Sports

Dave Boling: Seahawks ‘D’ doesn’t need much help, but offense needs sharpening

Sometimes a dose of realism can come off as quibbling.

I’ll risk it today.

As much as the Seattle Seahawks’ feverishly competitive defensive unit objects to talking about establishing an historic legacy, this bunch is truly a dominating force in the NFL.

Their performances in the past month have brought the Seahawks back to the point where another run to the Super Bowl appears a legitimate possibility.

Don’t take my word for it. The newest odds out of Las Vegas for teams making it to the Super Bowl have the Patriots at the top at 13-5 and the Seahawks second (best in the NFC) at 3-1.

Safety Earl Thomas likes to say they’re the best when they’re “dog-pilin’,” which is his term for 11 defenders putting those blue helmets on a ball carrier every snap.

That’s what they’re doing. Teams can’t beat you if they can’t score, and the past four opponents have totaled just 27 points.

But on the other side, their offense is operating with a small margin of error, averaging 19.8 points in the past five games.

Against San Francisco on Sunday, they got one field goal on a possession helped along by 30 yards in penalties on safety Eric Reid for unnecessary roughness.

And their fourth-quarter touchdown was set up by a questionable roughing-the-passer on an incomplete third-and-5 pass.

In the first half, the offensive line was flagged for three false starts and a holding call.

And for the game, quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked five times and hit 10 times, bringing his season total to a bruising 72 hits.

They now travel to Arizona to face a team Sunday night that sacked him seven times and hit him 11 times at CenturyLink Field on Nov. 23. And the final game of the regular season is at home against the Rams, a team that has sacked him more than any other opponent since he’s been in the league.

He’s been extraordinarily durable. But every hit takes a toll.

The health issues that have burdened the offensive line this season seem to continue as left tackle Russell Okung is likely to miss at least this week with a bruised lung, and center Max Unger is still not sure to return this week after missing four games with a knee and ankle injury.

Unger seemed to be playing once again at an All-Pro level, and the loss of Okung would leave them with Alvin Bailey at left tackle, whose performance was unconvincing against the Niners when he had to come in for the second half Sunday.

Right guard J.R. Sweezy seemed to get banged up against the Niners, and rookie right tackle Justin Britt had another challenging afternoon.

Asked about his concern over Wilson’s protection, coach Pete Carroll on Monday stated the obvious: “We were concerned we couldn’t block’em,” he said. “Those guys are good. They rushed (Wilson) really well early in the game and we needed to run the football more to offset that.”

True enough. They picked up 105 yards on 21 second-half rushes. Wilson threw the ball only six times in the second half.

“We didn’t throw the ball much in the second half,” Carroll said. “They’ve got three or four guys they bring from the edge and they tore it up pretty good … we had some problems with them.”

Carroll and Wilson and the line know better than anybody that the Cardinals can create similar problems for the Seattle passing game.

Much of this is by design. Carroll made it clear from his first day on the job that he wants a team that runs the ball and plays great defense.

Done and done. They do those things so well that they lead the NFL in both of those categories.

But the offense seems reliant on the occasional heroic plays of a harried Wilson or a determined Marshawn Lynch to overcome the crippling procedural penalties and the ineffective protection.

Arizona and St. Louis are a pair of teams that have troubles scoring points, so the Hawks may not need to generate much until the playoffs.

But being one-dimensional might leave them vulnerable when the playoffs get here.

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