The Seahawks’ first drive of the 49ers game Thursday in San Francisco took seven minutes. It included 12 plays, nine on the ground, to cover 61 yards. Several times the Seahawks were in the old-fashioned I-formation: Quarterback under center, with a 280-pound fullback blowing up people ahead of a power tailback who took care of the rest.
Here is the technical phrase for that drive, using football argot:
“We gonna run it on you. F— you,” said RT Garry Gilliam. If there is any part of that that is unclear to the reader, please stop reading. You’re wasting your time.
After seeing the secrets of the football ancients again played out so poignantly, ending with Marshawn Lynch’s one-yard flyover of the goal line, it is tempting to wonder why it was not done on the subsequent 10 possessions, as well as the next nine games. The thought isn’t lost on Gilliam.
“That’s what we should do all the time — run the ball and pound ’em,” he said. “Get back to our roots. Even if we got stopped on fourth down . . . hell yeah.”
In fact, the Seahawks scored on three of their first four possessions, and likely would have had a fourth score but for an end-zone interception of Russell Wilson late in the first half. There he goes again, throwing. These kids today . . .
But the Seahawks threw only 24 times in the 20-3 triumph, one more than the season-low 23 against Cincinnati. They ran the ball 41 times, a ratio that nearly inspires giggles in coach Pete Carroll.
“I’m excited about the way we’re running the ball,” he said. “The consistency is showing up. We’re coming off the football with the attitude that we like and the speed that we like.”
A similar approach is likely for Sunday’s 1:25 p.m.. game with the Cowboys (2-4) in Dallas, where the Jerry Jones Circus promises to bring its fleet of clown cars to entertain with sideline arguments, shoving matches and defense of indefensible personnel.
The Seahawks under Carroll have always been run-first, but starting the season with an offensive line that was St. Patrick’s Day green offered no clue about capability in anything. With mid-season upon them, the Seahawks are back to second in the NFL in rushing with 143 yards a game, barely trailing Carolina.
With little preparation, Gilliam, who was a one-play hero in the NFC Championship with a fake-field-goal touchdown reception on a pass from placeholder Jon Ryan, was thrust into the starting job at right tackle. That was among several reaches the Seahawks made with personnel, hoping the team could survive as the newbies were hammered into the requisite toughness. It was nearly cruel, not only for them but for Wilson, who has been hit more than security guards opening doors for Black Friday shoppers.
“For me, this is my first year playing offensive line,” he said. “I did it part-time (at Penn State) one year, but mostly was at tight end. This is like being a freshman in college, but it’s the NFL.
“Maybe a guy gets beat here and there, and maybe we’re last in pass protection. But we’re nearly first in rushing. You can’t say the line is bad.”
If it’s fair to say the line is half-good, it’s also fair to speculate whether Wilson has been banged off his game a bit by the poor protection. No one on the outside can know, because honest expression is not in the script Wilson has memorized for interviews, but being sacked at a near-record NFL pace (31 so far) has to leave a psychic bruise.
Wilson forced two passes for interceptions against the 49ers, giving him five for the season. He had seven all last year, nine in 2013. Carroll was unusually harsh in describing the second pick, a deep ball to Jermaine Kearse that had no chance.
“It was kind of a short message,” he said of his discussion with Wilson. “I didn’t like that play at all. I was really disappointed in that because I thought just the looks of it, I would like him to not make that throw.”
Wilson did complete 18 passes, and the Seahawks had 10 explosive plays, so progress was visible.
“That’s a big number,” Carroll said. “We love being in the double digits there. The third downs were really close (five for 13). We needed a couple more there to get over the hump. We’re always trying to get 50 percent and we were close to it. So I think he did fine.”
Gilliam knows he and his line mates, especially centers Drew Nowak and Patrick Lewis, are under big pressure to improve.
“The first half we did pretty good, only one sack, and Russell got back to the line on that one, but it was a zero-yards sack,” he said. “Second half, a few plays got away from a couple players. The key is having the mentality that my man is not going to touch the quarterback. If something happens on my side, it’s because I did something ditzy with my technique, not because I don’t have the talent or skill.
“From here on, our main focus is that our guy doesn’t touch the quarterback. That’s my duty.”
As he walked from the locker room, he grinned.
“I think,” he said, “we getting close to some big things.”
With a chance to get to 4-4 before a bye week, that time would seem to be Sunday.
Benefiting from the extra rest after a Thursday game, Carroll was happy that he may have a nearly complete roster to work with. Returning to healthy status and likely to play Sunday are C Patrick Lewis (ankle), DT Jordan Hill (quadriceps), DT Demarcus Dobbs (shoulder), FB Derrick Coleman (concussion) and LB Nick Moody (ankle). The only player who didn’t practice Wednesday was RB Thomas Rawls (calf), although Lynch was held out, which is typical . . . The Cowboys, operating with backups Brandon Weedon and now Matt Cassel at quarterback after Tony Romo’s week two broken collarbone, are last in the league in turnover ratio at a minus-9. The Seahawks are tied for 16th at even.