Seahawks’ Pete Carroll: “We need to fix this” offense

RENTON — The Seahawks’ offensive statistics seven games into the 2016 season paint a rather gloomy picture.

After Sunday’s 25-20 loss at New Orleans, Seattle is 23rd in total offense at 339.9 yards per game, 29th in points per game at 18.7 (behind even the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns), 28th in rushing at 81.4 and 31st in yards per carry at 3.2.

And scoring just one offensive touchdown against the Saints meant the Seahawks have scored just one TD in their past nine quarters and their past 23 possessions overall, and have now been held to just one offensive touchdown or less in four of seven games this season.

“We need to get out of what we’ve been in the past two weeks,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said bluntly during his regular Monday news conference. “This is not the way we want to play football. We need to fix this.”

Carroll, though, said he’s optimistic that as quarterback Russell Wilson continues to heal, so too will the Seattle offense return to normal.

While Wilson has spent the first seven games of the season dealing with knee, ankle and pectoral injuries, Carroll said he made it through the New Orleans game “without getting nicked at all in any of his multiple areas that we’re concerned about. … He’s getting better. I’m really fired up about that and we’re going to keep progressing as he is able and do what we can to get back to the kind of mix that we like.”

Specifically, Carroll noted Wilson played against the Saints without a brace on his ankle and made it through just fine, meaning he could be even more mobile when the Seahawks host the Bills on Monday. Wilson had also been bothered last week by a sore pectoral muscle that limited his throwing in practice, and which Carroll said contributed to Wilson not throwing deep often against the Saints.

But Carroll said that injury should not linger into this week.

“I’m fired up to see him come back this week and get back after it,” Carroll said.

Carroll admitted Monday something that has seemed obvious — that the team has been intentionally curtailing Wilson’s running while he has dealt with injuries.

“We have not allowed Russell to take off and run very much,” Carroll said. “He’s been very effective for us over the years, so we’ve had to take care of him and that’s just part of the way it is this season.”

That Wilson has just 44 yards rushing this season after averaging 35 per game for his career is generally considered the biggest reason the running attack has suffered. And that inability to run is generally viewed as the biggest reason the offense is struggling.

Sunday, the Seahawks ran for just 3 yards on three attempts in the first half, when they had 19 plays overall, ultimately finishing with 74 on 17. Seattle’s highest rushing total this season is 127 against a 49ers team that is last in the NFL in run defense — 14 yards below last year’s per-game average of 141.

Also contributing is that Thomas Rawls has played just six quarters after suffering a hairline fracture of his fibula against the Rams on Sept. 18 (he’s out at least one more week but could return Nov. 13 at New England).

It’s led to a Seattle team that from 2012 to 2014 had more rushing attempts than passes, and last year threw it 53 percent of the time, suddenly having thrown 252 passes to just 176 runs.

Carroll insists there has been no shift in philosophy. Instead, he said the way the games have gone — with the Seahawks playing from behind at times and also going against defenses keyed on stopping the run — has made it hard to run as much as past seasons.

“We’re not stopping with anything that we believe in because we know the formula we want to play with,” he said. “We just haven’t really settled into it yet.”

The ineffectiveness of the running game has also greatly diminished the threat of Seattle’s play-action passing attack, from which it has so often gotten so many of its biggest gains.

The Seahawks last year averaged almost 8.5 of what it defines as explosive plays per game — passes of 16 or more yards and runs of 12 or more yards. Sunday, Seattle had just five, one on a trick play double pass.

Whether Wilson getting healthier will fix all that ails the Seahawks remains to be seen. The offensive line also remains a work in progress, one that is probably not going to get reinforcements when the NFL trade deadline arrives Tuesday as all indications are that Seattle is preparing to stand pat.

Carroll, though, insists the Seahawks offense will soon take off.

“I know it’s coming,” he said. “So I’m pretty optimistic about it. We just need to keep slugging it out here as we find a way. We’re getting close.”