Seahawks' run-first approach stalls offense in loss

The Seattle Seahawks entered Saturday’s playoff meeting with the Dallas Cowboys with the league’s No. 1 rushing offense.

That same commitment to the run might have been their undoing.

Seattle ran just 52 offensive plays and lost the time of possession battle by a wide margin (34:50 to 25:10) in a 24-22 loss to Dallas. The Seahawks gained less than half of their weekly average of 160 rushing yards, finishing with 73 on 24 attempts. Twenty-eight of those 73 yards came on one Rashaad Penny toss. The next play resulted in a loss of seven yards for Penny.

Still, Seattle stuck with the run, slamming Chris Carson into a Dallas wall 13 times for 20 yards. Mike Davis received mostly goal line carries, but also gained just 10 yards on four carries. Wilson rushed three times for 14 yards, including his read-option touchdown from four yards out. In all, the rushing attack was a major disappointment.

That, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said afterward, is why they couldn’t pass the ball more often.

"The crux of the matter was third down," Carroll said. "You don’t get the third down conversions, you don’t get your next shot to call all of your stuff. Your gameplan gets left in the bag a little bit. That’s just how it always has gone. We just have a hard time on third down."

But what about running on first and second down? Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will undoubtedly be criticized for his playcalling, much of which resembling the predictable run-run-pass order for first, second and third down, often resulting in three-and-outs. A lack of success on those run-run downs also sets a team up with unlikely third-down conversion attempts, which Carroll was explaining.

"Nothing was popping," Carroll said of the running game. "It just wasn’t as good so the third downs weren’t where we wanted them to be."

Doug Baldwin, who finished with three catches for 32 yards (including an incredible toe drag for a key first down), was at a loss for words when asked if he was pleased with the offense’s direction.

"I don’t know, to be honest with you," Baldwin said. "To be completely honest with you, we hear the play call, we run the play and we do the best with the play call that’s given to you. In those moments, you don’t think about it. You’re just doing whatever you have to do to make that play successful. So, I can’t answer your question."

It sounds as if the Seahawks, who enjoyed a ground-based turnaround of sorts offensively this season after struggling mightily in 2017, might want to take a hard and long look in the mirror at the decisions made by those wearing headsets. In fact, that stare in the mirror could even include a glance to a nearby screen playing Seattle’s final drive, which included Wilson airing it out to Tyler Lockett for 53 yards and a touchdown pass on fourth down.

It appears as if the fluid rebuild that led to major personnel changes but still landed Seattle in the playoffs has equipped the team with enough to succeed. And they still lost by just two points to a defense that has come on strong in the last two months.

But it will be tough for Seahawks fans to accept another outing like this — or accept this one upon second viewing. There seemed to be a sense of underlying displeasure with how the offense was called when Carroll, Baldwin and even Russell Wilson spoke afterward, though none explicitly said so.

Keep an eye on this staff as they hit the offseason.

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