56baa6478971bc41a4152cc51707ac05The Seattle Seahawks play the St. Louis Rams this Sunday at CenturyLink Field with another chance at claiming the NFC West Title and along with it, home field advantage through the playoffs. The Seahawks have not been playing to their potential of late, and I have a few thoughts as to why.

Back in the early days of pro football, way before Joe Montana, Bill Walsh and the 49ers West Coast offense, and before Johnny Unitas sophisticated the forward pass as a modern football offensive weapon, most coaches viewed the idea of throwing the ball with trepidation. “Three things can happen when you throw a pass,” they said, “and two of them are bad.”  The forward pass as an offensive option, therefore, was only to be used sparingly and in desperate situations.

My, how times have changed. Professional offensive football today is largely predicated on the forward pass with teams increasingly employing no huddle, quick strike offenses that accumulate vast amounts of yardage and points in an effort to overwhelm the opponent with scoring and speed. Instead of handing the ball off to a half back or fullback the ball is instead thrown by the quarterback to a slot receiver or running back “in space”, giving the receiver a chance to break a tackle or use his moves to create a big play. The offensive passing stats, as a result, mount to great heights.

Marshawn Lynch: Full "Beast Mode"

Marshawn Lynch: Full “Beast Mode”!

Compared to this modern tendency of pro football, the Seattle Seahawks are something of an anachronism. Like the teams of old, as an offensive team they do best when they run the ball effectively. Handing the ball to Marshawn Lynch and letting him go “Beast Mode” has become their offensive constant and is one of the factors, along with a dominant defense, that has fueled the team’s rise to the elite of the NFL. As potent a factor as Lynch is on the ground, however, the Hawks have another lethal weapon when it comes to running the football, and that, of course, is quarterback Russell Wilson. Consider the following data about Wilson:

  • In 2012, Wilson’s first as quarterback, the Seahawks had a record of 11-5 and made the playoffs, a massive improvement over the prior few seasons. In that season, Wilson was the 3rd best rushing quarterback in the league, behind Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton, with 489 yards.
  • This season, through 16 games, Wilson leads the league with 540 yards of rushing as a quarterback. Coincidentally Seattle is 12-3 and tied for the best record in the league.

As can be seen from the above, another factor in the Seahawks’ rise, besides Marshawn Lynch, has been the emergence of Russell Wilson as a quarterback who is a threat to run and who can and does beat you with his legs.  As fans we can all think of instances of this. Remember the Houston Texans game earlier this season, or the Buffalo game last season? Russell Wilson took over that Texans game in the 4th quarter with his legs. There are other examples.

Russell Wilson: On the run!

Russell Wilson: On the run!

Now, let’s take a look at some recent history:

  • The Seahawks have lost 2 of their last 4 games. The two wins came against the New Orleans Saints and the New York Giants. Against the Saints Wilson ran the ball 8 times for 47 yards and against the Giants 8 times for 50 yards.
  • The two losses came against their division rivals, the San Francisco 49ers and last week against the Arizona Cardinals. Against the 49ers Wilson rushed 2 times for 2 yards and against Arizona 2 times for 32 yards.

It’s true that I don’t have access to all the films that the Seahawks players and coaches do and they for sure are much more football smart than I am.  Despite this, it seems to me, based both on the big picture of the last two seasons and the little picture of the last 4 games, that Russell Wilson needs to be running the ball for Seattle 8-10 times a game and not the paltry 2 carries per game he had against the 49ers and Cardinals. I would be interested to hear whatever explanations Carroll and Wilson himself have for why Russell didn’t run more in those games. I have heard Wilson say that he is always looking to pass when he is running around extending plays; that he keeps his eyes down field looking for a receiver and runs only as a last resort.

Well, that is all well and good, IF the receivers are open and IF the pass is completed. That often did not happen against the 9ers and Cards. In last week’s game against Arizona on a 3rd down play in the first half, I saw Wilson roll to his left, and with a wide open, green field before him, try to force a bullet pass to a tightly covered Doug Baldwin for a tip-toe sideline catch. The pass went incomplete and, as they had to do so many times in that game, the Seahawks had to punt. Had Wilson pulled the ball down and taken off he might be running still, the field was that wide open.

The moral of all this is simple. Taking a bit of license with the movie “Forrest Gump”, that moral is… “Run, Russell, run!”

Russell Wilson on the loose strikes fear into the hearts of NFL defenses and their coordinators; and when, for whatever reason, that factor disappears from Seattle’s game day performance, a large part of the Hawks’ offense goes with it. That is, I think, what you saw last week against Arizona and earlier against the 9ers.

Rams Defensive End Robert Quinn: Hide the women and children!

Rams Defensive End Robert Quinn: Hide the women and children!

You will notice I have not discussed Seattle’s opponent in this week’s game much, the St. Louis Rams. That is not because the Rams are not a good team and not because they are not a worthy adversary. They are extremely tough defensively and gave the Seahawks fits earlier this season when Seattle squeaked by them on the road in St. Louis, a game in which Russell Wilson was sacked 7 times. Three of those sacks were by defensive end Robert Quinn, whose stats for the season (a league leading 18 sacks along with 7 forced fumbles) make you want to hide the women and children for this game at “The Clink” on Sunday.

The reason I haven’t talked about the Rams much is that I truly believe that the Seattle Seahawks are the best team in pro football, and when they are right they beat anybody. The New Orleans Saints found that out. Whether or not they beat the Rams in this game depends so much more on Seattle just doing what they do, both offensively and defensively, right; and a huge part of what they do right is when Russell Wilson takes off out of the pocket or on a “read-option” play, and runs with the football. He needs to do that 10-12 times in this game and if he does and the Hawks do their other stuff right, then they are just better than the Rams.

It really is that simple, Hawks fans.

The key to this game is Seattle playing to their potential and Russell Wilson running the ball, so if the Seahawks want to win…then… run, Russell, run!

Go Hawks!

Copyright © 2013

By Mark Arnold

All Rights Reserved

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4 Responses to Week 17 Hawks- Rams Preview: If Seahawks Want to Win-Then “Run, Russell, Run!”—by Mark Arnold

  1. cindy sjoblom says:

    So true Mark! My hubby said the same thing about the last game that Russell didn’t run. I was also wondering why our coach would back off from the winning formula. Lets hope they get back on track for winning, get back in power mode! GO SEAHAWKS!!!

    • Mark Arnold says:

      Thanks Cindy! From where we sit it is hard to know what the coaches and Wilson himself look at, but just going by the stats, when he runs at least 8-9 times a game Seattle is a better team. Gooooo Haawwkkkks!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Steve Rodriguez says:

    Great analysis Mark! I agree, run Russell run! This a piece of the picture that must be properly and wisely integrated.

    My prediction is a 27 to 9 Seahawks victory.

    Go Hawks!!!!!

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