It wasn’t a secret the type of season Mike Williams was having.
But just how much the Seattle Seahawks offense had come to rely on the 6-foot-5 receiver who spent the previous two seasons out of football wasn’t fully understood until last week’s 42-24 loss to Kansas City.
With Williams sidelined by a foot strain against the Chiefs, the Seahawks offense struggled in one of its worst performances in a season of major highs and lows.
The Seahawks finished with 288 total yards and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck threw for 282 yards. But take away two long pass plays to Ben Obomanu and Seattle finished with a paltry 149 offensive yards as the Seahawks run game was unable to find any gaps, limited to just 20 yards – the third-lowest total in franchise history.
With Williams absent the Chiefs secondary was able to focus on stopping the Seahawks ground game. It certainly didn’t hurt that the Chiefs offense controlled the pace and held a 22-minute advantage in time of possession.
“Without him in there, it changes who we are a little bit – our personality and what we can do, what we’re good at. So it is different. It is definitely different,” Hasselbeck said. “It’s not like we have another guy that’s sort of like him. There’s really no one like him. He’s his own style of guy.”
Williams is a question mark again this week against Carolina. He suffered a foot injury in the closing minutes of Seattle’s 34-19 loss to New Orleans and never returned to practice last week.
On Wednesday, Williams did not participate in practice, but did some running on the side and even caught a few passes from coach Pete Carroll.
“I think he surprised himself,” Carroll said. “Tomorrow he’ll run around considerably more and we’ll see where he is. It was encouraging today that he might have a chance to move back into some playing opportunities.”
But Carroll added he’s again moving forward with a game plan that doesn’t include Williams. Carroll’s preference is not to have Williams go two weeks without practicing and then try to play against the Panthers.
So either Williams returns, or Seattle figures out how to have an effective passing game that doesn’t rely on its biggest target.
“We have to mix better,” Carroll said.
Williams’ comeback has been one of the biggest surprises of a Seattle season that finds the Seahawks tied with St. Louis on top of the miserable NFC West. His 52 catches are 25 more receptions than the next closest teammate. He already has three games with 10 or more receptions and three games of 100 or more yards receiving.
About the only area Williams hasn’t flourished is touchdowns, where he has just one reception.
But his absence against the Chiefs put more pressure on the likes of Obomanu and Deon Butler. Obomanu had the best day of his career with 159 yards receiving, but Butler was limited to just two catches for nine yards.
If Williams is out again, Butler said everyone has to do a little more.
“We have to rely on more people … just spread it out more and everyone use their strengths to make the plays we know we’re capable of making,” Butler said.
Williams’ absence also affected Seattle’s play calling. On fourth-and-1 on Seattle’s first drive, the Seahawks ran a fade route to 5-foot-10 Golden Tate, who hadn’t played in three weeks due to an ankle injury. Later in the game, Seattle split athletic, 6-foot-3 tight end Cameron Morrah out wide to try to run similar routes that normally go to Williams against shorter defensive backs.
The plays didn’t work. It was part of a day learning just how much Williams has come to mean to the Seahawks.
“There is a presence the bigger receivers bring that’s a unique quality that I’ve loved about our style of play when we’ve had guys like this over the years,” Carroll said. “You can just go to them and throw the ball to them whenever you need and they will likely make a play. … The big guys have a presence about them and Mike gives us that. So we missed it, we missed the consistency of that.”