Is the Running Game Dead?

Is the Running Game Dead?

The Seattle Seahawks thought they were going to be battling the Green Bay Packers for the second seed in the NFC in the final weeks of the season. Instead, after unexpectedly losing to Carolina on Sunday, they will be fighting with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to maintain the third spot and the right to host the sixth seed.

The Seahawks currently have the same record (9-5) as Tampa Bay, but because the Seahawks defeated the Buccaneers in the first week of the season, they hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. If the Seahawks win their two remaining games, against Baltimore and at Atlanta, they won't have to worry about what Tampa Bay does in its final two games.

More than that, though, the Seahawks need to address issues in their running game that have plagued them all season.

Against Carolina on Sunday, in a windy game in which some semblance of the threat of a run could have helped tremendously, the Seahawks gained only 44 yards on 14 carries -- 11 of which came on a scramble by quarterback Matt Hasselbeck -- and forced coach Mike Holmgren to go with Hasselbeck through the air because the offensive line made mistake after mistake.

"We've had trouble all season," Holmgren said. "We're going to keep trying, but to think that we are going to all of a sudden become this power running team is a little foolish."

Running back Shaun Alexander says he doesn't think so. "We have work to do," Alexander said. "I think this loss is actually good for us because we have to get things fixed. We have all been saying it but when you lose it kind of brings more attention to it."

Of course, the Seahawks have been saying similar things all season, and they have yet to fix the glaring problems. Most notably, left guard Rob Sims regularly gets beat, particularly in short-yardage situations and on third downs. Fifteen-year veteran Chris Gray also regularly gets bull-rushed and beaten.

So why does Alexander think that now, with only two games left in the regular season, that things are going to dramatically change from what they have been all season?

"We do have a veteran team," Alexander said. "We all just have to decide what to do and then do it. That is the good thing about losses, it kind of wakes everybody up."

Hasselbeck said that the team's mistakes are fixable, if only the team chooses to focus on its problems in the final minutes rather than wait for the playoffs to start in a few weeks. "The mistakes we're making are simple mistakes," Hasselbeck said. "We were talking about their blitz. (Carolina) was bringing four guys or five guys and some teams don't even call that a blitz, which we have to handle better. When there are plays to be made we have to play better. It's a group thing. Every guy's got to look at themselves and ask what they could have done better.

"At this point, our seed is still unchanged but we've got to get our act together if we want to achieve our next goal. We're not in this to go part of the way there, we're in it to go all the way there."

PLAYER NOTES

--WR Bobby Engram, in his 12th season, achieved his first 1,000-yard season of his career, catching nine passes for 84 yards. He needs only three receptions to tie his career high of 88 catches.
--DE Patrick Kerney, who was leading the league with 13.5 sacks, was held without a sack or a quarterback hurry against Carolina. He was double-teamed for much of the day.
--New LS Jeff Robinson did a fine job in windy conditions, the first time in two months the team's snapping has not been an issue.
--QB Matt Hasselbeck was sacked three times by the team with the lowest sack total in the NFL.
--S Brian Russell was a game-time decision because of an injured abdomen but played and had five tackles.

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