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Originally published September 13, 2013 at 4:33 PM | Page modified September 13, 2013 at 9:47 PM

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Seahawks look to improve on running game

Seattle was third in the NFL in rushing last season. Against the Panthers, it managed just 2.7 yards.

Seattle Times staff reporter

SUNDAY

San Francisco 49ers @ Seahawks, 5:30 p.m., Ch. 5

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It’s dangerous, if not almost irresponsible, to try to discern trends from the opening week of the NFL season.

Still, it was hard to ignore that few teams ran the ball much last weekend.

A year ago, 23 teams finished the season averaging 100 yards or more rushing.

Last week, only 11 managed to crack that mark.

Much to their dismay, one of those teams was the Seahawks, who were held to 70 rushing yards in their 12-7 win at Carolina, their fewest since the 2011 season.

And the Seahawks didn’t hide their displeasure at struggling at something that is at the core of everything they do.

“We didn’t run the ball very well,’’ coach Pete Carroll said. “In our program, as you guys know, that’s a huge focus, and so we were disappointed.’’

Indeed, last year Seattle was third in the NFL in rushing at 161.2 per game, a franchise record.

And the team’s weekly media notes proudly state that since Week 9 of the 2011, no NFL team has rushed for more yards than Seattle.

Sunday in Carolina, though, the Seahawks managed just 2.7 yards per carry.

They also, however, “found out how to win’’ without the running game going so well, as center Max Unger put it, with Russell Wilson throwing for a career-high 320 yards. “I think that’s kind of the positive that we take out of it,’’ Unger said.

As the Seahawks have also noted, Carolina’s defensive front, fortified by rookie tackle Star Lotulelei, could end up being one of the best Seattle will face all season.

Still, Carroll says Seattle won’t keep winning putting up rushing numbers like it did at Carolina.

“We have to do something about it this week against a tremendous defense,’’ Carroll said of facing the 49ers Sunday night.

Other than the challenge that was presented by Carolina’s front seven, Seahawks coaches and players have pointed to a few other issues that plagued them last week — namely, not changing quickly enough from schemes that weren’t working, trying to do too much schematically, and the line not performing as crisply as it had in the past.

“Our technique was off a little bit, and it took a while to adjust to it,’’ said right guard J.R. Sweezy.

Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, meanwhile, said the playbook might have been too big.

“We probably went in with a little bit too much,’’ he said. “You know, first game, we threw a lot out there and we probably just didn’t hone in on what we like to do.’’

Or as Carroll said: “We needed to help them a little bit scheme-wise and some things that we need to fix in the run game that against that opponent didn’t work out for us.’’

Complicating matters is that it was a relatively quick game. Seattle had just 12 plays in the first quarter, throwing on eight, not exactly the preferred recipe for a team that leads with the run.

“You’ve got to get enough looks early to figure out what is going on out there,’’ said offensive-line coach Tom Cable. “That’s important, and that’s where we did not do a very good job out there as coaches.’’

Cable was heartened that the Seahawks had a little more success running later in the game once they figured out what would work. Seattle’s two longest gains of the game, of 15 and 14 yards, came on the final two series.

“We hit some runs and finished the game the right way,’’ Cable said, “but not really very consistent early in getting to it and hitting the spots the right way.”

The NFL, though, doesn’t leave much time for dissecting what went wrong the previous Sunday. While Carolina runs primarily a 4-3, the 49ers work mostly out of a 3-4, making for a different challenge this week.

The Seahawks have had rare success against the 49ers of late, averaging 125 yards rushing against a San Francisco defense that has allowed an average of 80 yards against everyone else it has played. That includes 176 in Seattle’s 42-13 win last December.

“We know what we need to do,’’ Sweezy said. “It’s just a matter of us doing it. And if we do do it, then we are going to be hard to beat. If we don’t do it, then it’s all on us taking ourselves out of the game.’’

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

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