PITTSBURGH, PA — Half an hour into their first game without Russell Wilson in 10 years, the Seahawks were being shut out on a brisk night in Pittsburgh. The offensive line struggled to give backup quarterback Geno Smith a clean pocket to work from, leading to three sacks and a ton of pressure. As a result, the offense failed to even threaten for points through the first two quarters of the night.
But running back Alex Collins would not let his team go down so easily.
"I thought he played a fantastic game," head coach Pete Carroll told reporters after the Seahawks' 23-20 loss to the Steelers. "He looked so good out there. Made so many good plays and all."
On Seattle's first drive of the second half, Collins had his number called on eight of 10 plays. He kicked things off with three straight runs of five yards, 11 yards and 21 yards to get across midfield in a hurry. After a quick breather on the sideline, a nine-yard connection between Smith and receiver DK Metcalf and a five-yard run by running back DeeJay Dallas, Collins checked back into the game and took the Seahawks all the way from the Steelers' 24-yard line and into the end zone on five consecutive carries.
In all, Collins rushed for 58 of the Seahawks' 75 yards on the drive and brought the game within one score. From there, the offense found its groove and put seven points on the board again its very next drive. Eventually, Smith and company would knot things up at 17 apiece, then again at 20-20 to send the game to overtime.
Meanwhile, Collins eclipsed the century mark in rushing yards, becoming the first Seahawks running back to do so since Chris Carson ran for 133 yards against the Panthers in Week 15 of the 2019 season. Starting in place of Carson (neck) on Sunday night, Collins finished his outing with 101 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries—averaging 5.1 yards per attempt.
Unfortunately, his night was cut short due to a pair of injuries suffered late in the fourth quarter, forcing him to miss Seattle's final three drives of the game.
"Alex had a couple things," Carroll revealed. "He got hit in the glute and then he got hit in the hip, too, in the front of the same side, I believe. So his hip was kinda jacked up."
Dallas and Travis Homer stepped in for Collins the rest of the way, with the former being a crucial part of the team's two-minute drill to force overtime. Smith found Dallas on four separate checkdowns, which ate 22 yards and picked up a key first down. But the absence of Collins was certainly felt in overtime, where Homer and Dallas got a carry each, resulting in a one-yard gain and a loss of four, respectively.
"We would love to have had Alex," Carroll reflected. "Keep making those runs. He made some phenomenal five- and six-yard runs with great feet and determination and all that. We certainly missed him."
If Collins' ailments hold him out for an extended period of time, the Seahawks will once again have to work from the depths of their running back room, just like in 2019 and 2020. Carson will at least miss the next two games after going on injured reserve last week, though Rashaad Penny (calf) is now eligible for activation from the same list. That doesn't guarantee an immediate return, however; Penny can practice with the team for up to three weeks before being added back to the 53-man roster.
Seattle will hope it's nothing too serious, given that Collins proved he's a capable sidekick for Smith in these unprecedented times for the organization. He was instrumental in kickstarting a sluggish offense on Sunday night, and his presence would be a boon for a team still within reach of a .500 winning percentage before Wilson can return.