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The Progression of the Seahawks' Rushing Game

The progression of Seattle's running game is really pretty remarkable.

The Seahawks have gone from having one of the most impotent rushing offenses in the league in the first eight weeks or so to possessing a seemingly effective and efficient ground game the last five. I think it's interesting to take a closer look at each week and compare the beginning of the year to what's happening now. I wrote about this a few weeks ago over at the Seattle site, so I'm borrowing some of that now, and wanted to update it a bit here.

Let's take a look:

Week One, At San Francisco: 22 rushes for 64 yards. 2.9 yards per carry. Marshawn Lynch rushed 13 times for 33 yards (at 2.5 ypc), Justin Forsett 3 times for 3 yards, and Michael Robinson once for 2 yards. The longest 'rush' was actually Ben Obomanu on an end-around for 13 yards.

Week Two, At Pittsburgh: 13 rushes for 31 yards. 2.4 yards per carry. Marshawn Lynch carried it six times for 11 yards. Justin Forsett, 3 for 10 yards, and Leon Washington, 1 time for a loss of 2. Tarvaris Jackson led the Seahawks in 'rushing' with 3 attempts (probably scrambles) for 12 yards. Yeesh.

Week Three, vs Arizona: 30 attempts for 122 yards. 4.1 yards per carry. Marshawn Lynch led the way with 19 attempts for 73 yards on a 3.8 ypc clip. His long run was 23 yards. Leon Washington carried the ball three times for 29 yards, including one 21 yard run. The Seahawks finally got a few 'explosive' plays out of their run game. That's something.

Week Four, vs Atlanta: 15 attempts for 53 yards. 3.5 yards per carry. Marshawn Lynch carried it 8 times for 24 yards, 3.0 ypc. Again, the Hawks never got any traction, playing from behind. Seahawks long carry here was 11 yards by Lynch.

Week Five, at New York: 29 attempts for 145 yards 5.0 ypc. This spells progress. Marshawn Lynch had a big day, rushing 12 times for 98 yards, 8.2 ypc. He padded this number with a 47 yard rush, the longest for the Seahawks on the year to that point. The Hawks averaged 5.0 yards per carry on the ground and got a big upset win.

Week Seven, at Cleveland: 17 attempts for 65 yards, 3.8 ypc. Lynch was a pre-game scratch and Leon Washington carried the ball 7 times for 39 yards to lead the Seahawks. That is 5.6 yards per carry but for some reason the Seahawks didn't run the ball with any regularity, instead passing 30 times with Charlie Whitehurst. Quite unsuccessfully, I might add.

Week Eight, vs Cincinnati: 20 rushes for 61 yards, 3.1 ypc. Lynch carried the ball 16 times for 24 yards. Ouch. Washington carried it twice for 34 yards, which I'll take. The Bengals have a very good rush defense but this game the Seahawks couldn't get anything going, and threw the ball 40 times, a ratio of 2:1 in favor of the pass.

This game coupled with the performance in Cleveland might have been a turning point for the coaching staff in deciding that running the ball was priority number one, outcome of the game be damned.

Week Nine, at Dallas: 30 rushes for 162 yards, 5.4 yards per carry. The Seahawks best rushing performance on the year, and probably in Pete Carroll's tenure. Lynch carried it 23 times for 135 yards (5.9ypc) and the Hawks finally ran the ball as much as they passed (30:30). They lost the game to a good Dallas team, but we saw glimpses of what this offense is capable of on the ground.

Furthermore, the Hawks ran the ball late in the fourth quarter while trailing, which demonstrated the steadfast dedication to creating that offensive identity.

Week Ten, vs Baltimore: 42 rushes for 119 yards, 2.8 ypc. The ypc in this game isn't much but the Seahawks rushed it 42 times to 27 passing attempts and demonstrated they could put a game away by protecting the lead with the run. By pounding the rock on the ground for the final five-plus minutes in the fourth quarter, the Seahawks did exactly what they had set out to do early in the season - create a lead then keep it by grinding clock and wearing down the defense.

I noted after Week Ten that with Paul McQuistan and Breno Giacomini taking over, things were likely, or possibly going to stall a bit. Did they?

Week Eleven, at St. Louis: 39 rushes for 126 yards, 3.2 ypc. Marshawn Lynch was the feature back, as usual. He carried the ball 27 times for 88 yards and a touchdown. Justin Forsett got some late carries and scored on a 22-yard run, boosting the total. Still though, a solid outing considering it was a whole new right side and the passing offense wasn't exactly lighting it up, - TJack passed for 148 yards on 14/24 and a 55 rating. Essentially, the run game won this one for the Seahawks, who also won ToP 35 to 25.

Week Twelve, vs Washington: 30 rushes for 124 yards, 4.1 ypc. Lynch with 24 carries, 111 yards on 4.6 ypc. Lynch also scored on a swing/screen pass for 20 yards.

The Seahawks passed for 30 times for 144 yards, again, pretty lackluster. The run game more or less carried the offense.

Week Thirteen, vs Philadelphia: 33 rushes for 174 yards, 5.3 ypc. Lynch, 22 for 148, 6.7 ypc and a touchdown. With the Seahawks' 172 yard rushing performance on Thursday, Seattle has now rushed for over 100 yards in five straight games, something they haven't done since 2005.

In other words, the last time the Seahawks accomplished that feat was courtesy of soon-to-be NFL MVP Shaun Alexander, on his way to 1,880 yards rushing with 27 touchdowns and a Super Bowl appearance as he ran behind future Hall of Famer Walter Jones and perennial All-Pro Steve Hutchinson.

Ok, so I'm not saying that the Seahawks run game is now as good as the 2005 Seahawks rushing attack - no where near-, but this rather sudden ability to run the ball with consistency is fairly incredible. Another look: -

Week1 - 64 yards
Week2 - 31 yards
Week3 - 122 yards
Week4 - 53 yards
Week 5 - 145 yards
Week 7 - 65 yards
Week 8 - 61 yards

At this point - the Seahawks were dead last in the league in rushing and only had a few outlier games, against the Cardinals Week 3 and against the Giants Week 5, where they flashed some brilliance. Then, something apparently clicked...

Week 9 - 162 yards
Week 10 - 119 yards
Week 11 - 126 yards
Week 12 - 124 yards
Week 13 - 174 yards

So what happened? For one, the no-huddle was essentially fazed out. Pete Carroll noted in interviews that the no-huddle didn't allow them to do all the things they wanted to do so it became less of a focal point after being one of the main tenets of their offense. Secondly, they simply decided to run the ball more.

I was one of the people that was in the school of thought that you can't just run it more to get your run game going. The Seahawks had an awful yards per carry average in the early part of the year - 22 rushes for 2.9 ypc, 13 for 2.4 ypc, 15 for 3.5 ypc, 17 for 3.8, 20 for 3.1...

It just wasn't working the few times the Seahawks decided to run. Lynch was running into piles. The line wasn't getting any push. It was my thinking then that the best way to build the run was to begin passing well - it seemed to work against the Giants in Week Five - the Seahawks passed for 315 yards and two TDs and opened up the running lanes en route to 145 yards on the ground at 5.0 ypc. So, until the Hawks had a passing offense worth fearing, the run game would suffer.

But, the next two weeks the Seahawks would pretty much prove me wrong.

Anyway, this piece sort of just wanted to ask the question, "what did they start to do differently?" "Why did the run game all of a sudden start clicking?" Charlie is putting together a piece on this for later today as well that explores this a bit but I wanted to throw it to you guys too. Let me know what you think.