December 18, 2013 in Sports

Pounding away

Seahawks running game meets Cardinals’ stingy defense
Don Ruiz Tacoma News Tribune
 
Associated Press photo

Marshawn Lynch has been held to less than 3 yards per carry twice in the past three games.
(Full-size photo)

For the second time this season, Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch had more receiving yards than rushing yards Sunday in the Seahawks’ 23-0 win at New York.

Lynch had a season-high six catches for 73 yards against the Giants, while rushing 16 times for 47 yards.

That average of 2.9 yards per carry marked the second time in three games that Lynch has been held under a 3-yard average.

Things don’t figure to get any easier Sunday, when the Seahawks get a visit from the Arizona Cardinals, whose defense allows an NFL-low 83.2 rushing yards per game.

Seattle’s offense ranks second with an average of 141 rushing yards per game, but the Seahawks have been below that average for four straight games.

“I think we’re OK,” coach Pete Carroll said this week. “We’re still going to pound away at it and keep working, keep getting our numbers and our attempts up there. It’s a matter of breaking one: It makes a difference in those stats sometimes. Our attitude about it is right. We’re on it and we’re consistent with it, so I’m fine about it. We’d like to get more production, and I would think it will happen. We’re going against the best run defense in the NFL in this game, so that’s going to be a great match for us.”

The stakes are high, as a victory would give Seattle (12-2) the NFC West title, a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Cardinals (9-5) are one game behind San Francisco and Carolina, and playing for their playoff lives.

Ground yards could come grudgingly on both sides, as the Seahawks run defense stands 10th in the league.

Seattle has allowed an average of 85.6 ground yards since the Rams and Buccaneers ran for 200 yards in back-to-back games that closed October and opened November.

On Sunday, the Seahawks limited the Giants to 25 yards on 14 carries, an average of 1.8 yards per attempt.

“Our tackling is the best it’s been,” Carroll said. “Team pursuit is the most consistent. … The overall attitude about playing fundamental football is really what’s improved. We took it up a notch, we challenged the players, the players challenged each other, and they took after it to play really hard-nosed football. And it showed up.”

Meanwhile, quarterback Russell Wilson indicated that Lynch emerged as a receiving target last weekend mostly because that’s what the Giants’ defense was dictating.

“The throws to Marshawn were more so trusting what I see: going through my reads, and he’s open,” Wilson said Sunday after the victory. “Throw it to the open guy. … Marshawn Lynch did a tremendous job today. That’s one of our goals – Marshawn’s and my goals – to be one of the best quarterback-running back tandems in terms of throwing the football; in terms of running the football, too.”

The only previous time this season when Lynch had more receiving yards than rushing yards came Oct. 13 against Tennessee, when he rushed 21 times for 77 yards while catching four passes for 78 yards.

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