In the Seattle Seahawks 5-14 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, the blocking by the offensive line was a major issue. Although Thomas Rawls only gained 38 yards on 12 carries, he actually ran well. Unlike last week versus the Eagles, Rawls did not miss any reads and on multiple busted plays turned negatives into positives.
We'll start with Rawls' first carry, 7:34 remaining in the first quarter. Seattle runs a two-back outside zone to their right with fullback (46) Will Tukuafu lead-blocking for Rawls.
After the snap, (93) Gerald McCoy penetrates immediately through the weakside A-gap between center (53) Joey Hunt and left guard (63) Mark Glowinski.
McCoy uses his right arm to shed Glowinski's block since Joey Hunt didn’t help execute the combination block properly. McCoy, after the shift, is partially Hunt’s responsibility on the backside. This is what forces Rawls to cutback early. Rawls spins out of the tackle turning a three-yard loss into a one-yard gain.
The same exact thing happened in Rawls' second carry with 1:04 remaining in the first quarter.
The Seahawks run inside zone to the right. Gerald McCoy once again beats Glowinski to his reach block. Just like the previous play, this was after McCoy shifts pre-snap, so Hunt needs to recognize and help Glowinski with the combination. This again is what forces Rawls to cut early. After Rawls spins away from the tackles of McCoy and (91) Robert Ayers, he gains seven yards staying on his feet showing excellent elusiveness.
Together these plays should have been stopped for negative seven yards, but Rawls used body control and his elusiveness to gain eight yards instead. This is a net 15-yard difference between what the offensive line blocked for him versus what he gained on the ground.
The Seahawks couldn't keep relying on Rawls to create on his own, so Darrell Bevell made some changes to spark the run game. Starting in the middle of the second quarter, Bevell switched formations from Singleback to Shotgun and exclusively ran read-option when Thomas Rawls was in the game with Russell Wilson.
This change drastically helped the Seattle’s run game were the Seahawks used Wilson's threat as a runner to allow Rawls to gain 3.9 yards per carry instead of just a meager 2.2.
Rawls' largest gain on the day was for eight yards with 3:53 remaining in the third quarter. Wilson ran the read-option determining that the correct course of action based on the edge defender’s position was to hand the ball off to his running back.
Rawls gains five yards before first contact and then an additional three yards after slipping the tackle and falling forward.
While this switch to a read-option based running game did help the Seahawks, the offensive line still relies on blocking execution upfront when the edge defender doesn’t fall for the bait.
In the fourth quarter at 12:36 remaining, the backside edge defender plays contain properly forcing Wilson to hand the ball off to Rawls. Rawls aims his run towards Joey Hunt and Mark Glowinski’s combination block on Bucs’ third-string defensive tackle (70) Sealver Siliga, who you may remember.
After Hunt disengages to get to the linebacker, Glowinski loses the point of attack allowing Siliga to toss him aside to tackle Rawls for a minimal gain.
This was a poor game for the entire offense and while Wilson had one of the worst performances of his career, the entire o-line was awful and not able to create consistent holes for Rawls to run through. By my tracking, if Rawls ran exactly what the offensive line blocked for him, he would have gained just 16 yards on 12 carries. Due to his speed and elusiveness, he gained an additional 22 yards after first contact either by slipping a tackle or by fighting for extra yards.
If the Seahawks can fix their run blocking and Rawls stays healthy, he showed the potential coaches saw in him last season. Like we discussed in my Noah Spence versus George Fant article earlier this week, Seattle started three rookies on their offensive line, the worst shape they’ve been in all year which is saying something.
While Hunt played decent, the team hopes that Justin Britt returns healthy this week or they will be in for a rough game versus the Carolina Panthers 5th ranked run defense.