After a 16-point performance by the NFL's top-scoring offense last Sunday, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll made it clear his team was in need of more balance.
"We need to continue to run the football," Carroll explained Monday. "We want to continue to always work for the balance. I know all of the publicity has gone towards the throwing game and Russ has had huge numbers starting this thing off. We are still probably close to the highest scoring team in the NFL and we expect to get back to that. We need all of our offense to get that done."
For some teams as beleaguered by injuries as Seattle, staring down a short week of preparation before Thursday Night Football, that might seem an insurmountable task. But the Seahawks benefited from the return of veteran running back Carlos Hyde and an "unbelievable" amount of preparation, according to Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Seattle beat Arizona 28-21 to move to 7-3 and remain on top of the NFC West.
After two games rife with turnovers and stagnant offensive production, the Seahawks found the balance they'd been searching for. Seattle ended Thursday with 165 yards rushing and 197 yards receiving. They protected the football and avoided turnovers. Hyde rushed for 79 yards and one touchdown in his first game back since Week 7. The dynamic wide receiver tandem of Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf each connected with Wilson in the end zone.
Two weeks ago, Pete Carroll labeled his team's performance "unrecognizable." Thursday's primetime win looked much more familiar.
"It felt like the Seahawks," Carroll said postgame. "It felt like the Seahawks that we've all seen over the years. Carlos (Hyde) did a great job tonight. He did exactly what we needed. We needed him to run hard and run tough, knock people backwards and make extra yards with his juice. And the guys up front responded with him. I don't know – he had 80 yards or something like that. That was a really good contribution to this effort tonight, and it balanced us out. Just like we talked about. Russ didn't have to throw for 400 yards to have a big night. He had a big night throwing for just under 200."
Wilson headed into the week focused on simplifying his approach, making smart in-game decisions and preparing for Arizona's formidable defense. Despite being somewhat depleted on their defensive line, the Cardinals entered Thursday's game ranked ninth in defensive efficiency, according to Football Outsiders. "They are a great defense," Wilson explained. "They had all these different pressures, all these different things that they do, so much versatility that they do. And we really did a good job of protecting it and blocking it up and doing some things and being prepared."
The separation is in the preparation, Wilson will tell you. He ended the night 23 for 28 for 197 yards and two touchdowns.
"I thought Russ did exactly what he said he was going to do," Carroll explained. "He came back and tried to play really good, solid football and make sure he made really good, quick, decisive decisions. Did it. His scrambles were really effective tonight. His movement was great. I thought all of his decision making was excellent. He didn't force anything. He didn't put us in any kind of harm at all and had a great night of football."
Speaking of those scrambles, Wilson added 42 yards rushing on 10 attempts. With Carlos Hyde in the backfield, Wilson was able to audible and get creative. "We had a lot of amazing runs and that controls the game," Wilson explained. "We got to a lot of checks, a lot of plays. Changed the plays a bunch and got to some really cool runs. Coach Schotty and I were on it all day, just communicating."
Hyde, for his part, was excited to be back on the field after missing three weeks with a hamstring injury. His approach this week was simple. "It's my first game back," Hyde said. "I just wanted to play clean. I'm not trying to do anything out of the ordinary. Just run the ball, protect Russ and just keep it going. Catch the ball well. That was just my mindset coming in."
Hyde's physicality was missed in his absence, and it was on display Thursday. Perhaps most evidently on a 15-yard run he had in the third quarter. Hyde bowled over All-Pro cornerback Patrick Petersen as he was pushed out of bounds at the 2-yard line. On the next play, Hyde ran it into the end zone for a score.
"The run, that is just part of my game – running physical, running hard," Hyde said. "Guy gets in my way right there at the end zone, I got to go through him right there. Don't take anything away from Pat Pete. Great player right there. But he was in the way of the end zone so unfortunately, had to lay the boom on him."
The Seahawks offensive line also did remarkably well, considering rookie Damien Lewis stepped in at center for the first time in his career. Kyle Fuller got the start for Ethan Pocic (concussion) last week against the Rams, before sustaining a high-ankle sprain. Carroll tasked Lewis with the start on Thursday, and despite a few penalties, the head coach was extremely impressed with his performance. "Of course, right off the bat he gets in trouble on a play and had a couple penalties tonight," Carroll said. "His head was full of all kinds of thoughts. It was a marvelous job by him to pull that off. He started working it last week. He had been taking snaps during the early season and stuff, but because of the injuries last week, he had to get ready maybe to back up. So now he's forced into action and he pulled it off. And what an effort. He's a really, really good football player. He's really smart and he's so poised. He handled it really well and he will only get better. That just makes him that much more versatile."
The Seahawks now have a few days to rest up before heading across the country to face the Eagles on Monday Night Football. Now that Hyde has returned to the fold, Seattle awaits the return of running back Chris Carson. Carson missed several weeks with a foot injury, but Carroll is optimistic on his recovery timetable. "Chris will play next week, unless he has a setback, he'll be ready to go," Carroll noted.
That is great news for Seattle as they look to build on Thursday's performance and maintain a balanced offensive attack. "You could see the field that Carlos gives us," Carroll said. "That's what we've been looking for. That's what we've been talking about. That's what Chris brings. And we are a whole different team and style when those guys are pounding away at it."
The best photos from Seahawks vs. Cardinals at Lumen Field. Fueled by Nesquik.