I don’t know if running the ball in the NFL will ever become a non-divisive issue again, but for the moment it remains a consistently bewildering puzzle piece. Every year multiple broadcasts put up some graphic with things like “the Dallas Cowboys are 98-2 when Ezekiel Elliot has 22+ carries” and then the internet rage laughs for weeks.
But some stuff should be simple, and when it’s not, it’s maddening.
For example, “Pete Carroll likes to run the ball.”
He does not, but people continue to say that.
The Seattle Seahawks haven’t been an elite running team in a while, and with Geno Smith last year they didn’t really even try to be balanced. Week 1 was no exception, with 26 pass attempts to 18 runs.
The bewildering part is this: the run game was far superior than the pass game against the Los Angeles Rams, and Seattle still held the lead heading into the second half. So why, ahead 13-7, on the shoulders of an unshakeable reputation to run the ball, at home, with the lead, and two second-round running backs, did they plant their flag squarely on the hill of “we will pass until it works or we lose” until they…lost?
Kenneth Walker finished the game with 64 yards on 12 carries, good for a 5.3 yard per carry mark, placing him at 9th in the NFL among running backs.
That number is consistent with how the offense performed as a whole. Their 74% run block win rate also had them at 9th in the NFL in Week 1.
Geno Smith’s 4.3 yards per attempt was not only worse than any mark he posted last season (very bad), but it was less efficient than his running back running the ball (way worse).
I don’t claim to know what to do, or how to do it well, but I want to push back against the fact that all ‘common sense’ did not apply in the loss to the Rams, and it’s infuriating how many times the end result of a Seahawks game doesn’t make sense.
They stopped running the ball, even though it was the more effective part of the offense.
They stopped running the ball, even though they were ahead by 6 or down by 1 through the 3rd quarter.
They stopped running the ball, even though pass protection struggled a little more, two tackles went down, Tyler Lockett was injured, Jaxon Smith-Njigba was limited, and Aaron Donald was winning.
Seattle did not attempt to run the ball on 3rd down at any point during the game.
Ken Walker did not have a single carry in the 4th quarter.
Sean McVay might be a genius, but even I could figure out what to do against that offense last Sunday. It better be different against the Detroit Lions or it’s going to be a long season.