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A running start
The general feeling after the Seahawks rushed for a season-high 162 yards against the Dallas Cowboys last week was a collective, “It’s about time.”
From head coach Pete Carroll; to assistant head coach/offensive line coach Tom Cable; to offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell; to the young linemen; to Marshawn Lynch, who contributed 135 hard-running yards to the effort.
The almost immediate follow-up emotion? Now, let’s build on that.
“Just keep doing what we’re doing,” Cable said when asked about the goal for this week. “Just work to get better every Sunday. At some point, when it kind of all comes together, this thing’s going to take off and be pretty cool.”
This Sunday, however, that might be easier said than done, because the Seahawks’ opponent at CenturyLink Field will be the 6-2 Baltimore Ravens. They rank No. 2 in the NFL in total defense, allowing an average of 279.4 yards; No. 3 in rushing defense, allowing an average of 86.8 yards; and are tied with the Seahawks for the second-best per-carry average in the league (3.4).
That’s the same Baltimore Ravens who also boost a strength-up-the-middle trio of Pro Bowl players in tackle Haloti Ngata, linebacker Ray Lewis and free safety Ed Reed. Throw in Pro Bowl linebacker/rush-end Terrell Suggs and 349-pound nose tackle Terrence Cody, and it’s a formidable group Lynch and the Seahawks will be running into on Sunday.
“Their football team up front is really, really good,” Carroll said. “Suggs is a fantastic football player and you can’t get any bigger than they are inside. And they play to that, the style plays to that. There’s no better bunch of guys that you’d want to play defense with than those guys.
“They’re all tough. They’re all physical. They’re all strong. And they play with a great attitude and can really make your day hard on you – as they’ve done this year.”
Just ask the Steelers’ Rashard Mendenhall (12 carries for 45 yards and 13 for 52); the Titans’ Chris Johnson (24 carries for 54 yards); the Jets’ Shonn Greene (10 carries for 23 yards); the Texans’ Arian Foster (15 carries for 49 yards); the Jaguars’ Maurice Jones-Drew (105 yards, but on 30 carries); and the Cardinals’ Beanie Wells (22 carries for 83 yards).
“They play a little run defense, now,” is the way Lynch summed up what awaits him.
But the Seahawks can’t back off on intimidation alone. They have to try to continue making strides in their running game because so much else in their season hinges on it as they move into the second half of that season.
“It all starts with attitude and commitment to the running game,” Carroll said. “It’s taken us this long to see the kind of results that we needed to finally see in two of the last four weeks.
“So there’s still not consistency there, but it’s the heart of good football in our approach. Without that, we’re going to always be working towards that.”
Because with a consistently productive running game comes a more balanced offense, and it also makes life easier for the defense because the time of position also becomes more balanced.
“It builds a mentality that you want your team to have,” Cable said of the expanded benefits that come with a strong running game. “Because when you get late in the season, if you can get yourself in a position to become a playoff team or go after your division, you have to be able to do some of those things to win late in the year.”
And that’s definitely the direction Carroll envisions for his team, with the running game leading the way.
“We’re just going to keep banging away at it and it’s going to be a big aspect of our football team,” he said. “Our whole football team will function better when we run the ball better. So we understand that power and we’re trying to harness it and grow with it and have it be a staple of our program as we move forward.”