There might not be a more demoralizing feeling for a defense than knowing a team is going to run the football, and you’re powerless to stop it.
The Chiefs rolled into Qwest Field boasting the NFL’s best ground game. And for 60 minutes Sunday they showed why, running through, past and over Seahawks defenders in a 42-24 pounding. It was the type of performance that would have made Vince Lombardi proud and former Seahawks coach “Ground” Chuck Knox smile.
Behind a veteran offensive line and the two-back attack of Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones, the Chiefs racked up a whopping 270 rushing yards.
“I thought that the running game they brought in had been the best in the league,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We thought we saw some stuff that we could do, and boy, we couldn’t handle it.”
Indeed, the Seahawks simply had no answer for Charles or Jones, who picked up chunks of yards and numerous first downs. It didn’t seem to matter what the Seahawks tried.
“They ran the ball, I feel like, at will,” linebacker David Hawthorne said. “It definitely is a shot at your defense when it’s obvious they are going to run and you are in position and you don’t pull together and stop them.”
Kansas City’s 270 yards were the most given up by the Seahawks since Nov. 26, 2000, when the Broncos rushed for 301 yards.
So, was it a matter of the Chiefs being that good at running the football or the Seahawks being so poor defensively?
Perhaps a little of both.
Kansas City is a run-first, run-second and run-third team. It’s the identity head coach Todd Haley wanted to bring to this team when he took over.
“Our calling card is becoming clearer and clearer to us and to me, which is that we are a pretty physical football team,” Haley said.
Kansas City was even missing starting left tackle Branden Albert and still dominated the line of scrimmage.
“I give all the credit to the O-line,” Charles said. “It wasn’t even about me running out there, it was the O-line opening up holes for me.”
Charles was still pretty good, rushing for 173 yards on 22 carries, putting him over the 1,000-yard mark (1,021 on 161 carries) already this season.
“Jamaal had a huge day,” Carroll said. “They ran the ball beautifully.”
And the Seahawks run defense? With run stuffers Colin Cole and Red Bryant out with the injuries, Seattle had no push on the defensive line. Meanwhile, the linebackers and secondary didn’t have a good day in run support with a bevy of missed tackles.
“It comes down to us tackling,” Hawthorne said. “Just knowing your gap and your responsibilities and being in the right place at the right time and getting the guy down. It wasn’t a miracle. They didn’t have some special plays. It’s a matter of us grasping the defense and getting in position to make a play and make the tackles.”
None of the Seahawks players or coaches would use the absence of Cole and Bryant as excuses, but it remains an issue. Seattle lost Bryant and Cole in a 33-3 loss to the Raiders a month ago, in which Oakland racked up 239 yards on the ground. Since then, the Seahawks have allowed more than 100 yards rushing in three of the four games – three of them losses.
“We’re struggling,” Carroll said. “We’ve not been able to stop the running game right now, and everything starts there. We haven’t really regained the line of scrimmage that we had about a month ago.”
And because Seattle is trying so hard to stop the run, it has made them susceptible to the pass. On Sunday, Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel threw for 233 yards and three touchdowns on 22 of 32 passing and wasn’t sacked. And for the third time this season, the Seahawks gave up more than 500 yards of total offense in a game.
“It can put you on your heels,” cornerback Kelly Jennings said of the Chiefs’ offensive balance. “And we played mostly on our heels today. At the end of the day, guys had jobs to do and just didn’t get them done.”