RENTON, Wash. – For the better part of three seasons under Pete Carroll, if the Seahawks were going to hang their hat on one thing, it was their run defense.
Then three weeks ago, Frank Gore took that hat and ran away with it. Most recently, Adrian Peterson was seen wearing that hat while making Seahawks defenders look silly.
So what happened? How did the Seahawks’ run defense go from the most dependable part of Seattle’s play, along with its special teams, to a perceived liability? Through six games this season, the Seahawks were allowing 70 rushing yards per game, which ranked second in the NFL, and holding opponents to just 3.3 yards per carry. Over the past three games, with most of the damage coming against San Francisco and Minnesota, the Seahawks have allowed an average of 167.3 rushing yards with opponents gaining 6.2 yards per carry.
More than anything, Carroll thinks the team’s struggles are the result of young players trying to do too much. In addition to a stout defensive line, one of the most important elements of run defense is the ability of linebackers and safeties to stay disciplined and focus on their responsibilities, not everyone else’s. With a rookie starting at middle linebacker (Bobby Wagner), a second-year strongside linebacker (K.J. Wright), and safeties who are in their third year (Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor), youthful mistakes can happen.
“I do think we’re over-trying a little bit,” Carroll said. “I think in general guys are trying to live up to the expectations and we’re trying really hard, and at times that takes you out of your game. That’s something we’re really concerned about. … Sometimes guys try to go beyond their responsibility to make a play and they get in a bad situation.”
Because of the mistakes he has been seeing, Carroll decided to simplify things in the second half Sunday, and it paid dividends as Seattle held Minnesota to 59 yards and three points after being gashed by Peterson, whose 144 first-half yards and two touchdowns led the Vikings to 17 points, the most allowed by the Seahawks in a first half this season.
The good news for the Seahawks is that they won’t see Peterson again this season, but that doesn’t mean their run defense won’t be tested again. Seattle still has games against San Francisco and its league-leading 168.6 rushing yards per game, as well as Buffalo, which ranks sixth in rushing (141.2) and Chicago, which has the No. 11 rushing attack (128.5). Despite the recent struggles, Carroll is confident that the second-half improvement his defense showed by playing disciplined in the third and fourth quarters can carry over to the rest of this season.
“We couldn’t have illustrated that better than we did in the second half,” Carroll said. “We went right back to the basics of what we call, and our guys played better and we executed well and had ourselves a good half.”
Hawks make moves
The Seahawks waived receiver Charly Martin and released receiver Lavasier Tuinei from the practice squad.
No corresponding move was announced, but the Seahawks could be freeing up a spot to add cornerback Walter Thurmond to the active roster. Thurmond, who broke his leg last season, has been on the Physically Unable to Perform list, but the Seahawks have to make a decision on him by Monday.