The 3-2 Seattle Seahawks have a chance to pull within one game of the NFC West lead before the meat of their schedule really gets underway. Through six weeks with twelve still to go, Seattle is not even to the midway point of their season and still has questions about how long they can keep pace with division-leading San Francisco at 5-1.
This is Seattle’s first home game in October and the first in nearly a month. They last hosted a game on September 24th, a 37-27 win over winless Carolina that was closer than it should have been. Now they draw the 1-5 Arizona Cardinals, who have lost three in a row since a surprising two-score win against Dallas back when we all thought the Cowboys were legit. That seems like so long ago, and it was the last time Arizona was competitive in a regular season football game for four quarters.
Seattle has had a couple of chances to put themselves on the map this season, but a combination of poor pass blocking and an inconsistent running attack have left the defense to keep them in games. It has worked well in droves, but there have been some interesting misses as well. After a disastrous loss at home to the Rams in week one, Seattle went to Detroit and beat the Lions at home in overtime. Then they hosted the Panthers in a game they didn’t blow up and followed that up with a big defensive showing against the Giants despite a pretty flat performance from the offense. They went on their bye in week five, then traveled to Cincinnati for what many expected to be a fun shootout between two good offenses. The game started strong, but for a game that was 14-10 at the half, the 17-13 final score was more than a little surprising. Seattle had several strange plays in the second half and headed home with another loss after the bye week; they haven’t won their first game after the bye since 2019.
Starting running back Kenneth Walker III hasn’t cracked twenty carries on the season, and before you say they must be using him more in the passing game – he has only been targeted 13 times in five games, with eleven catches for 100 yards and no touchdowns. He hasn’t broken 100 yards rushing in a game yet but came close against Carolina with 97. He’s only been on the field for 64% of the snaps, and he doesn’t get the ball every time he’s on the field. So if you’re the defense, you know you don’t have to gameplan around a heavy dose of Walker.
Walker’s lack of production isn’t due to a timeshare, either. His backup, Zach Charbonnet, averages less than five carries per game, but he has almost as many targets in the passing game as Walker with 9 for 6 receptions and 36 yards, which isn’t saying much for their preferred running back in obvious passing situations. Charbonnet has 29% of the snap count share, so he’s not intruding on Walker’s time in a brutal fashion. Most starting running backs with nearly two-thirds of the snaps would have better yards, but he is averaging one touchdown a game, so he hasn’t lost his nose for the end zone. Walker hasn’t fumbled yet this season, so this isn’t a problem of turning the ball over either – they need to use him more.
This team has a problem with pass blocking, but they don’t seem to have a problem opening running lanes, and they have a really good running back they are underutilizing. The solution is simple – free Kenneth Walker. Give him more carries, take pressure off your passing game, and slow games down. Walker’s best games so far have come against the Panthers and Giants, two of the worst defenses in the league. He struggled against the Bengals, who are among the worst in the league, but had decent success against the Rams, who are also among the worst, and had trouble with the league’s best run defense in the Lions. We know Walker is a talented player, but he hasn’t had a good game against a quality defense yet – not this season, anyway.
The weather is still decent in Seattle and will likely be this Sunday, but this team will need to lean on the running game in the colder and wetter months, and those days are coming. When the time comes, you don’t want to have to shift your entire offense and identity; you want that shift to be small. The Cardinals allow the 7th most yards to running backs and the 5th most scores on the ground. Arizona also allows the 7th most yards through the air, along with 9th most scores passing. So you want to mix up your play calling between the twenties but lean on the run when you get into the red zone.
Seattle is 22nd in passing yards this season and 27th in scoring through the air. They are 8th lowest in rushing yards and tied for 10th in scores on the ground. They need to be more balanced; they need to run the dang ball. This is still a Pete Carrol team, isn’t it? I’m still old enough to remember when his teams were built on a strong running game and a strong defense. The defense is definitely on its way to being scary for opposing teams, but this running game needs work. It seems like it’s always an early-season problem. Even in Marshawn Lynch’s prime, he had seasons when the team seemed to forget to feed him the ball in the first half of the season. In 2014, he only cracked 20 carries 3 times in the first 8 weeks and went without a score on the ground in four of those games.
This is a really talented team with a lot of weapons on both sides of the ball, but they will be the greatest threat to their opponents if they can run the ball and attack on defense. That’s the kind of team they were when they went to back-to-back Super Bowls, and it’s the team they need to be right now. It’s not a secret what makes San Francisco so good – they run the ball well and play great defense. Brock Purdy is a great story, but he’s not what makes that teamwork. Without that defense or Christian McCaffrey being such a tremendous dual threat, they aren’t winning all those games.
Seattle needs to run, run, run the ball against the Cardinals and use this game to get good at what they are great at – running and playing defense. If the opposing team thinks they have to worry about your running game, they aren’t going to be able to get after your quarterback quite as much, and they will have to assume you’re running even when you go for play action. Right now, defenses aren’t biting on play fakes because they assume you’re passing, and they assume if you do, they can get to you or at least pressure you into making a bad throw. And it’s working.
It’s time to start playing Seattle football. Running the ball in the cold, wet fall and winter and watching your defense wreak havoc on the other team trying to throw in those conditions once they fall behind. Gripping and throwing a football in wet weather is bad enough, but it’s worse when you have to throw, and the defense knows it.
Take the pressure off yourselves, Seattle, and start putting it on your opponent. Start with the Cardinals, make them your tune-up game, and head into the meat of your schedule with pride and purpose. This is an excellent team on paper; it’s time to see them be great on the football field.
Run the ball, Seattle, run it until they prove they can stop it – and not a moment sooner.