When it comes to the ground game, the Seahawks are running in opposite directions right now.
While the defense has rebounded from an ugly two-game stretch at midseason and played mostly good ball (one huge run by Frank Gore notwithstanding), the offense has bogged down in the four games since the starting tackles have returned.
Coach Pete Carroll is happy with the apparent turnaround in the run defense and says he is not concerned about the offense. Well, if you had the league's No. 1 defense and one of its best playmaking quarterbacks and probably were going to play at home all the way until the Super Bowl, you probably wouldn't be too concerned either.
But the Hawks would be unstoppable if they were able to run the ball as well as they are stopping the run these days.
The defense has been pretty feast or famine all season. The unit gave up 234 yards (5 per carry) to Carolina and San Francisco in the first two games. The defense then shut down Jacksonville (51 yards on 24 runs) at home before giving up 151 yards in Houston.
They had their best two-game stretch of the season against Tennessee and Arizona (96 yards on 38 carries). Of course, they followed that up with their two worst games of the season, yielding 405 yards to St. Louis and Tampa Bay.
Since that low point, they have largely straightened it out, holding three of the last five teams under 65 yards each. They are coming off their best overall defensive performance of the season -- and possibly of Carroll's four-season tenure -- in which they held the Giants to 25 yards on 14 carries.
“Our tackling is the best it’s been; team pursuit has been the most consistent," Carroll said. "The overall attitude about playing fundamental football is really what’s improved."
Carroll said the players recommitted to the run after the pair of 200-yard games by the Rams and Bucs.
"We realized in the middle (of the season) that we were kind of flip-flopping around," he said. "We weren’t doing much, so we took it up a notch. We made a challenge to the players; the players challenged each other. They took after it to play really hard-nosed, tough football and it showed up. We really have improved a lot.”
Other than the 51-yard run by Frank Gore that basically won the game for San Francisco two weeks ago, the defense has made the stops over the last six weeks.
Of course, the Falcons, Saints and Giants are all in the bottom quarter of the league in rushing offense, so Seattle's success has been aided by the general ineptitude of those clubs.
The Hawks are still prone to getting gashed by good running teams -- the likes of which they could run into in the playoffs.
The Hawks could end up facing one of the top rushing teams in their first playoff game: Philadelphia ranks first at 152.9 yards per game, San Francisco is fifth (137.1) and Carolina is eighth (129.4).
The Seahawks, meanwhile, are the second-ranked rushing offense, but they sure haven't looked like it recently.
They averaged 191.8 yards in their first eight games. However, since racking up over 400 yards against Tampa Bay and Atlanta, the running game has largely stumbled along.
Starting tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini have offered better pass protection, but the running attack has taken a step back as the Hawks have averaged 110 yards per game and 3.6 per carry. And those numbers have been padded by quarterback Russell Wilson, who has been responsible for 28 of those yards every game.
Since putting up the best two-game total of his career -- 270 yards -- against Tampa Bay and Atlanta, Marshawn Lynch has totaled just 218 yards in the past four games. He has averaged just 3.2 yards per attempt.
But Carroll is not concerned. He points out that penalties hurt the running game against San Francisco -- two good runs by Lynch were negated -- and he says the Hawks have run into hot rush defenses.
“I think we’re OK," Carroll said. "We’re still going to pound away at it and keep working, keep getting our numbers and attempts up there. It's just a matter of breaking one that means the difference in those stats sometimes.
"Our attitude about it is right and we’re on it and consistent with it, so I’m fine about it," he added. "We would like to get more production, and I would think that it would happen."
Of course, it probably won't happen this week against Arizona's No. 1 rush defense, but, he said, "We’re still going to pound away at it.”
The Hawks will play this game without right guard J.R. Sweezy, who suffered a concussion against the Giants. He had been the only lineman to start every game this season, but now the Hawks will feature their sixth starting combination of the season. Paul McQuistan is likely to start at right guard, although Lemuel Jeanpierre and Alvin Bailey could be options as well.
It speaks to the great play of Wilson and the league's No. 1 defense that the Hawks are 12-2 despite all of the shuffling along the line.
Just imagine how good they would be if they could run the ball as well as they have been stopping it recently.