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Commentary: Expect Seahawks’ Pete Carroll to order run-first offense vs. Cardinals instead of letting Russ cook

UPDATED: Mon., Nov. 16, 2020

Seattle  (Keith Birmingham)
Seattle (Keith Birmingham)
By Matt Calkins Seattle Times

It’s getting harder to justify letting Russell Wilson cook when there are this many fires in the kitchen.

It’s getting more difficult to push for a throw-first offense when this many throws end up in the other team’s hands.

When opponents keep taking the ball away from Wilson like the Rams did Sunday in a 23-16 Los Angeles win, you gotta think Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is going to take away his chef’s hat.

Prediction: Starting Thursday night against the Arizona Cardinals, the run-first Seahawks tradition will return.

This is not an indictment of Wilson’s talent so much as it is an acknowledgment of Carroll’s coaching philosophy. For most of his years as Seattle’s coach, he tried to win the war of attrition by wearing down opponents and winning the turnover battle.

Last year, for instance, the Seahawks threw on just 54.3% of their plays, good for 27th in the league. The year before they threw 47.6% of the time, which was last.

This year, however, they have passed on 62.9% of their plays, which ranks seventh in the NFL. But given that they’ve lost three of their past four games – in which Wilson has thrown seven interceptions and lost three fumbles – you have to think that percentage will start to plunge.

Turnovers are to Carroll what garlic is to vampires. He sounds disgusted just talking about them.

After the Seahawks’ loss Sunday, he said, “We played the turnover game again, and that didn’t work out for us. … We have to not give stuff up.”

Six days earlier, after Seattle’s 44-34 loss to Buffalo, he told 710 ESPN: “We’re so connected to the turnover thing.”

And in that same interview, when discussing his defense’s need to create turnovers, he said, “Bad things can happen when you throw it.”

There was little reason to question the Seahawks’ pass-happy offense through their first five games of the season. They won all five of them, racked up the most points in the NFL and watched Wilson have the most efficient start of his career.

And over the past three games, Seattle has been without its top two running backs – Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde – which likely forced Wilson to throw more than the typical game plan would have desired. But once Carson returns, likely so will the Seahawks run-first approach. Judging by Carroll’s demeanor, he has seen enough.

This doesn’t at all mean that No. 3 won’t be utilized. In 2018, when the Seahawks passed on fewer than half their plays, Wilson had the best passer rating of his career (110.9) and was fourth in the league in touchdown passes (35). He was like a sparingly used chess queen who made devastating blows whenever he struck. But in these past three losses, he’s been roaming recklessly around the board.

Unsurprisingly, Wilson expressed optimism about the future Sunday despite his rapidly surging turnover tally.

“I think the reality is that I know who I am, I know I’m a great football player. I know I’ve been great and will continue to be great,” he said via Zoom.” We’re going to have better days ahead.”

The question, how are those better days going to come?

Unlike previous seasons, the Seahawks (6-3) can’t rely on their defense to correct an offensive mistake. When Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and Michael Bennett, among others, were on the field, a Wilson interception at the 50-yard line could result in a punt four plays later.

But this year’s Seahawks have allowed the most yards per game in the league (448.3) by a considerable margin.

Giving up possessions is akin to giving up wins.

After the game, Seahawks safety Jamal Adams expressed the utmost confidence in Wilson, calling him “the chosen one.” He asserted that Russell was going to be fine and “turn it around.”

He’s probably right. Wilson is still one of the best quarterbacks in the league.

He’ll likely go back to his old ways – but so will the Seahawks’ offense.

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