How the Seahawks exploded 5 preseason myths this season
Predictions that the Seahawks would go to a running back-by-committee and would suffer a Super Bowl hangover are among five story lines that have been disproved this season.
Seattle Times staff reporter
RENTON — The Seahawks entered the 2014 regular season with high hopes and endless story lines.
Would this be the season the Seahawks fully unleashed Russell Wilson’s arm? Was the NFL out to get the Seahawks with its newly stated emphasis on penalties such as illegal contact? Would the Seahawks truly go to a tailback-by-committee?
As the team takes a break before entering the playoffs Jan. 10, we’re reviewing five key preseason story lines and examining how they unfolded.
And, as you’ll see, most of them turned out to be much ado about nothing.
Story line No. 1: The Seahawks will have a “tailback-by-committee’’ in 2014.
This story line was spurred in part by the Seahawks themselves. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said during the team’s annual Town Hall in June that the Seahawks “are going to be running back by committee’’ in 2014. Bevell almost immediately clarified that the comment was more in reference to the split in practice reps. Still, the idea persisted that the Seahawks might spread the carries out more in 2014 rather than again depending largely on Marshawn Lynch.
As it turned out, though, Seattle again had mostly a committee of one.
Lynch got 280 of 525 total rushes this season, 53 percent, compared to 301 of 509 in 2013, 59 percent. The main reason Lynch had a few less carries this season is that quarterback Russell Wilson had a few more; Wilson finished with 118 carries this season compared to 96 last season. (Backup tailbacks Robert Turbin and Michael combined for 108 carries this season compared to 95 in 2013).
Story line No. 2: The NFL’s new emphasis on penalties such as illegal contact and defensive pass interference will change the way the Seahawks play defense.
As we saw, with the Seahawks again leading the NFL in total defense and points allowed, Seattle’s defense was as good as ever.
And while the Seahawks again led the NFL in penalties, it wasn’t because of more flags on the secondary, as many assumed would be the case when the league announced in the offseason it would emphasize penalties there.
Seattle was called for 11 defensive-holding penalties this season — the same number as a year ago. And while there were more illegal-contact penalties called around the league, Seattle’s increase was minimal — from zero in 2013 to two this season.
Seattle actually was called for far fewer defensive-pass-interference penalties — six in 2014 compared to 15 in 2013.
As for cornerback Richard Sherman, a player many assumed would be hampered by the new emphasis, he was called for just three penalties this season compared to 10 a year ago. And he had only one interference call this season, after being flagged five times in 2013.
Story line No. 3: Seattle will become more of a throwing team in 2014.
This was a popular assumption after Seattle drafted Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood with two of its top four picks. Along with the return of a healthy Percy Harvin, it created the idea that the Seahawks would suddenly fling it around the field, though coach Pete Carroll went out of his way to say otherwise whenever asked.
Turns out, Seattle threw almost the exact same amount this year as last season. Seattle attempted 454 passes out of 1021 plays this season, 48.58 percent, compared to 420 out of 973 in 2013, 47.29 percent. Seattle ranked second in the league in percentage of rushes this season after ranking first last season.
And it’s not really as if the Harvin trade changed much. Seattle had 142 rushes to 140 passes in the five games he played.
Story line No. 4: Christine Michael will be the team’s breakout player in 2014.
This was sort of a corollary of the running back-by-committee ideal. If the Seahawks distributed the ball to more tailbacks this season, it was thought that Michael would be the one to benefit most. But as noted, Lynch was basically used the same as always. Meanwhile, Michael, the team’s second-round pick in the 2013 draft, was slowed late in preseason by a hamstring injury that held him out of the first three games. Michael ended up being used more this season, getting 34 carries compared to 18 a year ago. But a breakout season will have to wait.
Story line No. 5: The Seahawks will suffer a Super Bowl hangover.
Well, maybe they did for a while. But after a 3-3 start, the team finished 9-1, By earning a playoff berth, Seattle has already done better than six of the last 12 Super Bowl champs, who missed qualifying for the postseason entirely.
The Seahawks also became just the third Super Bowl champ to earn a No. 1 seed in the playoffs the next season since 1998. The 2011 Green Bay Packers and 2008 New York Giants were the others.