As was the case with the entire team Sunday, the Seahawks' offensive line did a lot of good things in an eventual overtime loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, but didn't finish out a game in which, for three quarters, it had played its best football of the season.
Yet even if the line, like the rest of the team, failed to finish, there are still positives to build upon moving forward.
"We're really going to try to do that," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "I really like the way we came off the football. I really felt like our style was where it's supposed to be. You saw us attacking the line of scrimmage, and the stuff that we live by showed up and was successful, so we want to keep going, keep doing that so it's important that we stay with it and keep growing. That was a very positive step for us, and we're going to try to capture that as well."
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell was also encouraged, calling it, "Their best game to date. I think they did a really nice job. Their tempo was good, their communication was clean, they were hitting combinations in the run game really well. For the most part in protection, we got it targeted right. The thing about protection is if you've got all five of those guys in the back on the same page, even if it's not exactly right, the quarterback has the ultimate answer. He knows that these are the guys that are taken care of, then here's where my issues are. If everybody is on the same page that way, then you have a better chance of being successful. I think that happened, we were pretty clear on our communication."
Through four games, the Seahawks' offensive line, which features two new starters and a third player who changed positions during training camp, had been the team's most criticized position group. The Seahawks have given up 22 sacks, tied for most in the league, and until Sunday's game, the running game had been good at times, but not up to the high standard set in 2014 when Seattle led the league in rushing.
But for three quarters in Cincinnati, Russell Wilson had time to throw, and Thomas Rawls had plenty of open running lanes, which helped him finish with 169 of Seattle's 200 rushing yards, a total that has the Seahawks once again ranked first in the league in rushing offense.
Offensive line coach/assistant head coach Tom Cable wasn't willing to heap too much praise on his line because of the lack of finish, but he sees a developing group of, from left to right, Russell Okung, Justin Britt, Drew Nowak, J.R. Sweezy and Garry Gilliam, that can continue to grow after an encouraging three quarters in Cincinnati.
"Consistency, then at the end there it just kind of got away from us," Cable said. "Yet there's something to grow on early in the game, and now it's about finishing the game. That's just the bottom line—stay consistent. Just be us, don't try to be anything different. Sometimes when you press or worry, you get out of whack, and we don't want to do that. We just want to stay in our lane.
For the line, which wasn't finalized until midway through camp, one key will be avoiding a situation where it makes progress, then regresses. Leading up to the Bengals game, Carroll noted that his line had been at its best in Week 2, then took a step back in some areas in the next two games.
For Cable, continuing to grow means, "Just owning the consistency and kind of staying the right frame of mind in terms of communication, playing together. Now you're starting to see some of that starting to happen. Britt's getting used to Russ and vice versa, and then Garry and J.R. on their side. Just continue to chip away until you get the consistency and get it right."
While cutting the sack number down is important both for the ability of the offense to function and for Wilson's wellbeing, what might have been most significant from Sunday's game was the rushing total and the way the Seahawks run-blocked.
"The first three quarters was a huge step forward for us," Nowak said. "We were driving our feet, knocking dudes off the ball, creating running lanes for Rawlsey. We were playing our game, then the fourth quarter hit and we needed first downs and didn't get them. That's on us, we've got to be the driving force to finish the game. We shouldn't be putting that on the shoulders of our defense, we need to help them out. If we can put four quarters together like those first three, we'll be pretty tough to stop.
For Cable, playing Seahawks offense, more than anything, means running the ball well. And while getting all five linemen and the entire offense on the same page might not be easy, he's confident that if the Seahawks can build off of what they did in Cincinnati, but do it for four quarters, then the offense will be in good shape.
"We keep chipping away at it to get it right," Cable said. "There's not a lot of people who run the ball like we do, and it takes a lot of patience by us and by coach and by everybody to stay with, because it's hard to do that. It's easier to throw ball because it's flashy—throw it over there, throw it over there and all that. But to run it, you're imposing the human spirit on another man, and that's not always fun, nor is it easy. So it takes time and we'll continue to work that way."