RENTON, Wash. -- The Seattle Seahawks began their season opener with three straight passing plays and a three-and-out. They finished it with only 90 yards rushing, nearly a third of that total coming on a Russell Wilson scramble.
After a lot of talk about getting back to their running ways and a few offseason moves that were made toward that goal, that was not exactly the debut performance the Seahawks had in mind.
"Just disappointed that we didn't get the [opportunities] and that because of a lot of things that happened in the game," coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday. "We just need to keep doing it; keep chopping wood is really what it takes."
When asked what the first step is toward getting the running game going, Carroll said the first step was already taken several months ago. He was referring to what Seattle did during the offseason, when it was clear that improving in that area was a priority. The Seahawks signed Eddie Lacy after being linked to fellow free-agent running backs Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles and Latavius Murray. They also signed two offensive linemen, including starting left guard Luke Joeckel, and added another running back, Chris Carson, in the seventh round of the draft.
That was coming off a down season for a running game that had consistently been the bread and butter of Seattle's offense. Between 2012 and 2015, Seattle ranked between first and fourth in rushing and never finished out of the top three in attempts. Wilson was always healthy during that stretch, and when Marshawn Lynch was injured in 2015, Thomas Rawls delivered in his absence.
It was a different story last year. The Seahawks finished 25th in rushing and 20th in attempts with 403, down considerably from their average of almost 518 from the previous four seasons.
That was of a product of circumstance, not design. Injuries to Rawls and several others, plus Christine Michael's regression and eventual release, led to nine different tailbacks carrying the ball for Seattle last season. Wilson played through knee and ankle sprains that reduced his mobility and left him less inclined to run. Inconsistent play from the offensive line didn't help, either.
The Seahawks' first crack at getting their running game back on track in 2017 did not go as planned. Rawls, Lacy and Carson combined for 53 yards on 15 carries while Rawls sat out with an ankle injury. Carson gained 30 yard on one rush, which means the other 14 attempts produced all of 23 yards.
As Carroll alluded to, the way the game unfolded made it hard to run the ball. On the opening series, for instance, the first two plays were a throwaway, then a screen pass that lost yardage. There was no choice other than to throw again on third-and-13. That happened frequently Sunday. The average distance Seattle needed to gain on its 12 third-down plays was 7 yards. Five of the 12 required 10 yards or longer.
"Fifteen is not near enough," offensive line coach and running game coordinator Tom Cable said in reference to the number of carries from Seattle's running backs. "Can't win in this league running the ball that many times."
Rawls is expected back this week after missing the opener with an ankle injury. He presence wouldn't have solved all the issues in Green Bay, but he could have helped. Rawls, Lacy and Carson, plus third-down back C.J. Prosise, form one of the deeper backfields in the NFL, even with the jury still out on how effective Lacy can still be.
"Violence," Cable said, when asked what Rawls' return will provide. "Really when you think about his career, what he's done, he's going to come after it. He's going to go after it every time he touches it."
Another reason for hope: Seattle's next opponent, the San Francisco 49ers, had the NFL's worst rushing defense last season and ranked 29th the year before. They'll be without starting linebacker Reuben Foster, who's out with an injury.
"This is a system where you want to be able to run the ball enough to set up your movements, your play-actions, your [deep] shot plays, all that," Cable said. "When you don't do that, you're really out of whack in all phases offensively. I think all three of the runners bring something that is pretty cool to the table and I'm not worried too much about that, just more about the consistency of blocking it right. They will make the rest happen."