The Seahawks’ running-back-by-committee approach has morphed into the Justin Forsett show, and Sunday he’ll be running at the site of the most productive game in his NFL career.
Just mentioning the Seahawks’ last game at the Edward Jones Dome brings a smile to Justin Forsett’s face. But not for the reason you might imagine.
“It was a road win for us,” Forsett said.
That it was, and the Seahawks’ only victory on the road last season. And it happened in large part because of one of the smallest players on the team, as Forsett carried the ball 22 times for 130 yards and two touchdowns – all career highs.
“It was a good game for me,” he conceded, but then quickly added, “But they’re a different team his year; we’re a different team.”
That they are – these two teams that will meet again in the dome on Sunday.
The makeover of the Seahawks has been well-documented. It started with the hiring of coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider in January. It continued this week, when another 12 roster moves were made – bringing the total to a staggering 207 under the Carroll/Schneider watch.
But Forsett and his ever-changing teammates are more concerned about the new-look Rams, a team with a 1-2 record that easily could be 3-0. The Rams dispatched the Washington Redskins last week, 30-16. But their losses were by four points to the Arizona Cardinals and two points to the Oakland Raiders.
More importantly to Forsett and the Seahawks’ offense, the Rams have yielded 17, 16 and 16 points.
“They’re playing a lot better,” quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. “This team could clearly be 3-0. They’ve been in some really tight games. They do a nice job with their blitz packages. They’re coming up with turnovers. They’re causing fumbles. They’re getting after the quarterback. They’re doing everything.
“And they must be pretty smart, because they run every coverage, they run every blitz, they run every front. And you don’t see a lot of mental errors.”
It’s the mark of Steve Spagnuolo, the Rams’ second-year coach who got his job after a successful stint as the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants and coaching several units with the Philadelphia Eagles’ defense.
“It’s an important challenge for us, and we’ll see where we are,” Carroll said. “They’ve played good football; really good on defense. You look at the consistency in their scoring – points per game against their defense – and it has been excellent.”
Which brings us back to Forsett, and the Seahawks’ ability to generate a running game against that Rams defense that is allowing averages of 133.7 rushing yards per game and 5.1 yards per carry – both among the highest in the league.
The Redskins averaged 6.8 yards rushing last week, but had only 17 running plays as they fell behind and fell into that trap of having to pass while playing catch-up. That, in turn, played right into the way the Rams like to play defense.
“They do a lot of things to pressure the quarterback,” Forsett said. “Even against the run, those guys are moving to the ball and you can see the energy they’re playing with. Last week, (Donovan) McNabb was pressured a lot. They were able to make him make some bad decisions.
“We’ve got to stop that.”
That’s where Forsett and the still-developing Seahawks’ running game can help.
The coaches seem to have settled on letting Forsett run the show, after using a running-back-by-committee approach in the first two games. After getting seven carries in the season opener (for 43 yards) and eight the following week in Denver (for 44 yards), the coaches called Forsett’s number on 17 of the 21 running plays in last week’s upset victory over the San Diego Chargers (for 63 yards).
While it produced his lowest per-carry average of the season (3.7 yards), Forsett still is averaging 4.7 for the season – compared to 2.6 for Leon Washington and 2.5 for Julius Jones.
“I think there is something about getting in a rhythm,” offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates said when asked about Forsett’s increased load. “You know, the first play you might read something different and just as you go with the game you sort of understand who you’re playing and maybe you start to feel it a little more.
“We’re just going to keep working him.”
That assessment only makes Forsett flash his winning smile again.
“It definitely helps you get into the rhythm of the game and you kind of feel it a little bit,” Forsett said.
It will continue to be a feeling-out process, as well, because of the continuing changes on the offense line. If first-round draft choice Russell Okung makes his regular-season debut at left tackle and Tyler Polumbus slides over to right tackle to replace an ailing Sean Locklear, it will comprise the Seahawks’ third starting line combination in four games. Stacy Andrews already has stepped in at right guard, after Max Unger went down with a season-ending injury in the opener.
“Once we get everybody together and get the chemistry going,” Forsett offered, “I think we’re going to do some great things this year.”
A good place to start would be at the Edward Jones Dome, where Forsett had the greatest game of his still-young career last year.