Seattle Seahawks

Play caller Brian Schottenheimer takes responsibility for Seahawks not running enough in opener

Think the Seahawks need to run the ball more?

Their play caller agrees with you (and me, and coach Pete Carroll, for that matter).

Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said following Friday’s practice for Monday night’s game at Chicago the seven carries lead rusher Chris Carson got last week in Seattle’s opening loss at Denver, and the 14 run calls for backs all game, were not enough.

Schottenheimer took full responsibility for that.

“Obviously, I need to do a better job of mixing the run,” the successor to fired Darrell Bevell said. “We had quite a bit of where we get sacked or we’d have a penalty. Just want to kind of get that yardage back so it’s second and 14 or second and 13. You’re like, ‘Hey, I got to get the third (down) manageable.’ Hard to do that running the football.

“I can do better at that. That starts with me, first and foremost.”

OK, but why didn’t this Seahawks team that spent all offseason and preseason vowing to re-commit to the run, that hired Schottenheimer to do that after he led the NFL’s top rushing offense with the Jets a decade ago, run at Denver?

“I think not having a lot of possessions, you know what I mean?” Schottenheimer said. “One, we had the ball for 24 minutes. We struggled on third down (2 for 12, against) a good defense.

“Chris popped a couple good runs, the one where he jumps over the guy coming out, that was really cool...

Seahawks running back Chris Carson made this remarkable leap over Broncos defensive back Bradley Roby in the middle of a run around right end Sunday in the season opener at Denver. Carson got just seven carries among Seattle’s 57 offensive plays last weekend. Tuesday coach Pete Carroll confirmed the obvious: Carson needs the ball more. David Zalubowski, Associated Press

“We had a couple, 2 and 3-yard runs that if you could get a little bit more guy covered up here or there, that would have helped.”

It also would have helped Russell Wilson from getting sacked six times in the opener. Denver All-Pro Von Miller had half those sacks.

That is one of the biggest reasons Seattle needs to run it Monday night at Chicago. To make Bears All-Pro edge rusher Khalil Mack, another potential game wrecker, take a second or two to read his run-pass keys. That is, look to see how lineman are firing off the ball at the snap. The Seahawks can do that by....running the ball. And directly at him, to make him play the run as well as his specialty, pass rushing.

Miller became the latest in years of opposing edge rushers who a while into a game disregarded Seattle’s running game and focused solely on speeding around Seahawks tackle Germain Ifedi and other blockers. If Miller had guessed pass on every snap last week, taking off without reading whether the offensive linemen were firing out straight ahead or pulling laterally (run) or standing up (pass), he would have been correct 75 percent of the time.

With a success rate like that plus the payoff of sacks and lost yardage, why stop and read keys at the snap?

Seattle called 14 of its 57 offensive plays as rushes for Carson and rookie running back Rashaad Penny. Carson gained 51 yards on his seven runs.

Carroll acknowledged this week Carson needs more rushes than that, and that the 2017 rookie starter until he broke his leg Oct. 1 is clearly the featured back ahead of Penny,

Penny had seven rushes for 8 yards in his NFL debut.

Schottenheimer isn’t about to give up on Penny after one game, of course. The play caller talked as though Monday will be his second chance.

“It’s another opportunity. A young player,” Schottenheimer said. “Certainly, the numbers weren’t what he expected or what we expected. But it wasn’t just him.”

The play caller said the Seahawks’ offense has to “try to find a way to get him into rhythm. One of the ways of doing that is by staying on the field.”

Back to that 2 for 12 on third downs in Denver.

“That kind of hurt us all a little bit in the running game,” Schottenheimer said. “But he doesn’t need to do anything different. I mean, the kid’s a great player. Again, first game, probably pressed a little bit. Try to find a way to get him the ball in space, let him do what he does. And I have no doubts that he’ll do a good job in this game.”

After two years of constant issues with pass protection, plus the NFL’s worst production from running backs in 2017 and Wilson getting chased for his health almost weekly, the Seahawks’ offense is at the point where running the ball simply for the sake of running it would help. It can’t hurt.

Even three runs and a punt would make defenses play them more honestly than they have almost since Marshawn Lynch left following his injury-filled 2015 season.

I mean, third and a half yard in the third quarter last week, Schottenheimer called a very-2017, roll-out pass from Wilson to Nick Vannett. Yes, the tight end was wide open. But Wilson’s throw sailed over his head, leading to another punt from wondrous rookie Michael Dickson.

By the time Wilson dropped back on third and 3 midway through the fourth quarter with Seattle trailing Denver 27-24, Miller had no thought Seattle would run. He waited on the right edge for Wilson to run left then turn right, right into him. That sack led to another punt by Dickson.

Offfensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer (right) says he didn’t do a good enough job mixing in enough runs in his first game as the Seahawks’ play caller last weekend in the loss at Denver. Calling more runs Monday night in game two at Chicago should help reduce the pressure quarterback Russell Wilson (3) has been getting the last couple years from defenses who mostly ignore the thought Seattle will hand the ball off to running backs. Ted S. Warren AP

Asked if the third downs in particular frustrated him in his first game as Seahawks’ play caller, Schottenheimer said: “Yeah, well, it’s hard. It’s hard because he’s been repping a lot of those plays during the course of the week. It’s no excuse. I mean, we shouldn’t be two of 12. That’s not good enough on any of our parts. We obviously can’t put ourselves in, I think, five of the 12 were third and 11 pluses. I mean, that’s hard.

“The third and 1, we’ve got to convert that. The couple of third and 3, 5, we’ve got to convert those. It does affect you. You’re trying to make some adjustments. Maybe you’re asking a guy to do something he hasn’t done that week, but certainly not an excuse.

“We need to be better.”

So in some ways, Schottenheimer is as much on the spot in game two Monday night against the Bears as Carson, Wilson, Ifedi blocking Mack, or any other Seahawk.

“I look forward to that challenge,” Schottenheimer said. “Each week is a different challenge, and it presents its unique problems.”

With one, obvious way toward a solution.