No restrictions? It's past time for the Seahawks' offense to prove it
Russell Wilson and passing game deserves coaches' total trust
Seattle Times staff columnist
Seahawks @ Chicago, 10 a.m., Ch. 13
Pete Carroll verbalized an epiphany last week. Or a bunch of words just spilled out of his mouth. Sometimes, it's hard to know with the Seahawks coach.
When Carroll speaks, his thoughts often resemble a crowd rushing to board a train before the doors close. You wonder how his tongue keeps from getting trampled. The man is awkwardly captivating in this way.
He used that strange talent last week to suggest that gradually-improving rookie quarterback Russell Wilson and his team's vanilla offense is functioning without training wheels now. He even seemed to second-guess the Seahawks' decision not to throw the football more during their loss to Miami last Sunday. But if you're expecting the offense to join the 21st century in Chicago on Sunday, you should start preparing strategies now to quell your raging disappointment.
"We don't have any restrictions now," said Carroll, who admitted earlier this season to keeping a lid on the offense. "I think (Wilson) has proven that he is ready to go, and I have felt like this for about a month. I've felt like this for longer than today, and we've seen him just continue to do really good things. There's no reason not to count on him to continue to do that. I don't think he has some issue that is lurking out there. I think he can handle it.
"The problem he's got is that he's got the Chicago Bears, and they can create a bunch of problems."
So, uh, the Seahawks have freedom with an asterisk?
"Right now, we need to do whatever we have to do to win a game," he said. "It's really cool that we're feeling that way, and I look back last week, and there were other chances where we could've thrown the ball a little bit more, and we really thought we were going to win this football game with the way we were playing it and making sure we didn't give them a chance to win it. By the way he was playing, and you look back, and he completes 16 in a row and all of that, there was no reason not to keep throwing it.
"We're in good shape in that sense. We're going to run the offense and try to beat this team and do all of the things it takes."
So, uh, you should have optimism with an asterisk?
Here's the deal: The Seahawks might mix it up a little better on offense, but they won't change dramatically. Carroll believes in a run-oriented offensive philosophy too much. And offensive line guru Tom Cable has the title of assistant head coach for a reason: to emphasize the importance of employing a physical, shove-it-down-your-throat offensive style.
So it's not realistic to demand that the Seahawks let Wilson fling the ball all over the field. But there is a middle ground between cautious and adventurous. And while the Seahawks have been right to put Wilson in the best possible position to succeed, his performance and the realities of winning in the NFL dictate Carroll must live up to his assertion that there are no restrictions for the quarterback and the offense he is directing.
Wilson deserves the chance to do more. He has had a quarterback rating above 125 in his past three games. He has been above 95 in five of his past six games, accounting for 12 touchdown passes and only two interceptions during that span. For the season, Wilson has a 93.9 QB rating, and he has more than twice as many touchdown passes (17) as interceptions (eight). Still, the Seahawks remain last in the NFL in pass attempts per game and second-to-last in passing yards.
The Miami game was almost a cartoonish example of their unwillingness to keep defenses off balance. The Seahawks' normally reliable run game was struggling, and Wilson was hot, completing 21 of 27 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns, including 16 completions in a row. Still, the Seahawks ran the ball on two-thirds of their first-down plays and tried to win bland. It would've worked, except the defense allowed 17 fourth-quarter points.
As good as the Seattle defense is, the young Seahawks aren't without flaws, and it's foolish to keep losing games the same way. The Seahawks (6-5) are 1-5 on the road, the defense has lost three fourth-quarter leads, and all of their road games have come down to the last possession. It's scary to have that small a margin for error.
Wilson has attempted 30 passes just twice this season. Twenty-eight of the NFL's 32 teams average at least 30 pass attempts. If the Seahawks threw the ball five more times a game, they would still rank among the bottom five in the league in attempts. The vanilla offense has been a storyline all season. Now, the plea to offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, as well as to Carroll and Cable, is tinged with mounting desperation.
Be more imaginative.
"I think we've been getting better every week, and a big part of that is through Russell," said Zach Miller, the starting tight end. "Just his improvement. I think you're seeing it now, with the way he's being so efficient and throwing the ball around and running the offense. I think we all knew it was going to happen. But the way it has been happening is pretty special."
Special demands trust. The Seahawks have to stop saying how much they love Wilson and start showing it.
Freedom isn't just a perk anymore. It's the key to getting the most out of this team.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @JerryBrewer
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