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Originally published Monday, November 21, 2011 at 8:02 PM

Seahawks' strong run defense is altering opponents' game plans

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is determined to run the ball, and to stop the run.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Sunday

Washington Redskins @ Seahawks, 1:05 p.m., Ch. 13

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RENTON — Two consecutive victories might not have opponents running away from the Seahawks.

Teams are not lining up to run at them, either.

That was true for Baltimore, which handed the ball to running back Ray Rice only five times in its Nov. 13 loss at CenturyLink Field. St Louis went so far as lining up running back Steven Jackson as a receiver at times in Sunday's loss to Seattle, going with an empty backfield.

"They really spread it out," coach Pete Carroll said. "Opened it up and didn't stay with the running game."

Now, you can debate the wisdom of those opposing game plans, because Rice and Jackson are both former Pro Bowl picks. Rice carried only once in the second half of what turned out to be a five-point loss, and the Rams came out and threw five consecutive passes to begin Sunday's game.

But the one thing that is clear is that opponents are acknowledging Seattle's ability to stop the run.

"We had a lot of respect for their front," Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said after the game. "To kind of spread it out, we thought we could move it around a little bit there."

Jackson carried 15 times for 42 yards, his second-lowest total this season.

Carroll said he counted 28, maybe even 29 plays on which the Rams had four players lined up at receiver. St. Louis had used that formation maybe once, Carroll said, in the previous five games. The Rams' pass-happy approach came one week after Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco attempted a career-high 52 passes against the Seahawks.

Seattle's run defense is the starting point for Carroll's blueprint for this football team. He wants to be unyielding against the run on defense, and unrelenting in the determination to run the ball on offense.

"It kind of complemented the way we played on defense," Carroll said. "We just hammered away and things started happening."

Well, kind of. Marshawn Lynch finished with 88 yards, but it took 27 carries. The Seahawks are averaging 3.7 yards per carry, tied for fifth-lowest in the league.

The Seahawks get points for their insistence on running the ball, though. They ran it 42 times against Baltimore and 39 times in St. Louis, where Lynch and Justin Forsett each ran for second-half touchdowns.

Seattle has shown something its opponents haven't: a willingness to stick with the run even when the results aren't overwhelming.

"Our style was there," Carroll said. "We were hammering it and trying to knock them around a little bit. In the meantime, if we didn't make it, we'd punt the football and let the defense play."

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @dannyoneil.

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