Once a convenient scapegoat, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is now the mastermind behind the “Legion of Zoom.”
Hey, given the way he’s got the offense rolling, it deserves a nickname like that, right?
Give Bevell a big dose of the credit.
Set aside the devising of creative schemes and the demands of snap-decision play calling, the most critical requisite qualities for an NFL offensive coordinator are these: thick skin and bad hearing.
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For the past several seasons, when a Seahawks player dropped a pass, it was somehow Bevell’s fault.
When the offensive linemen whiffed on their blocks and Russell Wilson got sacked, surely Bevell was to blame for the shortcoming.
And, most indelibly, when the Seahawks threw an interception from the 1-yard line in the final moments of the Super Bowl, well, Bevell’s head was the one that most needed to roll.
It wasn’t a complete consensus of fans and media, but it was a common narrative.
But Bevell recently has gone from regional whipping boy to offensive mastermind, and if the sizzling Seahawks make another run deep into the playoffs Bevell again will be interviewed by needy franchises seeking a head coach.
“It’s always been about execution,” said receiver Doug Baldwin, who caught two more touchdown passes in Sunday’s win over Cleveland to up his season total to a franchise-record-tying 13. “Darrell Bevell has always made plays and schemed us up to put us in the best situations.”
When the offense struggled early this season, Baldwin said, it was because the players weren’t doing their jobs.
“Fortunately, we’ve been executing at a very high level the past few weeks and putting points on the board,” Baldwin said.
Have they ever.
The Hawks have averaged 34.2 points a game in this five-game winning streak, compared to 22.1 in the first nine games.
Drives that were once stalled by third-down failures (35.9-percent conversion rate in the first nine games) are now extended with clutch plays (64-percent conversion rate).
In those last five games, the Hawks have generated more than 423 yards of offense every time they’ve taken the field. They were never over 400 in the first nine games.
As heartily as he was blamed for the failures, Bevell better be touted for the stunning improvement.
“Darrell is doing a great job,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s always done really well for us. With the production, obviously, it’s everybody working together. (Offensive line coach Tom) Cable is doing it with his guys up front. These guys are doing a great job coaching their guys.”
A couple sharp plays stood out as effective Bevell products. One, early in the game, was a misdirection pitch to prodigal back Christine Michael. Michael got 9 yards on a third-and-1 with the play, which was one from deep in last year’s playbook — back before he fell out of favor.
The second was a marvelous bit of misdirection in the second quarter when back Bryce Brown was sent off toward the left side of the line, but Wilson pulled the ball away and bootlegged against the grain and found a wide-open Baldwin who had slipped out to the right.
In a more general sense, the offensive tempo is up, the communication obviously is clear and the whole unit now seems unprecedentedly synchronized.
“I think as a team, the staff, every position group, we’re on the same page and communicating well and executing,” tight end Luke Willson said. “Now if we have a setback, we overcome it. We’re not really doing anything differently, we’re just doing a better job of executing as a group.”
Wilson cited Bevell’s leadership and the trust the offense has in him.
That confidence may be a part of the historic passing streak (19 touchdown passes and no interceptions the past five games) Wilson has been on.
No wonder they’re confident: Nobody has come close to stopping the offense since before Thanksgiving.
Wilson is playing the best football of his life, as his accuracy and timing and connection with the receivers is almost perfect.
And even with their top two running backs out with injuries, they managed to rush for 182 yards and an average of 5.1 per carry against the Browns.
This team is gobbling up yards like never before.
And it’s only fair to tip the hat in the direction of Darrell Bevell.