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Sports >  Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks will try to rediscover their running game in playoff opener against Lions

Seattle running back Thomas Rawls, right, and fullback Marcel Reece hope to spark an uneven Seahawks running game in the playoffs. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)
Seattle running back Thomas Rawls, right, and fullback Marcel Reece hope to spark an uneven Seahawks running game in the playoffs. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)
By Sam Farmer Los Angeles Times

RENTON, Wash. – The Seattle Seahawks announced this week that they will have University of Washington seismologists at the ready Saturday night to provide real-time monitoring of the ground vibrations generated by fans during their NFC wild-card playoff game against Detroit.

The last time Seattle was the site of a wild-card game was six years ago, in coach Pete Carroll’s first season, when Marshawn Lynch broke nine tackles on a 67-yard touchdown run against New Orleans that triggered such a raucous celebration it jiggled the needle on a nearby seismograph. That 41-36 victory by the underdog Seahawks will forever be known as the “Beast Quake” game.

There is nothing earth-shaking about the Seattle running game this season.

Whereas the past four years the Seahawks ranked third, first, fourth and third in rushing, the team is 25th this season and has had 19 different ballcarriers – including punter Jon Ryan, who tore off a 26-yard gain on a fake, bobbled the ball at the end, then was knocked out on the tackle and had to be hospitalized.

The Seahawks see re-establishing the running game as key, particularly when it comes to controlling the clock and playing keep-away from prolific Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.

“Last week, we were always one block away, one assignment away, so we’re getting close,” right guard Germain Ifedi said Thursday. “It just needs to come together. We need all of us on the same page.”

The revolving door at tailback started when Lynch was hurt last season, and continued this year, when 11 running backs carried the ball. Thomas Rawls, who will start against the Lions, has had a particularly bumpy ride with both a broken ankle and a broken leg in the past 13 months.

“His resilience has been there, he’s ready to go,” Carroll said. “He’s been ready for about four or five weeks and we can really see that he can turn it around and count on his legs and count on his quicks and all that kind of stuff. We haven’t got him the ball as consistently as we would like, and any runner needs to get the football to start to get a feel for it. I hope, like I said last week, I want him to get the ball 20 times this week.”

As it stands, the Seahawks’ leading rusher this season is playing for Green Bay. That’s the inconsistent Christine Michael, who rolled up 469 yards before he was released in early November and subsequently signed by the Packers.

C.J. Prosise, a third-round pick from Notre Dame, has shown promising flashes but has been slowed by four injuries since the spring, to his hip, hamstring, wrist and scapula. He could be back next week if the Seahawks win in the first round.

Six weeks ago, the Seahawks looked like the yards-churning crew of years past, when in a four-game stretch against Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Carolina and Green Bay, they ran for 152, 127, 240 and 136 yards. It looked as if the franchise was rounding into familiar form just in time for a December-January rally.

But in the past three games, Seattle has hit a brick wall, gaining 72, 78 and 87 yards – the latter coming against San Francisco’s last-place run defense.

Multiple factors have contributed to this season’s Seattle slump. Among them, the team no longer has Lynch, an undeniable force; a high ankle sprain and sprained medial collateral ligament have slowed scrambling quarterback Russell Wilson; and the offensive line has been especially affected by the outlawing of chop blocks this season.

“With the new rules, we can’t do our full array of wide-zone runs,” said tackle Garry Gilliam, a fixture on a Seahawks line that has four members starting at new positions.

Gilliam said this line is capable of coming together and imposing its will with the run. That, he said, can be intoxicating for the big men up front.

“That’s the physical part of it,” he said. “You kind of put them in a meat grinder, test their will. You get into the fourth quarter and at that point it’s like, ‘All right, are you about this action or what? If not, then we’re about to steamroll over you.’”

If the Seahawks can do that Saturday night, in the first home wild-card game since the Beast Quake, this team can move mountains.

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