Finishing my game story and notebook last night for today's News Tribune on the Seahawks' 30-23 loss to the Cowboys, I dug up this telling statistic on Seattle's use -- and misuse -- of Marshawn Lynch since it acquired him from Buffalo in a trade four games into the 2010 season:
The Seahawks are now 2-9 when the giving Lynch 10 or fewer rushes in a game. That includes 0-2 this season, Sunday's second loss in 21 home games for Seattle and his six-carry day last month in a 30-21 loss at San Diego.
The common thread between those two defeats, among the Seahawks' six losses in their last 31 games: San Diego and Dallas steamrolled Seattle's defense by each converting 10 of 17 third downs into first downs. That kept the Seahawks' offense limited to just 40 and 48 plays in those games, respectively.
So here's what I've seen happening when the Seahawks' offense has limited opportunities in a game: Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell tries to cram all of Seattle's versatility, all of its creativity and all of its Percy Harvin into those limited number of chances.
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Harvin as a tailback getting inside handoffs on zone reads. Harvin in motion on fly sweeps on bubble screens. The need to get the ball to Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse outside. The need to let quarterback Russell Wilson scramble and run freely outside. Wilson targeting tight end Luke Willson and (when he gets healthy again) Zach Miller inside. Ricardo Lockette getting fly sweeps and third-down throws. Heck even Bryan Walters, who wasn't even on the team when the final rosters were set coming out of the preseason on Aug. 30, had an end-around run that lost one yard in the most curious (dubious) play call of the game on second down early in yesterday's fourth quarter.
Whew! That doesn't leave much for Lynch when the Seahawks are only getting nine first downs and 48 plays.
“If you look at it -- ‘Why didn’t you give the ball to Marshawn more? Or why didn’t this guy catch more passes? -- it’s because you have to get first downs and get more plays,” coach Pete Carroll said after yesterday's game. “When the defense is out there for a long time, and the offense has a three and out, then you don’t get your shots, and that’s just what happens. The story is going to write itself every time that way.
“We tried to come back and get back in the rhythm,” Carroll said. “Marshawn did a nice job, popped a run, and got some stuff going. He was busting his tail to help us, but we just couldn’t get in sync and get the rhythm and connect it with the third-down conversions.”
So the problem that the Seahawks (3-2) need to fix before their next two games -- Sunday at St. Louis (1-3) and the following weekend at Carolina (3-2-1) -- is two-fold.
- Dallas ran for 162 yards on 37 carries against what had been the league's top run defense (62.3 yards rushing per game entering Sunday), though the game changed dramatically in the middle when Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner went out in the second quarter with a foot/toe injury and played the second half in pain. That created many third-and-short plays that made 10 for 17 on third downs relatively easier to do -- which, it turn, kept the Seahawks' offense off the field.
- And when Seattle's offense finally gets onto the field, Bevell almost out-thinks himself by trying to use so many weapons almost at the same time.
Many times, the best weapon they have is simply having Wilson to turn around and hand the ball to No. 24, that guy named Marshawn Lynch.
By the way, for the many howling as to why Wilson doesn't throw the ball deeper down field to Harvin, don't forget Wilson is still running around for his well-being almost every time he drops to throw. He was sacked twice more yesterday and had to again escape many more hits with spinning, turning scrambles. It's not like he's sitting back in a comfy pocket with time to look over the entire field and wait for Harvin to run a double move 40-plus yards downfield.
And on one of the only times this season Wilson has had time to do just that, on a 4o-yard touchdown pass to Harvin on a post pattern in the fourth quarter of last Monday's game at Washington, left guard James Carpenter's debatable personal foul negated it.
"(This is) when leadership shows up, when there's adversity," Wilson said. "I think that's what we'll have to do for this week coming up, and get excited about that rather than shy away from it. ... We have to go on the road next week. Who's going to bring the boxing gloves and be ready to go for the week?"
And who's going to bring the carries for Lynch?
--News Tribune columnist Dave Boling writes in today's paper that yesterday's loss was no more complicated than the Cowboys simply hitting harder and blocking better than the Seahawks did, that Dallas simply shoved Seattle around its home field.
--Fellow TNT columnist John McGrath agrees that the Seahawks need to feed the "Beast."
--My colleague Don Ruiz took a break from the Sounders' soccer playoff push to breakdown the mano y mano duel between Richard Sherman and Dez Bryant that broke out after Maxwell got hurt. Thanks to our crack stats man Danny Brill in the press box next to me yesterday for tracking the 15 times Sherman covered Bryant on pass plays, the seven targets of Sherman for Bryant by Tony Romo, and the two catches Bryant had.
I asked Carroll after the game if that "emergency" arrangement of Sherman flipping sides for a change to cover the opponent's best receiver was a one-time-only adjustment or something the Seahawks might do more in upcoming games, the coach disagreed with my characterization of "emergency" and then said "We'll see."
--Carroll is due to talk to the media this afternoon in Renton at 3 p.m. I will be looking for the status of Wagner, starting right cornerback Byron Maxwell (who left Sunday's game in the second quarter with a sprained ankle) and two-time Pro Bowl center Max Unger, who missed the Dallas game with a sprained foot.