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Updated Thursday, January 3, 2013 at 01:38 AM

Postseason opponents running a similar offense

By Danny O'Neil
Seattle Times staff reporter

RENTON — No NFL team ran more often than Seattle this season.

No team ran for more yards than Washington.

No one involved in Sunday's playoff game has any doubt about the other's intentions.

"We know they want to run the ball," safety Earl Thomas said, "and they have a high success rate."

Same goes for the Seahawks.

Both teams start a rookie quarterback who is a threat to run, each has a running back who gained more than 1,500 yards during the regular season, and both carry a similar ground-bound focus heading into Sunday's game at 1:30 p.m.

"That's how they win ballgames," Seattle linebacker K.J. Wright said. "They run the ball, they run the ball and then they set it up with the play-action. Their scheme is real good, and they've got the right players to run that offense."

Sounds very similar to Seattle's offensive approach.

While the combination of quarterback Robert Griffin III and running back Alfred Morris has been potent all season for Washington, quarterback Russell Wilson has become a significant part of Seattle's rushing attack only in the past two months. That shift has forced opponents to worry about more than just running back Marshawn Lynch, who is a handful all by himself.

Seattle ran the ball on 55 percent of its plays from scrimmage this season, the highest rate in the league. Washington was second at 52 percent.

And for all the attention and acclaim Washington coach Mike Shanahan received for his passing offense, his ability to create an effective ground game out of later-round picks is one of the most defining characteristics of his scheme.

It was true in Denver where running backs like Terrell Davis and Mike Anderson went from afterthoughts to leading men. It has been true in Washington this season, drafting Morris in the sixth round out of Florida Atlantic.

He rushed for 1,613 yards, second-most in the league, and is coming off a game in which he ran for 200 yards against Dallas — tied for seventh-most by any player in a game this season.

Lynch is a former first-round pick who anchors Seattle's run game, but the system he's running in has a common lineage with Washington's.

"There's a lot of similarities with the zone-blocking scheme," Shanahan said.

That scheme dates back to Shanahan's time in Denver, where Alex Gibbs was his offensive-line coach. Gibbs worked in Seattle, too, for at least a few months before resigning a week before the 2010 season started. Tom Cable, who is Seattle's offensive-line coach, worked with Gibbs before in Atlanta.

Given all those similarities, the difference that may decide Sunday's game is which team is able to most effectively slow the opponent's ground game.

"We know if we can stop their run, then our chances of winning are very, very high," Wright said.

Washington can say exactly the same thing.

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @dannyoneil


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