Light workload for Seahawks RB Lynch not by design

RENTON — Of all the things Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was disappointed about in his team’s 39-32 loss to the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday at CenturyLink Field, one that got somewhat lost in the shuffle is that he never had the chance to unleash the offensive game plan the team put together for the game.

“It’s really a shame because we had a really good plan,” Carroll said. “You might have really liked it.”

Apparently that game plan would have included a heavy dose of Marshawn Lynch, something that didn’t come to pass in the contest itself.

Lynch was something of a lost man in this past Sunday’s game. Seattle’s star running back carried the ball just eight times for 42 yards. That was by far the fewest carries Lynch had in a game this season in which he didn’t depart because of injury.

But circumstances took Lynch largely out of play.

“We averaged well in the running game,” Carroll said. “We never got to our run game. We never got to it, and we were down 19-0 before we knew it. I think the fifth drive was the two-minute drive. We just never really got to where we wanted to.”

Last Sunday’s light workload came following games in which Lynch carried 27 times for 122 yards in a 20-3 victory at San Francisco three weeks earlier, then carried 21 times for 71 yards in a 13-12 victory at Dallas two weeks prior. Lynch then had an extra week to rest up the calf and hamstring injuries that nagged him earlier in the season because of Seattle’s bye week.

It’s not that Lynch wasn’t in the game. Lynch was on the field for 48 of Seattle’s 61 offensive plays, and the 79-percent total is typical for Lynch. It’s not like Seattle’s other running backs were vulturing away carries, as backup running back Thomas Rawls and fullback Will Tukuafu each ran the ball just twice.

Lynch was considered a game-time decision for last Sunday’s game because of an abdominal strain he picked up during practice. Lynch ended up playing and didn’t appear limited on the occasions when he did carry the ball, and the Seahawks said the injury was not a factor in why he received just eight carries.

“He ran really hard and ran really well in the game,” Carroll said.

Therefore, the low number of carries was a bit of an eyebrow raiser, especially considering Seattle’s offense is predicated on establishing the run game. However, a combination of penalties on first down and falling behind early forced the Seahawks to rip out the pages of the game plan that included handing the ball off to Lynch.

“Some of the up-tempo stuff that we did, it does end up losing the number of runs that we planned on doing,” Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “Then a lot of those first downs were runs that we ended up getting penalties on. So we were handing it to him more, they don’t end up counting as plays. But that’s a big part of what happens when we start going up-tempo is we lose a big part of our run game because we’re staying in the same personnel and we’re trying to move at a faster pace. So we don’t get the jump in and out of personnel, we don’t get to change style of runs, and that’s what ends up happening to us sometimes.”

Indeed, on Seattle’s five major offensive penalties on first down, Lynch ran the ball on four of them, gaining 16 yards, including an 11-yard run late in the third quarter with Seattle trailing 25-17. That run, if not for the holding call on guard J.R. Sweezy, would have had the Seahawks on the edge of field-goal range. Instead the Seahawks ended up having to punt.

Add those four runs and Lynch’s numbers are a little better — 12 carries for 58 yards — but still short of what Seattle wants to see from its featured back.

“We want to be a run-first team,” Bevell said. “Marshawn’s kind of our go-to guy. We know that we can hand it to him at any point and good things are happening. The plays that we had, we had 12, 14-yard runs when we got holding calls. So we know that that’s something we can hang our hat on is our run game.”

The Seahawks hope Lynch is a much bigger part of the offense this Sunday against San Francisco. Lynch had his best day of the season the last time he faced the 49ers, and that game is still the only 100-yard day Lynch has managed this season.

But first the Seahawks will have to make sure Lynch is healthy. Carroll said Monday that Lynch was feeling soreness in his abdominal muscle. Lynch then sat out practice Wednesday, which is normal even when he is 100-percent healthy.

“The way I heard it was he was better Monday than he was Saturday,” Carroll said. “(Wednesday) is his day to get a break, we’ll find out where he is (Thursday).”

Lynch did not practice again Thursday, leaving his status in doubt. So it remains to be seen whether the Seahawks will even get the opportunity to get him back in the game plan against the 49ers.

Check out Nick Patterson’s Seattle Sidelines blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/seattlesidelines, and follow him on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.

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