SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 1: Marshawn Lynch #24 of the Seattle Seahawks runs for a score against the Philadelphia Eagles at CenturyLink Field December 1, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Jay Drowns/Getty Images)
In the no-huddle offense, the Seahawks were efficient and at times explosive. After the Week 4 "explosion," Pete Carroll regretted not going to it sooner. And that was before the Week 5 win in New York sent the team optimistically into the bye.
Unfortunately, the no-huddle didn't work nearly as well as intended coming out of the bye. Charlie Whitehurst, not Tarvaris Jackson, started at Cleveland and was overwhelmed as they tried to implement the scheme. They sputtered and scored three points. In Week 8 Whitehurst started again, but not without the same issues he showed a week earlier. The return of Jackson in the second quarter of that game wasn't enough to keep whatever no-huddle momentum was left.
Fast forward to the present: the no-huddle has effectively been phased out of the primary offense - we're talking an average of less than three no-huddle plays per game in the past five (based on the play-by-play scripts). Perhaps consequently, as Danny highlighted earlier today, the rushing attack has exploded.
I touched on the no-huddle during the bye, leaving off on these two questions; "Is the no huddle sustainable and does the 'soulful' connection associated with the scheme have the potential to help move the program along?"
Part of the recent offensive change is much, much less use of the no-huddle, so I'll have to go with 'no' on the first question. Though, I don't think we truly know if it was "sustainable" given what has transpired over the past month-plus because of the discontinuity created by the Jackson injury. How does the scheme work at Cleveland with a healthy Jackson? That was an acknowledged issue during the bye, and I think part of the scheme's undoing. Not to mention it didn't work as well when he came back. It's now pretty much a moot point.
Onto the second question; did the "soulful" connection associated with the no-huddle have a positive impact on the program? Remember, the "soulful" connection achieved within the scheme helped a fragmented group - their discontinuity coming from lack of reps during the lockout and general youth of the line - that needed to do less thinking and more instinctual playing. The goal was to get them coming off of the ball with authority; the better each individual does their job, the stronger the power of the whole - this is where the "long body" came into play. In the no-huddle, this was happening more than it was before they adopted the scheme.
Even with Carroll's expressed desire for the scheme to work, an up-tempo, no-huddle offense was a deviation from the philosophy of featuring a clock controlling running game. Furthermore, there was always an expressed desire by the coaches to improve the rushing attack. One could think the no-huddle isn't a precursor to that, or even a scheme change that would facilitate improvement in the trenches. Fast forward to now; the offensive line is playing more together, better and possess a nasty attitude.
After the loss to Cincinnati, Carroll said the following in the beginning of the post-game press conference:
"We went to our speed game and tried to really tempo it up and force the issue on ourselves little bit and it had not been as productive as we had hoped. So we went back to huddling, playing conventionally, and we did a little better....So we're transitioning here as we figure it out. We made it hard on ourselves with being young early with our guys up front, and we wanted to see if we could help out so we went to our movement/tempo stuff. We had some success with Tarvaris leading the charge, and he's good at it...there is a lot of stuff here we have to work on."
At the time, most of us - (or least I was) - were largely caught up in the loss, and the fact that the Seahawks squandered their opportunity coming out of the bye. But when re-listening to Carroll now, the preceding quote stuck out to me.
I interpret this quote to mean that the switch to the no-huddle scheme was a tool for creating continuity up front. Jackson was knowledgeable in it and successful at the beginning, and they thought maybe this was something worth pursuing. But given what transpired in Cleveland and against Cincinnati, it was clear that it wasn't solid, perhaps more of a patchwork system for getting through this rough time of trying to create and teach the offensive identity.
Apparently the coaching staff saw something in the Week 8 loss that made them decide to flip the switch. Heading into Dallas, getting Lynch and the running game going was a major point of emphasis. It's no secret Tom Cable was brought here in part because it was hoped his attitude would permeate the team and culture. It meant something to the offense when Cable said it was time to take the training wheels off.
Cable talked about the changes after the Ravens game, the second game of improvement; "I think it (a strong running game) builds a mentality that you want your team to have...When you get late into the season, if you can get into 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."
Carroll attributed the changes to simply having more time together; "It's just time. And with the time comes the confidence that they know what they're doing. It's so hard to be aggressive when you're uncertain. They're aggressive right now. They were coming off the football. They were finishing blocks."
"...So I got back in there. I was looking at the offensive line and told them, ‘This is on us.' It doesn't go any further than us. I said, ‘What do you want me to do?' They said, ‘Run.'
No problem. I got in there and pushed the pile for about a 7-yard gain. Guard came back to me and said, ‘I just felt you pushing me.' And I said, ‘You were pulling me.' We just worked together and it was great."
Carroll has said previously that Lynch embodies the mentality that they want to have with both the offense and running game. The offensive line, fullback Michael Robinson and the tight ends want to pave the way for beast mode, too. Seattle used two tight ends in over 70 percent and two back, two tight end in 48 percent of offensive plays against the Eagles. It's a collective mentality.
The Seahawks are 3-2 in their past five playing this style. Playing from ahead makes a difference in the style of play they can have, and they've played from ahead more lately than earlier in the year. When they have a lead, they aren't shy about wanting to continually run the football; 30-plus rushes in five straight, after one such game in the first eight weeks. Consequently, the no-huddle feels like a thing of the past. Now we see the Seahawks playing the style of ball they wanted to play all along: stop the run and run the ball.
During his Friday press conference, Carroll was pretty jazzed about this break because it gives the team another chance to rest. The Seahawks had major health questions coming out of the real bye weeks ago. The increased time off between the Thursday night and Monday night games has created another "bye," as the players were "off" after the game and start again Tuesday. This time around, they have one major question in what to do at left tackle after the Russell Okung Injury. Before the break Carroll mentioned Paul McQuistan, but Seattle has untested depth in Allen Barbre and rookie Jarriel King, a player Carroll spoke of as "another draft pick" earlier in the year. Are they a factor?
Additionally, he said he told the players their only physical activity should be the workouts given to them by Strength Coach Carlisle. Carroll also seemed adamant about the fact that his players must make sure they come back on Tuesday focused on finishing the season strong. Basically, use this time to get your mind and body right - presumably meaning nothing "extracurricular" as well.
Carroll praised the aggression of the offensive line in their scheme; the no huddle, passing attack was an aggressive scheme. There is a commonality in the aggressive mentality it takes to successfully use both. Though they have recently abandoned the no-huddle, they have maintained the aggressiveness and continuity that may have been gained through that phase, even despite the injuries - a testament to the improved depth.
After the loss to the Redskins, I thought it was apparent the Seahawks were struggling when in the hurry up offense since the abandonment of the up-tempo style. Do they mix in a little more throughout the game to help find the rhythm, so they have a better one when they need it; there is certainly a medium between coming out and using it on the first play of the game and their recent clip.
On a greater scale; did the shift to the no-huddle during weeks 3-5 occur because the offense was behind where the coaching staff wanted/hoped/thought they would be, and therefore thought the no-huddle was a useful tool until a certain point? Was the intention, if there really even was even one, to use one of Jackson's strengths as a potential remedy for a weakness of the offensive line?
Have we hit a point where the coaching staff decides to attempt expanding the offense into a more mixed-tempo attack by including some no-huddle, potentially in hopes of learning information that will ultimately help them in the offseason?
Do they simply try to hammer home the running game, hoping that despite the injuries they can solidify the foundation of the mentality for the future? Hopefully these next four games will provide some answers heading into what could be an offseason full of question marks surrounding the rushing attack, and the entire offense.