Over the past several years the Seattle Seahawks have transformed from a bullying defensive juggernaut that played a physical style of football to a pass-happy offense centered around Russell Wilson.
That changed Sunday.
In the Christmas Eve victory over the Dallas Cowboys, Wilson attempted just 21 passes, which is by far his lowest total of the season. In fact, the 21 pass attempts represents the fewest by Wilson in any game since November 9, 2014, when he threw just 17 passes in a 38-17 shellacking of the New York Giants. Prior to the game against the Cowboys, Wilson had averaged 35.9 passing attempts per game in 2017, with a previous low of 26 attempts. If Sunday is any indication, the days of slinging the ball all over the field may be finished for the time being.
The Seahawks are 0-3 this season when Wilson throws at least 42 passes, but they are also just 2-2 when he throws 30 or fewer. It’s really just a matter of how the game is flowing and how much of that is in relation to Seattle actually controlling the pace of the game; Sunday definitely did not feel like the Seahawks offense was controlling anything. But no matter how many times he throws it, Wilson must still make the most of the times when he does -- the team improve to 7-1 when he has a rating above 85, compared to 2-5 when he makes mistakes and is less efficient.
In spite of a sputtering run game that failed to generate much productivity against Dallas, the Seattle offense continually called ran run play after run play, giving the running game one of its heaviest workloads all season, even though it wasn’t working. In addition, the game concluded without J.D. McKissic having caught a single pass or taking a single handoff for the first time in months. Since bursting onto the scene in Week 4 against the Indianapolis Colts, McKissic had been a threat as both a runner and a receiver averaging nearly seven touches a game. However, with the season on the line, Carroll sat McKissic for much of the game and gave the available carries to Thomas Rawls.
Combining the drastic reduction in passing by the offense with the rejuvenation of the defense, the team appears to have potentially returned to the style of football Pete Carroll brought when he arrived in Seattle. Whether this represents a long term trend, or simply a last gasp effort to salvage the 2017 season remains to be seen, but the unmistakable takeaway from the game against the Cowboys appears to be the recommitment to the running game.
Dallas ranks 23rd against the run by DVOA, whereas the Arizona Cardinals rank third. It couldn’t possibly be exactly the same game plan.
That may be greatly upsetting to many fans, because a recommitment to the ground game likely means no less than another season of Tom Cable. With Wilson having already tied a career high in interceptions while posting career lows in Y/A and AY/A.
We don’t know if the team remains recommitted to the running game in Week 17, but there can be no question that the Week 16 victory over Dallas was a lot more reminiscent of Seahawks football from four or five years ago than anything seen in the past couple of seasons. Hopefully it can also spark a revival of the team’s postseason success as well, but before that even becomes a possibility, the team needs things to fall its way in the final afternoon of the season.