashaad Penny finished with 60 and 62 yards, respectively.

But as of the close of Week 3 – which ended with a 33-27 loss to the New Orleans Saints – the Seahawks’ offense has been uneven in its execution.

Seattle’s success in the run last year hardly seems fluky, yet the Seahawks haven’t found their footing in 2019. Returning to form will mean correcting a few mistakes that have kept them from a dominant performance.

“There was a reason it just wasn’t clicking,” center Justin Britt said after Sunday’s 33-27 loss to the New Orleans Saints. “Which is weird because coming off last year, we’re so used to just being able to run the ball well. Especially in short yardage, we’ve got to do better. I can just keep going and going. We just got to get back to practice and see what we can be better at and just do it. Come out next week ready to fight.”

Eliminating turnovers is undoubtedly one focus; the typically sure-handed Carson has three fumbles through three games, matching his total number of fumbles in all of 2018. Both Britt and left tackle Duane Brown have talked about the need to better their protection up front, which Seattle admittedly did against New Orleans. Coaching mistakes Sunday were also a factor (something Carroll attested to postgame), as was the situation in the game itself, which at one point saw the Saints extend their lead to 20 points.

If there’s reason for hope for fans, it’s that the Seahawks’ season is – quite literally – just getting started.

“This is one game,” Carroll said after the loss, the first of the year for Seattle. “Maybe this is the one game that we learn from and we grow from and we can put this one behind us, and we can turn things in the right direction.”

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Stacy Rost on Twitter.

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The run game is Seahawks’ offensive identity, but it hasn’t found its footing