For years now, there have been two camps among Seahawks fans and, in some ways, coaches and players too. It's either "Let Russ Cook" or let Pete Carroll do his thing, which is rely on a physical run game and play tough defense.
We all saw the results of letting Russell Wilson have control in the kitchen last year, at least for most of the first half of the season. It was a high-flying attack, with Wilson averaging just over 298 yards passing through the season's first eight games. But after a turnover-filled debacle against the Bills, Carroll clutched his pearls and went back to what he knows best.
In the end, the Seahawks had the same exact record in those two sections of the season, 6-2, with Wilson averaging less than 195 passing yards in the final eight regular season games. Seattle's defense improved dramatically during the year and the run game came to life.
Now, with Wilson on the sidelines for at least a few more weeks, it looks like once again, Carroll is being himself. The first half of the Sunday night matchup with the Steelers was tough to watch as the offense sputtered to just 65 total yards. Carroll was visibly irked.
I am not sure if Carroll put on his Bose headphones and blasted the work of one of the Pacific Northwest's favored sons, Kurt Cobain, but either way, Carroll decided to come into the second half as he is, as he wants to be.
He views the running game as a friend, as an "old memoria." The strategy was clear in the third quarter: establish the running game or die trying. By the end of the third quarter, Alex Collins was doused in mud but had 79 yards rushing and a touchdown in that quarter alone. Seattle went from down 14-0 with the game seemingly out of reach with the lack of offensive punch, to just a three-point deficit by the end of the quarter.
Just over two minutes into the fourth quarter, the Seahawks had tied it at 17 apiece. They came all the way back from the brink of death, by running the ball—Carroll's old friend.
"I was so proud to see that happen. See them fight like that and turn the game, " Carroll said. "And the guys up front, the offensive line played like they did in the second half, come through and keep knocking the line of scrimmage like they did, give our running backs a chance to go."
Even in a losing effort in overtime, the Seahawks found a formula, at least temporarily, to get by without Russell Wilson. The Steelers are 10th in the NFL in run defense and Seattle was able to move the ball almost at will for parts of the second half.
With Geno Smith under center, the formula is rather apparent: the Seahawks need to come as they are. They are built to run. Collins has been a revelation at running back, earning the first 100-yard game by a Seahawks running back since 2019. Most of the offensive line is better at being on the attack in the run game than dropping back in pass protection. The coaches should lean on the strengths of the personnel they have available instead of trying to fit a scheme that works with players who aren't playing and force the issue.
Though some in social media circles and pro-analytics camps will wring their hands, with the Saints and Jaguars up ahead without Wilson at quarterback, the Seahawks should look to go back to what made them great in the past.
Seattle doesn't have a gun, being Russell Wilson's arm. But as the Aberdeen native Cobain once said, the choice is theirs, but they can't be late. Time is running out in the NFC playoff picture.