More no-huddle Hawks, please
By the time they got the tempo right Sunday, the Seahawks were down 20 points.
Their slow-crawl offense was moving at the speed of a lunar eclipse.
Their defense was reeling. The CenturyLink Field fans not inclined to boo were yawning through an unseasonably dreary performance against the Atlanta Falcons.
Then the Seahawks went to a no-huddle attack that darn near enabled them to pull off one of the most inspiring victories in franchise history.
The bad news: They lost a game, 30-28.
The good news: They found an identity.
The question: What took so long?
Had the Seahawks picked up the pace before falling behind 27-7 in the third quarter, coach Pete Carroll isn’t forced to dial up a wish-and-prayer field-goal attempt with 13 seconds remaining.
“I wanted to give us a chance to win,” Carroll explained of his decision to summon Steven Hauschka for a 61-yard kick on fourth-and-8.
Carroll’s strategy gave second-guessers plenty to ruminate, but calling for Hauschka to launch the Kick Of His Life was not what doomed his team. What doomed the Seahawks was an early inability to recall what worked, and why it worked, during last week’s victory over the Cardinals..
Buoyed by a scoring drive that featured the no-huddle offense against Arizona, the Seahawks had been working on it during practice. Carroll talked about wanting to sustain a quicker tempo on game days. There weren’t any secrets. Nobody should have been surprised when the Hawks finally moved the ball after going no-huddle on their second play of the third quarter.
The surprise is that it took them until the second play of the third quarter to figure out the obvious.
After watching his team’s three-touchdown rally fall short, Carroll was asked if he regretted not implementing the no-huddle at some point in the first half.
“Of course I regret it, sure,” he answered. “I don’t think you can think anything but that right now. As efficient as we have looked when we’ve done it at various times – and you can go all the way back to San Francisco, too – this is something we need to feature.”
What makes the Seattle offense so sluggish in a conventional tempo – and so relentless in a no-huddle?
“I have no idea,” said quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who actually had plenty of ideas.
“It takes the thinking out of it,” he said. “We’ve got a whole bunch of guys that are young. I know for me being a young player, I tend to think a little bit too much and I’ve got so much stuff going through my head – like all the different looks defenses give us – instead of just focusing in on what they’re showing and try to execute that.
“When you do a little no-huddle,” Jackson continued, “opponents tend to think you’re passing the ball a lot. They get in their pass-rush mode and we can run the football effectively like that. And the defense gets tired, so the pass rush is not as good.
“If that’s how we’ve got to do our offense to score points, I guess we’ll do it.”
Operating with a huddle in the first half, the Seahawks ran six times for 5 yards. Speeding things up in the second half, they gained 48 yards on nine attempts.
Same for the passing game: Eight completions for 133 yards in the first half, 17 for 186 in the second half.
Given the glaring contrast of those numbers, it’s fair to wonder why the Seahawks haven’t embraced the no-huddle as their basic scheme instead of employing it as a jump-start device during 27-7 thumpings.
“It’s always to our advantage,” Sidney Rice, among the seven Seattle receivers to catch at least four passes against the Falcons, said of the no-huddle. “We set the tempo. We get up to the line. We don’t give the defense the chance to get their calls in and things like that.
“Next week, hopefully, we’ll start it off in the first quarter.”
The problem with using a no-huddle offense for an entire game is similar to a basketball team full-court pressing and fast-breaking the entire game: Exhaustion.
Rice doesn’t buy it.
“We’re in great shape,” he said. “Receivers and running backs work on that stuff all week during practice so we’re conditioned. I feel like if we decide to go no-huddle the whole game, we’re very capable of doing it.”
Give Carroll this much: He may have been late to recognize the solution to his team’s moribund offense, but he’s not inflexible.
“Obviously, the tempo is effective,” he said. “You saw their guys going down – it was hard on them. It wasn’t hard on us. We just look a lot better in that mode. We’re going to play like that for a while.”
A pedal-to-the-metal offense almost provided the Seahawks with a miracle comeback Sunday. A pedal-to-the-metal offense for four quarters?
Rice is keen on it, and his head coach sounds like he’s warming up to the idea.
As well he should, because the no-huddle already has accomplished what a lot of us thought to be impossible: It’s made the Seattle offense entertaining.