It was easy to fall into the trap thinking: The Seahawks’ offense had put up 35 points against a tough Arizona defense, so they should be able to score two or three touchdowns against the St. Louis Rams, right?
Not so fast.
Russell Wilson and company moved the ball pretty well at times, amassing 354 yards, but they turned the ball over twice and otherwise shot themselves in the foot as they were blanked on the scoreboard in the first half for the first time since 2011. They needed some help from the defense in the second half, too.
A week after rushing for 267 yards on 34 carries, the Hawks tallied just 132 on the same number of runs vs. St. Louis. And Wilson, who was sacked just once and hit a mere four times by Arizona, was sacked three times and hit seven by the Rams, not including a big hit he took on a first-half run.
So, it appears the Arizona game was an anomaly, and the true Seattle offense remains the one that struggles to sustain drives and score touchdowns. In three of the six wins to close the season, the Hawks scored just one offensive touchdown.
But Pete Carroll is not concerned, especially when the Hawks faced Arizona’s No. 5 scoring defense, San Francisco’s No. 10 scoring defense and St. Louis’ red-hot unit, which ranked second to Seattle in points allowed since Week 9 thanks to consecutive shutouts of Oakland and Washington.
“Well, we surely witnessed how difficult the NFC West is in the last month and half,” Carroll said. “To finish this season against those defenses, and to be able to get through those games and get wins is really a tremendous accomplishment for us. That just shows you how difficult it is.”
The offensive struggles are unsurprisingly similar to the issues the unit had at the end of last season, when they also had trouble scoring against the tough defenses in their division.
But, just like last year, there are many reasons for optimism as the playoffs approach.
While they could face Detroit’s No. 2 defense in the divisional playoffs, they also could host Carolina (21st) or Arizona — defenses they have seen already. And it will be even easier for the offense if Green Bay (13th) or Dallas (15th) reach the NFC title game.
Plus, the Seahawks have more weapons — thanks to young backups who have emerged in recent weeks.
Paul Richardson, their top pick this year, has been at the forefront of that young cadre. He led the Hawks with five catches for 60 yards Sunday, continuing his late-season surge. His leaping 32-yard catch in the third quarter helped the Hawks finally get on the board with a field goal.
With Jermaine Kearse out with a hamstring injury, Kevin Norwood was active for the first time in three weeks and caught two passes for 34 yards.
“Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood were lights-out,” Wilson said. “They made some big-time catches. Paul Richardson going down the sideline, making that catch. He makes a scramble play, makes a big-time catch. Kevin Norwood gets that third-down play when we really needed it. Those guys just keep showing up. They keep being on time. They keep working, they keep studying, they keep learning. That’s what you’re looking for. We’re going to need that in the playoffs. We’re going to need those guys to be big time for us.”
They will need other role players, too, such as Robert Turbin and tight ends Luke Willson and Tony Moeaki.
Turbin has filled in well for Marshawn Lynch, who continues to battle torso spasms — whether back or stomach. Turbin carried the ball 11 times for 53 yards vs. the Rams.
Willson followed up his best game with one of his worst, dropping two passes and failing to extend past the down marker on a third-down catch. Moeaki returned after missing a game due to injury. He caught one pass for 21 yards and figures to see more balls in the playoffs.
With a week off, the Hawks also expected to regain the services of Kearse, center Max Unger and tight end Cooper Helfet — meaning they should have their entire offense healthy for the first time since Week 5.
And, even though the Hawks struggled down the stretch yet again, Carroll thinks facing strong defenses will toughen up his offense.
“If you’re not playoff-ready after that run of these last bunch of games,” he said, “nothing can get you ready.”