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Originally published Monday, September 15, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Julius Jones carries Seahawks' rushing game

Running back Julius Jones got it going early. He carried seven times in the first quarter for 40 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown on Seattle's second series that gave the Seahawks a 7-0 lead.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Forget the season opener. This is what general manager Tim Ruskell had in mind when he made so many changes to the Seahawks running game in the summer.

Julius Jones, the new running back from Dallas, became the first Seahawk to gain at least 100 rushing yards since Shaun Alexander in the third week of the 2007 season.

T.J. Duckett, the new short-yardage specialist from Detroit, scored on a 1-yard touchdown run and converted a critical third-down-1 situation in limited action.

And Mike Wahle, the new guard from Carolina, paired nicely with All-Pro left tackle Walter Jones and battered the left side of the San Francisco 49ers defensive line.

The end result: 169 rushing yards.

It was more than the Seahawks gained in any game last season. And the timing was perfect. On a day when two more receivers fell to injuries, the Seahawks leaned heavily on Jones, who might have been the hero if Seattle hadn't lost 33-30 in overtime at Qwest Field.

"Any time you lose, it doesn't matter what you do individually," said Jones, who carried 26 times for 127 yards in place of injured starter Maurice Morris. "You can fight hard and lose at the end like that, it's tough to swallow. Obviously, we have some more work to do.

"The run game worked really well today, and that was a positive thing for the running backs and the offensive line. We kind of got into a groove and it felt good."

Jones got it going early. He carried seven times in the first quarter for 40 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown on Seattle's second series that gave the Seahawks a 7-0 lead. Initially, Jones was stopped for what appeared a short gain before finding an opening on the left side and sprinting to the end zone.

By halftime, he had 72 yards rushing. After the third quarter, it was 107, which topped the team's rushing total of 85 in last Sunday's 34-10 defeat at Buffalo.

"What I liked is he kept getting stronger and didn't look like he was getting tired," said guard Floyd Womack. "He did a good job for us. That's why we brought him in. It's just one game. We miss Mo, but he did a great job."

Several Seahawks spoke about Jones' hard-running style, which may have been a veiled swipe at Alexander, who was often criticized for being tackled too easily last season.

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"That's what [Ruskell] was looking for in the offseason," center Chris Spencer said. "We got a lot of new guys. New backs, new guard and it was just a matter of time before we get things established. We got that thing going and now we need to just keep it going."

Jones was the workhorse, which limited opportunities for Leonard Weaver (five carries, 27 yards) and Duckett (two carries, three yards). Jones pounded the 49ers in the middle, spun past would-be tacklers and ran roughshod on the edge.

This is what the Dallas Cowboys never understood. Starting football games didn't matter to Jones as much as being involved in the game plan. He craved carries. As a rookie, he showed the promise of a superstar before injuries and Marion Barber forced him into a platoon system.

It remains to be seen whether Jones will continue to carry a heavy burden of the running load; Morris (sprained knee) may return for the Oct. 5 game.

For now, Jones is concentrating on keeping the offense afloat long enough for the receivers to get healthy and revitalize a passing game that accumulated 182 yards on Sunday.

"I don't know what the deal is with the receivers with the injuries," Jones said. "I know we had two guys go down and I'm not sure how long they are going to be down. It is just another opportunity for somebody else to step up. It's just a chance for somebody to step up and make a name for themselves."

For now, Jones has restored his good name.

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or pallen@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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