Clayton: Seahawks should take note from rivals that strong run game is still key to success

Jan 21, 2020, 4:27 PM
Seahawks RB Chris Carson...
The Seahawks had a strong run game until losing Chris Carson to injury. (AP)

Even though it’s been tough for the Seahawks to watch NFC West teams go to the Super Bowl in the past two years, they learned a lesson: running the football is important.

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Since the divisional round loss to the Green Bay Packers, some Seahawks fans have been critical of the offensive play-calling. Fans supposedly want more from the passing offense. They are crying for a more updated offense that features more of Russell Wilson and less of the running game. What those fans aren’t recognizing is the importance of having a good running game.

Look at the Los Angeles Rams. They went to the Super Bowl last year on the legs of Todd Gurley, the mind of Sean McVay and execution of an offense that started with the run and the fakes and finished with great offensive scoring. And when Gurley’s knee started to betray him and teams started figuring out how to slow down the Rams’ running attack, they were vulnerable.

Even with making it as far as to play for the championship, the Rams struggled through the month of December and were totally stopped in a 13-3 Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots. Then there was less Gurley in 2019 and the Rams failed to make the playoffs.

On to the 49ers. San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan is the best run play-caller in football. His play-calls and the execution of the offensive linemen got the 49ers to the Super Bowl even though they won only two games the previous season. Because of that, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was only asked to throw eight passes in the one-sided win over the Packers in last weekend’s NFC Championship.

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The NFL isn’t going back into the 1970s, when it was all about running the football and defense instead of a quarterback-driven league. Quarterbacks could get away with only throwing 15 passes or less a game. But if you go back to last year, the Patriots used a two-back offense that brought back memories of that decade. It was old school and it was effective. While the season-ending loss of fullback James Develin prevented the Patriots from doing the same this year, it worked last year as the Patriots beat the Rams in the Super Bowl.

Despite injuries along the offensive line and the loss of their top three running backs in the final weeks of the season, the Seahawks rushed for 137.5 yards per game, fourth-best in the league. Look at the teams around them.

• The 14-win Baltimore Ravens led the league with 206 rushing yards a game.

• The Super Bowl-bound 49ers were second with 144.1 and it didn’t matter who they had in the backfield.

• The Tennessee Titans were third with 138.9 and they rode Derrick Henry’s legs to the AFC Championship game.

• Minnesota, Buffalo, Houston and Philadelphia were in the top 11 rushing the football and all made the playoffs.

The Seahawks gave up 24.9 points a game and were behind in most of their games early, and while Wilson was good enough to stage comebacks and get the team to 11 wins and win a playoff game in Philadelphia, Pete Carroll and John Schneider have to figure out what they need to do to make the offensive line better. Pass blocking was a struggle. Still, this team can run the ball and that shouldn’t change.

The key in the offseason is getting better on defense and trying to get the points allowed average closer to 21. Offensively, the Seahawks scored 25.3 points a game. They developed a great No. 2 wide receiver in DK Metcalf and survived injuries at tight end, running back and along the offensive line.

Simply stated, for the Seahawks to make a Super Bowl run, they need to continue to run the ball and get back to the No. 1 spot in the NFC West.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s John Clayton on Twitter.

Previously from John Clayton: Will Seahawks make changes on defense?

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Clayton: Seahawks should take note from rivals that strong run game is still key to success