Sure, the Seahawks finally finished an opponent Thursday, dominating the San Francisco 49ers like they did last year, but the Seattle offense still functioned only about half as well as it should. And Pete Carroll knows things have to change if the Seahawks are going to win another Super Bowl this season.
Russell Wilson was sacked five times and Marshawn Lynch had to fight too hard for most of his 122 yards. While the line gave the running back some good cutback lanes early on the first drive, it took five tries for him to score from the 3-yard line. In fact, about half of Lynch’s 27 runs went for three yards or less. That explains why his teammates were so fired up by his performance — he did most of it himself.
Carroll thinks Seattle’s mostly neophyte line is getting better at run blocking, based on Lynch’s best game of the season and the 200-yard rushing day at Cincinnati a couple of weeks ago. But the simple fact is the unit is still far too inconsistent. And it is pathetic at pass blocking.
According to Carroll (as told to 710 ESPN on Friday), “The last couple of weeks have been our best couple weeks of coming off the football. So that means we’re getting better. … I think in the last two weeks, if nothing else has happened, we’ve captured the sense for how our guys can come off the football and how we can make our backside blocks available to the running back. You saw Marshawn cut back a couple of beautiful times and make some big runs, just like we saw in Cincinnati too with Thomas (Rawls). Those things are starting to happen. That’s what a really big-time running team does. We’ve counted on that for years.”
Even if he is right about the running game, which somehow ranks second in the NFL, he has to admit the pass protection continues to stink. Seattle has given up a league-high 31 sacks — a pace for 71, which would be fourth most in NFL history.
“We’re still making progress,” Carroll said. “We’ve got to make more progress in this pass protection thing. It’s something we’ve got to get right if we’re going to have the consistency there as well. It hasn’t quite happened yet, so we’ve got a lot to improve.”
When Positive Pete admits it, you know it’s a dire situation.
Wilson was sacked five times by the 49ers, and they all were the line’s fault. Alvin Bailey, replacing a hobbled Garry Gilliam at right tackle for a while, gave up two easy ones. J.R. Sweezy whiffed as well, and Wilson got hit eight times total.
Here’s the odd thing: Even though Wilson has been sacked more than any QB, he is completing 69.6 percent of his passes — fifth best in the NFL. He has been culpable for some of the sacks in other games, holding the ball too long or bailing too early or failing to find the correct receiver. But he has helped the Seahawks take the lead in every game despite a line that has been dismal much of the time and an offensive coordinator who still has not figured out that the best way to help Wilson is to run misdirection plays and quit being so predictable.
Carroll seemingly has figured that part out — finally.
“We need to quicken our rhythm up and take the pressure off those (linemen) some, because we’re just not doing as well as we need to at this point,” he said. “We’re going to just mix our rhythms.”
He pointed out the misdirection play-action pass that set up Wilson’s 43-yard TD pass to Tyler Lockett vs. the 49ers.
“Russell is standing back there, 10 yards from anybody,” Carroll said. “We want to see that a couple of times a game. We want to make sure the rhythm is fast and the ball is out, so we don’t call on our guys to have to hold their blocks as long. We’ll continue to improve fitting that together. It needs to be emphasized more clearly; I need to do a better job of that.”
It’s about time Carroll realized that the coaches need to help Wilson out more.
We can only hope Carroll tells Darrell Bevell to use more of the misdirection plays — play action off sweeps, bootlegs, fake reverses, backside screens, etc. — that have worked the few times they have run them. And they need to continue to send Jimmy Graham vertical, as they have the past couple of games (Wilson hit him for a 23-yard gain on a pop pass up the seam vs. the 49ers).
If they do that this week in Dallas and beyond, the Seahawks will have a great chance to win the Super Bowl again.