RENTON -- With 116 yards on Sunday night against the Kansas City Chiefs, Chris Carson became just the sixth running back in Seahawks history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.
Carson joined Curt Warner, Chris Warren, Ricky Watters, Shaun Alexander and Marshawn Lynch as the only backs to accomplish that feat in franchise history.
For a team that had struggled so significantly to run the ball a season ago, it was a massive accomplishment.
“We take a lot of pride in it. To get one of our backs - and for it to be Chris Carson, who has worked so hard this offseason and he’s run the ball so hard this year, we celebrate him to the highest level," center Justin Britt said after Sunday's win over the Chiefs.
"‘Tis the season of giving and happy holidays to Chris Carson.”
Carson is averaging just over 79 yards per game in the 13 games he's been able to play this season for the Seahawks. He's posted five 100-yard rushing games and scored eight rushing touchdowns this season. A season ago, the Seahawks only had one rushing performance by a running back all season better than the 79 yards per game Carson is averaging now. Of course, it was Carson responsible for that showing as well, rushing for 93 yards in a win over the San Francisco 49ers.
"His style and the toughness that he’s brought this team and representing the O-linemen and all the guys that have been a big part of the leadership," head coach Pete Carroll said after Sunday's game. "Chris has had a great year. So, it’s a great accomplishment."
Carson's ascendance and the success of Seattle's rushing attack is the singular most defining aspect of the 2018 Seahawks season.
The Seahawks spent the entire offseason trying to fix a running game that had gone awry the year before. Injuries and incompetence sunk a once great rushing attack to one of the league's most anemic. So Seattle set out to fix the problem in multiple ways. They swapped out Mike Solari for Tom Cable as offensive line coach, drafted a running back in Rashaad Penny in the first round, added guard D.J. Fluker and J.R. Sweezy in free agency, signed blocking tight end Ed Dickson and drafted a blocking tight end in Will Dissly.
All of these moves spoke to the team's intent on fixing one of it's biggest weaknesses.
Then in the first two games of the season, the Seahawks strayed from that plan and opened the season 0-2.
The Seahawks ran just 14 times on 55 offensive plays against Denver in Week 1 and then just 19 times on 64 offensive plays against the Chicago Bears in Week 2. Carson somehow didn't get a single second half carry in the loss to the Bears.
Then everything changed.
"Pete and I came back from Chicago and Tuesday morning he and I sat down and kind of had a little heart-to-heart and there were things that he and I just wanted to make sure we were on the same page about," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said on Thursday. "It wasn’t just the running game. It was kind of he and I continuing to build our relationship and it was an awesome meeting. It probably lasted about an hour and we talked about a ton of different stuff. I know I came out of that meeting feeling really good just about the direction where we wanted to do."
It's easy to discuss and talk about, but actually implementing it falls to the players and that's where Carson and Seattle's run game have shined.
"That’s the players," Schottenheimer said. "That’s them buying into the message, buying into what Pete said, buying into what we said as a staff. "
Seattle didn't have a single game in the next 13 weeks where they ran the football fewer than 28 times. They have posted a 9-4 record over that span and earned their way back into the playoffs after missing the postseason for the first time since 2011.
"I’m never going to let myself off the hook for not being able to figure that out so that we could have won the first two games," Carroll said weeks after the slow start.
The Seahawks have the league's top-ranked rushing attack entering the final week of the year, averaging 158.5 yards per game. Carson is now one of just eight running backs in the league to have eclipsed the 1,000-yard barrier through the first 16 weeks of the regular season.
"I know that when coach Pete mentioned it in the locker room guys were really excited. I think it’s more for Chris, the person, and what he had to overcome last year with the injury and all that stuff. He just runs so hard," Schottenheimer said. "... We were happy for him. That’s hard to do. It’s hard to do in this league. Terrific young man, very soft spoken, but we were excited for him."
The person seemingly least outwardly excited about the accomplishment is Carson himself. Don't misunderstand, Carson had a 1,000-yard season as a goal for himself entering this season. However, he said its a collective effort that the team has achieved their rushing goals this year.
"Of course it's an honor, it's always a blessing to do that," Carson said. "But we've got so many good running backs, they all could have done it. I can't take away getting a thousand yards. That is a goal that I had, so I'm honored and blessed to have it."
Even if Carson isn't seeking praise for the job he's put in this year, his teammates are readily eager to give it to him anyway.
"Chris Carson has been unbelievable all year. He’s a 1,000 yard rusher now, that’s a huge tribute to the offensive line and what they’ve done," quarterback Russell Wilson said after Sunday's win.
Added left tackle Duane Brown: "Last week he ran over two defenders to get into the end zone and he’s done that time and time again. Even plays where it’s not drawn up and as clean as we’d like it to be, he still makes us right and can make two or three guys miss and get five, six yards. Just a pretty good player (and) he’s a tough runner. Like I said, I think he’s the toughest runner in the league.”
Carson is right. It is a group effort. But that group effort includes as a pretty significant piece of the puzzle. That effort has won over his coaches and teammates just like Lynch did once upon time.
“We just need him to keep being him," Britt said.
Photo Credit: SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 23: Chris Carson #32 of the Seattle Seahawks carries the ball against the Kansas City Chiefs during the fourth quarter of the game at CenturyLink Field on December 23, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)