Seahawks’ running game shows signs of life

  • By John Boyle, Rich Myhre and Todd Fredrickson Herald Writers
  • Monday, September 26, 2011 12:01am
  • Sports

SEATTLE — The Seattle Seahawks didn’t run for oodles of yards against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

But they ran for enough to suggest their ground game, which was on life support after season-opening losses at San Francisco and Pittsburgh, is showing signs of revival.

After managing just 95 yards combined against the 49ers and Steelers — leaving them last in the NFL at 47.5 per game — the Seahawks managed 122 rushing yards against Arizona. Running back Marshawn Lynch had 73 yards on 19 carries, including a 23-yard burst. Running back Leon Washington added 29 yards on three attempts, and quarterback Tarvaris Jackson tacked on 20 yards on four carries, including an 11-yard touchdown run.

Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll was pleased with the improvement, but also cautious.

“We’ll see,” he said. “It’s (just) one game.”

Still, Carroll saw better blocking by Seattle’s interior line, “and Marshawn ran really tough. He ran through some stuff to get into the (secondary).”

“When you get the run going, it kind of helps everything go,” Jackson said. “I take my hat off to the offensive line. Those guys did a great job, (helping us run) the football and protecting and all that.”

As it turned out, it was Jackson’s TD run that drew most of the praise after the game. From the Arizona 11, he rolled left looking for a receiver, and then curled through the Cardinal defense before finally lunging for the end zone. Jackson took a vicious hit at the goal line, but fell forward for the touchdown.

“Obviously that shows his determination and his leadership,” said Seattle wide receiver Doug Baldwin. “He was willing to put his body on the line for us to get that victory, no matter what it takes, and obviously he showed that on that play.”

Tricky kicking

Seattle place-kicker Steven Hauschka had his first chance to kick at CenturyLink Field on Sunday and it was an adventure.

“We were supposed to come here and kick on Friday for practice, but then we decided not to,” said Hauschka, who was signed as a free agent to replace Olindo Mare this season.

Hauschka’s first kicks in the stadium came during pregame warmups. He then kicked three times during the game (aside from kickoffs), booting field goals of 30 and 52 yards, and adding an extra point.

There were occasional rain flurries during the game, but it was a steady wind that was most challenging. “It was crazy,” Hauschka said. “There was a lot of different stuff going on.

“The wind can change a lot during the game and I saw that today, even during warmups. When it gets like that you just have to focus more on what you’re doing and make sure you hit the ball well. And you try not to worry about that stuff. If there’s wind, you have to hit it on a certain line and you have to hit it pretty hard and you just have to trust it.”

And even when the stadium’s 12th Man flag is blowing one way — it was a southerly wind on Sunday — the wind around the goal posts can be different. “It seemed kind of swirly down on the field,” Hauschka said. “So it was interesting. But so far it’s working out.”

Arizona kicker Jay Feely had a more disappointing day. He kicked a 44-yard field goal, but in the first quarter he hooked a 51-yard field goal wide left and in the fourth quarter he left a 49-yard field goal well short into a stiff breeze.

Williams blanked

Receiver Mike Williams caught 22 passes in two games against Arizona last season. On Sunday, he caught zero, and was targeted only once.

While Williams had good chemistry with Matt Hasselbeck last season, it seems Tarvaris Jackson is still getting comfortable throwing to Williams, who has only five catches this season. That’s something Jackson and Pete Carroll both want to see change.

“We’re going to try to spread it around a little bit more,” Jackson said. “I know Mike is probably a little frustrated. … We’re going to try to do a better job getting him the ball.”

Wright starts … sort of

Rookie K.J. Wright took over the starting strongside linebacker job from Aaron Curry this week, though neither was on the field for the first play of the game. Seattle was in its nickel defense, which meant Leroy Hill and Matt McCoy were the linebackers on the field to start the game. Wright was with the starters in base defense, though Curry did come in for a series in the second quarter.

Injury update

McCoy suffered a head injury, but Carroll indicated that the linebacker should be OK. Jackson limped off the field after getting hit low while trying to recover a fumbled snap, but he was able to stay in the game.

Unlikely hero

One of the biggest plays of the game occurred in the fourth quarter when Seattle tight end Anthony McCoy recovered a fumble after a bad snap in shotgun formation.

Seattle was leading 13-10 and had the ball at its own 48-yard line when a high snap eluded quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. The ball pinballed off some hands and feet and squirted back toward the Seahawks goal line.

McCoy took off in a footrace with about three Cardinals to get to the ball, and he did, all the way back at the 28. If the Cardinals recover, they’re already in field goal range and very much a threat to score a touchdown to take the lead.

McCoy’s recovery gave Seattle a chance to punt with the wind on the next play, and Jon Ryan uncorked a 64-yard beauty. The Cardinals had to start at their own 20 and were unable to score.

“I’m just blocking my guy, and the next thing I know I hear the crowd. I turn around and see the ball on the ground and it basically becomes a fumble drill,” McCoy said.

He didn’t immediately appreciate the impact of the play, but it came to him soon enough.

“It didn’t really hit me until the game finished the way it did,” he said. “It was a huge play, but I wasn’t thinking about that. I was just thinking about getting on the ball so the defense could stop them on the next drive.”

Foiled trick play

Arizona tried a long lateral pass on a punt return with 35 seconds left in the game when punt returner Patrick Peterson started up the right sideline, stopped at about the 10-yard line, and then threw the ball back about 35 yards to the left to A.J. Jefferson.

Seattle safety Kam Chancellor nearly intercepted the backward pass, and he disrupted the play enough to keep Jefferson from fielding it cleanly and getting a quick start up the mostly unprotected left side. Jefferson was tackled at the Arizona 23.

“I was running down, and I saw the man leaking (out to the side). He was just sitting there so I knew there was something going on,” Chancellor said. “When the returner stopped and threw it back, I tried to break on the ball.”

Big game

Seattle defensive end Chris Clemons had a sack, three tackles for a loss, and a pass defensed at the line of scrimmage to lead a solid performance by the Seahawks defensive front.

“He was alive today,” Carroll said of Clemons. “It was really exciting to see him play so fast. There’s something going on there. The pass rushers are more effective, and they’re getting off the football, and they’ve taking advantage of it.”

Extra points

Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald’s 28-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter was the 67th touchdown catch of his career, breaking the Cardinals franchise record previously held by Roy Green.

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