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Running game takes a hit
Just when the Seahawks’ running game is starting to take needed steps in a positive direction, the offense will have to play the remaining seven games without rookie right guard John Moffitt.
The team’s third-round draft choice was injured on the Seahawks’ fourth offensive play in Sunday’s 22-17 victory over the Baltimore Ravens at CenturyLink Field. A magnetic resonance imaging test on Monday confirmed that Moffitt damaged the medial collateral ligament and posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and will need season-ending surgery.
“There is some pretty severe damage in there,” coach Pete Carroll said during his day-after news conference.
The options for replacing Moffitt as the team begins to prepare for this week’s game against the NFC West rival Rams in St. Louis include Lemuel Jeanpierre, who stepped in and played well after Moffitt went down on Sunday; and Paul McQuistan, who started three games at left guard this season when Robert Gallery was out with a groin injury.
“We’ll figure that out,” Carroll said. “We have some issues that we’ve got to figure out before we can decide that.”
After a slower-than-expected start to the season, the Seahawks have run for 162 and 119 yards in their past two games. Moffitt’s improvement was a factor.
“John has been working so hard at it, and has been such a big part, too,” Carroll said. “Good character in the locker room and all, and a good guy. He’s really right at the cusp of where we’re starting to improvement. He would have loved to be part of this to finish the season. So we’re going to miss him.”
The objective now is to not miss a beat regardless of who steps in for Moffitt, as was the case in Sunday’s upset of the Ravens when Marshawn Lynch carried 32 times for 109 yards.
The Seahawks had run for more than 100 yards twice in their first seven games, but now have done it in back-to-back games while facing a Ravens defense that was ranked third in the league against the run and a Dallas Cowboys defense that was ranked No. 4.
“This is a big deal for us,” Carroll said. “We’ve distinctly moved ahead in the last couple weeks. So hopefully we can keep building on that.
“So I think we’re going in the right direction.”
The reasons for the improvement include a more aggressive approach by the blockers – left tackle Russell Okung, Gallery, center Max Unger, Moffitt and Jeanpierre, right tackle James Carpenter, fullback Michael Robinson and tight end Zach Miller.
“It’s just time, and with the time comes the confidence that they know what they’re doing,” Carroll said. “It’s so hard to be aggressive when you’re uncertain. They’re aggressive right now. They’re coming off the football. They were finishing blocks and getting downfield and moving the pile.
“They’re more confidence, so they’re playing faster and they’re more aggressive because of that. That all spells improvement for us.”
Another reason is that Lynch is feeling better after being bothered by nagging injuries earlier. He has rushed for 100-plus yards in back-to-back games, and also scored a rushing touchdown in his past five games.
“Marshawn has been consistent in working hard,” Carroll said. “He’s been a little banged up. He’s a little healthier right now. His ankle was bothering him more before.
“But he could feel it. He came off the field in the first quarter in the Dallas game and you could tell something was different. He could feel the line of scrimmage was different. And he talked about it. It’s just movement in a good positive direction for us.”
The coaches also have committed to the run, despite running into those defenses that had been allowing averages of 86.8 (Ravens) and 93.9 (Cowboys) rushing yards. The Seahawks’ 42 rushing plays on Sunday where the team’s most since Week 3 in 2008, when they ran the ball 46 times for 245 yards in a 37-13 win over the Rams.
“I was thrilled Marshawn got the ball so much yesterday,” Carroll said of Lynch having a team-high five receptions to go with his career-high 32 carries. “We got to see what that’s like when he gets the ball 30-plus times. That’s cool to see that. To see that he could take it and handle it well, and he ran better at the end of the game than he did earlier probably.”
Now, they need to continue taking those positive steps without Moffitt.
“Hopefully with John coming out of there we can pick it up and take off,” Carroll said. “Lem did a good job for us and we know Paul can play, so we don’t feel like we’re going to fall off much.”