The Seahawks’ plan for getting back to winning: Getting back to running Kenneth Walker

Will Dissly has an idea that might help the Seahawks get back to running the ball this weekend.

“Yeah, I mean, we’ll play in America. It might help. I don’t know,” Seattle’s tight end said, joking.

Yes, Seattle is back to playing in the United States Sunday. The Seahawks (6-4) host the Las Vegas Raiders (3-7) at Lumen Field.

Their last game, in Germany, the Seahawks bogged down in the Munich grass. After seven consecutive games with at least 23 carries and six of those weeks with at least 112 yards rushing, Seattle trudged to just 39 yards on 14 rushes. They fell behind Tampa Bay 21-3. The Seahawks lost for the first time in five games, 21-16.

They are out of first place in the NFC West.

Their way to get back in it: run again.

Seattle Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker III (9) is tackled by Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Akiem Hicks during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022, in Munich, Germany. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Seattle Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker III (9) is tackled by Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Akiem Hicks during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022, in Munich, Germany. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

The Seahawks have spent their post-bye week talking about and practicing getting back to running rookie Kenneth Walker, to set quarterback Geno Smith and the entire offense back on their proven way to winning.

“We just have to keep doing our thing,” Dissly said. “Still a bunch of trust in Geno and the O-line has been blocking their tails off.

“So I can see those getting corrected really easily and just go out there and play a complete game, running the ball and passing the ball.”

Bucs stopped Kenneth Walker

The Seahawks were among the top dozen rushing offenses in the NFL and were fourth in scoring.

Then the Buccaneers’ brick wall of an interior defensive line stopped the way Seattle coach Pete Carroll wants to play and win on Nov. 13 in Munich.

Walker had just 17 yards on 10 carries. It was by far his lowest-production day of the five wondrous starts he’s had replacing injured Rashaad Penny and becoming a favorite for the league’s offensive rookie of the year award.

The Seahawks were 0 for 5 converting third downs and had just 15 yards rushing, 57 total yards and three first downs in the opening half amid a roaring, celebrating crowd at FC Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena. It was a wonder they weren’t behind Tampa Bay more than 14-0 at halftime in Germany.

Failing to run effectively on early downs resulted in this to begin that game: third and 5, third and 10, third and 22 and third and 10. That’s why Seattle did not have a drive longer than five plays in the first half.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (7) is sacked by Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Joe Tryon-Shoyinka (9) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022, in Munich, Germany. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (7) is sacked by Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Joe Tryon-Shoyinka (9) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022, in Munich, Germany. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

Offensive coordinator Shane Waldron did not have the third and short yardage plays to use Dissly and the three-tight end formations as often or effectively as he had during the team’s four-game winning streak.

Much of Waldron’s playbook went unused against Tampa Bay. Smith had to throw the Seahawks back into the game, which he eventually did later in the fourth quarter, when it was too late to win.

“Credit to them. They had a great scheme and good players up front,” Waldron said. “They did a nice job of really getting us out of schedule a little bit on those first down runs a few times.

“It was different reasons, not just one thing. But something that we have to focus on and recommit to, which we did this week talking through some things and making sure the communication is right, so we can get those efficient runs going — especially on early downs leading into those third and manageables and staying on the field.”

Asked why the Buccaneers stopped Walker and Seattle, Smith said this week: “They have Vita Vea and they have Akiem Hicks, two monsters upfront. They have really good linebackers. ...

“And I just think that we started a little too late and ran out of time. I think that is an experience that we can learn from and gain from. When you are playing in those championship atmospheres, you have to be on it from the first whistle.

“For me, in this offense, we know that, so we are looking forward to improving on those things going down the stretch.”

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith is sacked by Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Devin White during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022, in Munich, Germany. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith is sacked by Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Devin White during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022, in Munich, Germany. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)

Raiders’ test: Maxx Crosby

The Raiders don’t have Vea, the former Washington Huskies’ stonewalling defensive tackle, or Hicks. Las Vegas has the league’s 27th-ranked defense, 20th against the run.

The Raiders’ best defensive player this season has been Maxx Crosby. The pass-rushing end has nine sacks in 10 games. He sacked Russell Wilson twice last weekend in the Raiders’ rally in Denver to beat the Broncos in overtime. That was Las Vegas’ first win in four games.

The best way to slow down pass rushers is to run, and right at them. Expect Waldron to have the Seahawks running Walker early and often Sunday on inside and outside zone-read plays at Crosby and fellow Raiders end Chandler Jones, a Seahawks-wrecker in his previous seasons pass rushing for Arizona.

“Yeah, with Crosby on the edge where he is flying off of the edge every single snap, it doesn’t matter whether it’s run or pass, it seems like he’s creating some chaos,” Waldron said. “He’s just an elite player.

“Again, we talk about this each week with some of the different defensive ends, and you have Chandler Jones on the other side, so it’s not like you are saying one or the other. We have to be aware of those guys, aware of their skill set(s), and aware of the motor that he plays with. Crosby in particular, where he never comes off of the field and he’s nonstop.”

Charles Cross, Abe Lucas Seattle’s keys

The two key players to getting Seattle back to running, and winning, on offense remain the team’s rookie tackles. Charles Cross on the left and Abe Lucas on the right have been perhaps the most consistent and valuable offensive players for the Seahawks. Their quick, athletic pass protection outside and physical run blocking most of this season have allowed Smith to surprise the league with his passing and Walker to have his smashing debut.

Abe Lucas (72) and Charles Cross (67) became the third pair of rookie offensive tackles in 52 years to start in week one of an NFL season last month. That decision is paying off hugely for the Seahawks.
Abe Lucas (72) and Charles Cross (67) became the third pair of rookie offensive tackles in 52 years to start in week one of an NFL season last month. That decision is paying off hugely for the Seahawks.

Lucas, the third-round draft choice from Washington State, has been particularly impressive. Now he gets another elite edge rusher in Crosby.

Just another week in the NFL for the third pair of rookie offensive tackles in 52 years to start in the league from the opening game.

“He’s a phenomenal player for his third year in the league or whatever it is. I mean, he’s a year older than me if you can believe that. I’m 24 and he’s 25. It will be a good challenge for me,” Lucas said of Crosby.

Asked how it’s been blocking all these top pass rushers, Lucas said: “Well, it certainly is what I thought it would be. I thought it would be very difficult and it has been. This is the NFL. It’s not the NFL for no reason, right?

“Coach Carroll came up to me when I got here pretty early in the morning two weeks ago and he was asking me what my mindset was. I said, ‘Well, it’s not everyday that you go against Hall of Fame guys, but they have to play against me, too.’

“For as inexperienced and as fresh as I am, I still take the mentality in everything.”