We should have known this would be a screwy game when we saw Shaun Alexander was on the Seattle Seahawks sideline but Marshawn Lynch was not.
And by the end of the game, it was an undrafted rookie named Thomas Rawls who had the 104 rushing yards and helped the Seahawks finally find a functional offense.
The Seahawks beat an awful Chicago Bears team, 26-0, on Sunday in a win beautified by the fact that the previous two games were winnable endeavors that turned bad in the late going.
All 10 of the Bears’ possessions ended in punts. Perhaps that was unsurprising, as the Bears relied on a quarterback who has won only one start in his NFL career, and the game plan looked as if it had been designed by George Halas for a 1923 meeting against the Canton Bulldogs.
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But it still wasn’t until a sharp third quarter that the Seahawks started to find their stride.
Even then the offensive concerns continued, as their point total included only one offensive touchdown (a Russell Wilson pass to tight end Jimmy Graham). The other points were from four Steven Hauschka field goals and a Tyler Lockett kickoff return.
NFC West Division watchers will note that the Cardinals scored 47 points in a win over San Francisco on Sunday.
The way things have been going for the Seahawks, to ever ring up 47 points they’d need 11 Hauschka field goals and a pair of Lockett return touchdowns.
Rawls, though, was the most pleasant development.
A longshot to make the team in August, Rawls became the first Seahawks running back not named Lynch to pick up more than 100 rushing yards since Robert Turbin had 108 versus Arizona in 2012.
He got his 16 carries only because Lynch was limited by a tight hamstring.
“I knew I had to step up and just play the way I prepare to play,” said Rawls, who finished college at Central Michigan after playing three seasons at Michigan.
No, he said, it wasn’t strange to go from the basement of the depth chart to starting for the Seahawks.
“The one thing about me is I know the grind, I know the pain, that feeling of having to struggle and having to fight for what you want,” Rawls said.
Even as coach Pete Carroll was touting the value of Lynch’s backups Turbin and Christine Michael during the preseason, he often tossed in Rawls’ name as a player who was gaining attention.
The degree that Rawls impressed the staff was evidenced when Michael was traded to Dallas and Turbin was waived/injured.
Nobody in the Seahawks locker room expressed surprise at Rawls’ breakout performance.
“We saw him all during the preseason and we knew he was going to be a really good back,” tackle Russell Okung said. “He’s one of the hardest working guys out there. He’s not Marshawn, he’s good in his own right. He does things with his own flavor.”
Fullback Derrick Coleman said that Rawls has been even more impressive in practice.
“None of us are surprised at all,” Coleman said. “He does this day in and day out, and that’s what Coach Carroll loves about him. After the first couple weeks of training camp, we just came to expect that of him.”
Maybe Sunday’s limited performance is just another plot twist in the drama that has been Lynch’s career in Seattle, and he’ll return from his sore hamstring to be full speed again soon. But maybe this is a stage in the team’s evolution.
Alexander, who was on the sideline as one of the visiting “Seahawk legends” on hand to commemorate the franchise’s 40th anniversary, saw his time come and go as a star back. So many other former Seahawk backs were there to watch, too: Curt Warner, John L. Williams, Chris Warren, Ricky Watters.
They could all nod their heads. Yes, there’s always somebody there to eager to replace you.
On Sunday, when the Seahawks needed an offensive spark, that man was Thomas Rawls.