The Seahawks don’t have a balance problem, they have a Chris Carson problem originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest
Pete Carroll spent much of his press conference on Monday discussing the Seahawks need to find balance in their offense. His belief is that they’ve relied too heavily on the passing game over the past two weeks.
“We’ve got to function at a high level again,” Carroll said. “We’ve got to get it all working. We need to continue to run the football. We need that as part of our offense. We want to continue to always work for the balance.
“I know all of the publicity has gone towards the throwing game and Russ has had huge numbers starting this thing off, and we’re still close to the highest-scoring team in the NFL and we expect to get back to that. We need all of our offense to get that done.”
This sentiment is a bit flawed, at least in terms of needing to get closer to a 50-50 split between the run and pass game. For starters, Seattle still owns the top-scoring offense in the NFL. Elite offenses usually don’t panic after one poor performance. The Seahawks only scored 12 points on the road against the Rams in 2019, so Sunday’s meager output in the 23-16 loss wasn’t totally out of character.
More importantly, the Seahawks losses have little to do with run-pass ratio. In Seattle’s three losses, running backs have averaged 17 carries per game. In the Seahawks lone win over the last month, a comfortable Week 8 victory over the 49ers, running backs accounted for 20 carries. So even in Sunday’s loss to the Rams, when Seattle ran the ball just 13 times, the offense was only marginally out of character based on its’ 2020 standards.
Russell Wilson missing throws he usually connects on while making a few inexcusable decisions was far more detrimental than a lack of commitment to the running game. Abandoning the pass happy approach that has propelled Seattle’s offense to the top of the NFL is an overreactive measure.
That’s why the Seahawks don’t have a balance problem, they have a Chris Carson problem. It’s not a coincidence that Seattle has experienced a drastic uptick in turnovers while laboring more to move the ball downfield during Carson’s 3.5-game absence. The Seahawks are 1-2 without Carson in the lineup with seven turnovers in that span.
What might feel like a lack of balance to Carroll is rather an opponent’s ability to completely sell out against Wilson and the passing attack. Defenses have been able to bracket both Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf while varying its pressures.
There’s a difference between being dedicated to running the football with an average running back and being dedicated to running the football with Carson, someone who is legitimately one of the best backs in football.
Carson hasn’t had the bell cow role in 2020 he grew accustomed to in year’s prior, only averaging 12.2 carries per game through the first five weeks of the season (though his 22 receptions have been a nice supplement to his workload). But Carson’s presence alone forces defenses to game plan for him. DeeJay Dallas, Travis Homer, Alex Collins or even Carlos Hyde don’t command that level of respect from an opponent.
Carroll alluded to that fact as well.
“I can feel it. I think it’s been a little bit different,” Carroll said of Carson’s absence.
Carroll is correct, it has been a little different. But that doesn’t mean there’s a correlation between Carson’s injury and a lack of balance in general.
Seattle’s coach noted the need to develop other guys, which is something he has to say when dealing with a notable injury. But Carson is a unique and special talent that is impossible to replace. The void will remain until his foot is healthy enough to return to the lineup.
In the meantime, let’s not misdiagnose the issue at hand as anything other than an offense missing one of its best players.