Oh yes, Darrell Bevell hears you.
Seattle Seahawks fans, the offensive coordinator and play caller knows you are screaming at him through your television or your mobile device, or from your seat at the game.
One more time, all together now: “Give Marshawn Lynch the ball!”
Bevell realizes the howls at him after games such as last weekend’s loss to Dallas in which Seattle’s four-time Pro Bowl running back got 10 carries — seven fewer than Carolina quarterback Cam Newton had Sunday — are part of his job.
So are any and all critiques that Bevell is too exotic in his plays and formations. That he doesn’t get wide receiver Percy Harvin downfield enough. That he’s getting too fancy when the opposite is what won the Seahawks the Super Bowl last season.
To him, that’s part of his job, part of the deal when the champions began the defense of their title with two losses in five games and an offense that’s been throttled in both defeats and parts of the wins.
“Yeah, that’s part of it, you know. I mean, there’s going to be cries for everything, all the time,” a seemingly not-offended Bevell said pleasantly following Wednesday’s indoor practice at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center.
“The fantasy owners … I’m not a fantasy owner. I don’t care about anyone’s (fantasy) points. But I do care about us winning the game. And Marshawn is a huge key for us winning the game. And we do — and I — have to do a better job of giving him the ball.”
Seattle started a drive in its own territory that advanced past Dallas’ 48-yard line just once in the Dallas game: on the opening drive, when Russell Wilson hit Jermaine Kearse with a perfectly lofted throw down the right sideline for a 53-yard gain. That was the first completion of Seattle’s season for more than 40 yards.
The Seahawks have 93 pass completions this season. Only 13 of those, 14 percent, have gone for at least 20 yards. Only 0-5 Oakland and 2-3 Miami have fewer such downfield connections.
One reason could be that fewer inside runs by Lynch (especially in the losses at San Diego and to Dallas when he had six and 10 carries, respectively) have made it tougher for Seattle’s receivers to get open downfield. Defenses haven’t had to crowd the line as much to stop Lynch as often as last season. Or in the last three seasons. Lynch leads the league in rushing attempts since 2011.
In the loss to the Cowboys Lynch had just two carries in the first half, when Seattle ran 17 plays. Everyone around Seattle, from Joe Cabbie to Doug Baldwin — the Seahawks wide receiver who had a frustrated rant in the locker room following the game — have offered opinions on what’s wrong and what needs to be done to fix the offense for Sunday’s game at St. Louis (1-4) and beyond.
Baldwin isn’t buying the theory that receivers aren’t getting open because the running of Lynch isn’t setting up the downfield passing game like normal.
“Not really,” Baldwin said before practice Wednesday. “I mean, you can pay 75 bucks and you can see, I think they call it ‘NFL Rewind,’ and you can see the ‘22’ (coaches’) tape, and you can see we are doing our job.
“But for the most part we’ve just got to make plays when the ball’s thrown to us and help out Russ at times. But other than that, we don’t have a hard time getting open — at all.”
Asked if the offense is doing too much, if the Seahawks just need to hand the ball to Lynch, Baldwin said: “Honestly, I don’t know. I am a big proponent of running the ball and giving the ball to Marshawn, because he’s a beast. However, you know, we have to make our plays in the passing game, too. And that’s all the way around, down to the offensive line, the quarterback, to catching the ball. So it’s a collaborative thing.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily ‘We need to do this or that.’ We need to execute what’s being called.”
Bevell’s designs to get the dynamic Harvin the ball all over the field — out of motion on fly sweeps, as a tailback, on bubble screens — have worked well when the Seahawks were able to utilize all of the game plan. That happened when they ran 66 plays and beat the Packers on opening night and got 75 plays in the overtime win over Denver.
But last month when Seattle lost in San Diego and last weekend when Dallas beat the Seahawks, 30-23, in a game Seattle got 10 of its points off special-teams plays, Bevell’s offense got just 40 and 48 snaps, respectively.
The coordinator points to long-yardage situations that have created too many third and longs — and thus, too many failed conversions on third downs. Seattle was 3 for 8 on third downs in the loss to the Chargers and 5 for 13 against the Cowboys.
The Seahawks are 23rd in the NFL converting third downs this season, at a rate of 38.1 percent.
Bevell also cited a lack of execution in the offense. He gave an example of the game’s second offensive play against Dallas, a bubble screen to Harvin. Bevell explained Kearse had a block set up in front of Harvin that has worked well in previous games. But this time Wilson’s throw was behind Harvin and caused the wide receiver to turn his body and head back instead of up field. Bevell said that forced Harvin to turn blindly and directly into Kearse’s block. The result: a 1-yard loss.
In 2011, Bevell’s first season as Carroll’s offensive coordinator in Seattle, the Seahawks were 2-5 and going with exotic formations, plays and a no-huddle offense. After a 34-12 loss at Cincinnati, Carroll, Bevell and offensive line coach/running game coordinator Tom Cable met and decided to junk the fancy stuff and hand the ball first, last and foremost to Lynch.
Seattle won five of its last six. Lynch averaged 23 carries per game to finish that 2011 season, and has gone on to have the most carries, most yards rushing and most touchdowns in the league since 2011. Seattle came within a last-second field goal by Atlanta of reaching the NFC championship game in the 2012 season, then won it all last season with Lynch’s running as the team’s offensive identity.
The Seahawks have had at least 100 yards on the ground in 37 of their last 45 games. Two of those eight exceptions are the losses this season.
Cable and Carroll both said Wednesday this is not like 2011.
“We don’t have any recommitment. We’ve not changed not one iota about what we think, what we feel is the right thing to do,” Carroll said of his run-based philosophy. “We just had games that we’ve fallen prey to kind of the situation of the game and we didn’t get what we want done. That starts with me and trying to coordinate it so that we have our opportunities, really.
“It’s really the (third-down) conversions that are the issues right now.”
More conversions on third downs, better distances than the dozen third-and-6 or longer chances the Seahawks had against the Cowboys, and Bevell said there will be more touches for Lynch.
“I mean, I want to use all our guys,” Bevell said. “You go to the three games we win, we are up in the 60-play range. The two games we lose, we are in the 40-play range. It’s just not enough. All our guys are very talented. We want to have all of them involved.
“It’s a tough orchestration of the whole thing. (I’m) really not trying to keep everybody happy. When we’re happy is because we’ve won. That’s the bottom line when everybody’s going to be happy and understand.”