After helping pave the way for what turned out to be a record-setting rushing performance, Seattle Seahawks center Max Unger was asked how he felt.
“Exhausted,” he said with a chuckle.
That’s understandable. Unger returned from injury and stepped back into the middle of a healthier Seahawks’ offensive line — left tackle Russell Okung also returned from a calf strain — as Seattle rushed its way to a 38-17 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
Unger and Okung, both former Pro Bowl selections, contributed to a Seahawks rushing attack that netted a franchise-record 350 yards on 45 carries — an average of 7.8 yards per attempt. The old record of 320 yards was set on Oct. 16, 2005, in a game against the Houston Texans. Only six NFL teams since 2000 have rushed for 350 or more yards in a game.
“It’s a really good statement for our guys up front,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We saw Max come back and Russell come back, and we have a huge day running the football. … They did a great job up front. It was really exciting to see those guys back together and have that much success.”
Okung said he was “grateful that they really put the game on our backs today as an offensive line, and we were able to show up.”
Saturday’s statistical achievement was a group effort. Marshawn Lynch led the way with 21 carries for 140 bruising yards and four touchdowns. Quarterback Russell Wilson pulled the ball from Lynch’s belly on a handful of successful read-option runs and scrambled efficiently enough to total 107 yards rushing on 14 attempts. Wilson now has rushed for 100 yards or more in three games this season, becoming only the fourth quarterback to achieve that since 1961.
“It seemed like they just had the whole field to run on,” Giants defensive end Cullen Jenkins said. “It was bad.”
Christine Michael, relegated to the inactive list for much of this season, sprinted 45 yards up the right sideline late in the fourth quarter and finished with 71 yards on four carries. And Robert Turbin added 32 yards on six carries, though he also lost a fumble for one of the Seahawks’ three turnovers.
“It was really fun to see Christine get out and get some space,” Carroll said. “You saw him on the edge a couple times. He really showed his burst on the big run he had.”
Regaining 40 percent of their starting offensive line didn’t hurt. Unger missed the Seahawks’ last four games with a foot sprain he suffered late in Seattle’s victory over Washington on Oct. 6, and Okung missed last week’s win over Oakland. Alvin Bailey started at left guard in place of the injured James Carpenter (ankle) and, Unger said, “stepped up and did a great job.”
Unger said afterward that it was “interesting” playing a full game after only practicing three days in the last four weeks. But the Seahawks certainly weren’t any worse for it.
Told that teammates — and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell — credited him for shoring up communication on the offensive line, Unger cracked that “they’re just being nice.”
“They’ve been out there putting the work in, and I’ve just got to kind of come back and make it all work, smooth the edges out, make the communication rock solid and make sure we’re all on the same page,” Unger said. “That’s kind of really what my job is.”
He must have done it well enough.
“They know this system like the back of their hand,” right guard J.R. Sweezy said of Unger and Okung. “You’ve got guys in there like that — Pro-Bowlers — it obviously helps. We were all on the same page today, and it showed.”
The Seahawks rushed for 201 yards in the second half alone. Lynch set the tone on the first play of the third quarter, running through a couple of tackle attempts for a 22-yard gain. He later scored on runs of 16 and 3 yards.
Wilson, who made effective decisions all game on read-option plays, scored Seattle’s final touchdown, a 1-yard sprint following Michael’s impressive burst up the sideline.
“Our tempo was going good,” said Turbin, the only running back to speak with reporters afterward. “We ran out of the huddle fast, you know, faster than normal, getting to the line of scrimmage a lot quicker. So it helped us get into a good groove offensively.”