SEATTLE — For the first 10 games of the season, the Seattle Seahawks were the best in the NFL at running the football.
The last five games they haven’t even been average.
The lack of a consistent run game is a troubling recent trend the Seahawks (12-3) must get corrected before the postseason arrives. It’s causing trickle-down problems with the rest of their offense that showed up last Sunday in Seattle’s 17-10 loss to Arizona.
“We didn’t run it very well last week obviously. The last couple of weeks haven’t been doing it really killer,” Seattle center Max Unger said. “But it’s something we put a lot of emphasis on and we take a lot of pride in, so we have to get that going.”
For the past five weeks, Seattle has failed to run for more than 134 yards as a team. Marshawn Lynch, who had 10 100-yard rushing games last season, has only three this year, none in the past five games. The inability to be consistent with the run is forcing Seattle into longer conversion attempts on second and third downs, and causing the offense to stall.
The entire locker room understands it’s a problem that needs to get fixed. But finding the solution on Sunday against St. Louis might be tough. The Rams had the most success of anyone this season, limiting Seattle’s run game to 44 yards in the first matchup in October.
The 44 yards rushing were the third fewest since Pete Carroll became head coach in 2010 and the fewest since Lynch arrived during the 2011 season. Lynch had just eight carries for 23 yards.
“We’ve always have had tough games with these guys and they’ve been tough on everybody in the division and nothing should be different about this one,” Carroll said.
For the first 10 games of the season, Seattle was averaging 153.4 yards per game rushing, the top mark in the NFL, just slightly ahead of Philadelphia. The Seahawks also led the league with 33 rushing attempts per game. Most of those yards came with the Seahawks missing starting tackles Breno Giacomini and Russell Okung with injuries.
While the Eagles have stayed at the top of the league in running, the Seahawks have dropped off significantly over the last five games, ranking 19th at 108.6 yards rushing with about five fewer rushing attempts per game.
“Definitely people are trying to stop the run but I think opportunities, play calls and number of attempts that we’re able to get, those are down,” Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said.
Seattle’s run troubles of the past five games didn’t appear to be significant because the Seahawks continued to win with ease. They ran for 93 and 127 yards, respectively, in blowout home wins over Minnesota and New Orleans. Even being limited to 86 yards in a loss at San Francisco didn’t seem concerning because of a few long runs call back by penalties, and Seattle still being able to go 5 of 12 on third-down conversions in the game.
But the last two games — even with a 23-0 shutout of the New York Giants two weeks ago — is where the lack of the run appears to be having greater impact. The Seahawks are a combined 5 of 26 on third downs the past two weeks in part because they are in more third-and-long situations. Seattle was 1 of 8 converting third downs of 5 yards or more in the loss to Arizona and ran just 50 offensive plays.
“The commitment to it is really important that we keep pounding, we get Marshawn his carries; we have to make sure he gets his reps,” Carroll said. “Sometimes it counts on other aspects of your game and that’s converting on third downs so that you get enough plays.”