What's Happening to Seattle's Running Game?

The biggest question being raised after the Seattle Seahawks' 24-0 dismantling of the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night is whether there is going to be a running back controversy. Shaun Alexander did not play against the Niners because of injuries, including a sprained left knee, which meant that Maurice Morris started in his stead.

Morris gained 87 yards on 28 carries with a touchdown, something Alexander has not achieved since the second week of the season. Morris's rushing total was more than what Alexander gained if you combined any two of his last five outings.

Some of Morris' success came because the Seahawks have revamped their offense and are focusing on passing the ball more. With so much early yardage accrued by Matt Hasselbeck and his receivers, it opened up the running game for Morris.

Not that Morris was exceptional. He still only averaged 3.1 yards a carry, and he had a fumble when the Seahawks were in scoring position. But his style is so much more direct than Alexander's, who tends to dance around until he finds a hole. It often leads to lost yardage.

When the Seahawks play host to the Bears on Sunday, if Alexander is healthy the question will be raised: Who will start in the backfield?

Morris is a better fit for the West Coast offense in many ways, including his superior receiving skills out of the backfield. He's also becoming a fan favorite of the home crowd, which has taken to booing Alexander routinely this season.

Alexander will resume his starting job when he's healthy, but don't be surprised to see Morris continue to get increased snaps.


-- For the first time this season, Matt Hasselbeck ran plays out of the shotgun. It was almost disastrous because center Chris Spencer's first snap was nearly rolled to Hasselbeck. But he went back to it on several occasions during the game. "I am trying to use it and not abuse it, so he doesn't take it away," Hasselbeck said, referring to coach Mike Holmgren, who has never incorporated the shotgun in his offenses much. Holmgren doesn't like the formation because of its propensity for error. "We'll see. I think it has been a good thing for us so far."

-- Tight end Will Heller, starting for the injured Marcus Pollard, had a 1-yard touchdown reception, his third touchdown of the year. Teammates joked with him afterward about going to the Pro Bowl. "Will is doing a good job, he is really doing a good job," Hasselbeck said. "We have practiced that play a million times, and I don't know if Mike has ever called it here in Seattle, at least in this stadium. I am happy for Will."

-- The Seahawks' five shutouts on Monday Night Football is a league record. They have shutouts on Monday night in three consecutive seasons.

-- S C.J. Wallace bruised his knee, though it is not considered serious.

-- CB Jordan Babineaux got poked in the eye, but it is not considered serious.

-- Because DE Patrick Kerney suffered an oblique injury against Cleveland, he switched from the left side to the right this week, swapping with Darryl Tapp. Kerney had a sack and Tapp knocked down a pass. Kerney said he prefers the left side but is effective from the right.

-- WR Deion Branch was not able to play on Monday because his sprained foot did not allow him to push off properly. Bobby Engram started in place of Branch at flanker.

-- LB Leroy Hill did not play after suffering a hamstring injury against Cleveland. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Kevin Bentley.

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