RENTON -- The change in fortunes of the Seahawks over the last month of games can almost directly be attributed to increased performance along the team's offensive line.
The starting five of Duane Brown, J.R. Sweezy, Justin Britt, D.J. Fluker and Germain Ifedi have been able to successfully enact the run-first offense that head coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said all offseason they wanted to run. Seattle is 3-1 over the last four games with a 33-31 loss to the undefeated Los Angeles Rams as the only blemish on their record over that span.
The Seahawks are averaging 157.3 rushing yards a game over the last four games. Additionally, Russell Wilson has been sacked just seven times over that span after being sacked 12 times over the first two games of the yer in Denver and Chicago.
"It's been great to see the emergence happen pretty quickly," head coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday of the team's offensive line. "We just needed to turn a page on what we needed to do and focus on and all of that and these guys were raring to go and waiting for us. It just helps all aspects of it."
The improvement up front - combined with a true commitment to the run game that was lacking the first two weeks - has yielded an offense that is more balanced and given Wilson the chance to return to his super efficient mode of quarterback play. Putting together four strong games in a row with the same five guys starting together has allowed a level of confidence to build among the group, both collectively and individually.
"It will go the rest of the year," Brown said. "We have so much faith in ourselves and each other that that's become our identity now."
Accordng to ESPN metrics, Brown and Ifedi have combined to be the fifth-best tackle duo in pass protection in the league through seven weeks of the season. For Ifedi, who has bore significant criticism for his play over his first two seasons in the league, it's a significant step forward.
"The mental aspect. He's playing with a lot more confidence now," Brown said of Ifedi. "He's understanding his ability, the tools he's been blessed with. He just has more experience. A little bit of everything."
Ifedi was the most penalized player in the entire league last season. He also had a rough first two weeks to this season in drawing duty trying to block Von Miller and Khalil Mack. However, Ifedi has become much more consistent so far this season with Fluker next to him at right guard and in Mike Solari's line scheme.
"The only person I try to prove things to is myself," Ifedi said. "I set goals and my goal is always to reach them and to be the player I am day in and day out. That's my only goal.
"I'm not out to prove the doubters wrong. I'm not out to prove the supporters right. I'm just out to set my goals and do the goals that I set and if I do that I'll sleep well at night."
They will face another strong test this week in the Lions. The team is tied for fourth in the league with 21 sacks through seven weeks. Only the Baltimore Ravens (27), Broncos (22) and Pittsburgh Steelers (22) have more sacks, though the Ravens and Broncos have each played one more game than the Lions.
Devon Kennard (5.0), Romeo Okwara (4.0), Eli Harold (3.0) and Jarrad Davis (3.0) lead the group's pass rush. Ezekiel Ansah, the team's top pass rusher and franchise tag player, has just one sack this season as he's been sidelined for five of Detroit's six games this year.
"It's been a real problem," Carroll said of the Lions' pass rush. "They're at 21 sacks right now and I think they're the highest rated team per pass sack wise. They're very active. It's really mixing their looks and it's a combination of things. It's not just the dominant guy coming off the edge. They've done it various ways.
"It's a team kind of thing. It's a lot of coverage oriented sacks as well. They do a lot of cool things with their coverage to make you hold the football and it's been just a combination of guys getting the pressure."
Wright, Dickson expected to play on Sunday:
Carroll said Wednesday that he anticipates both linebacker K.J. Wright and tight end Ed Dickson to be able to play Sunday in Detroit.
Wright has missed the first six weeks due to a knee injury while Dickson has been on the non-football injury list due to groin/quadriceps issues.
"I'm anticipating that (Wright)'s going to play and Ed as well, so something is going to have to come off where they don't respond to the practice work that they've had (for them not to play), but it looks like they're ready to go."
Wright had surgery on his knee the final week of the preseason after feeling some discomfort in a game at Minnesota in the third week of August. Meanwhile, Dickson began the season on the non-football injury list due to an injury Carroll has called both a groin and quadriceps issue.
Wright has been on Seattle's roster the whole time and can return to play as soon as he's healthy. Dickson remains on the NFI list and doesn't count against the team's 53-man roster. He can practice for up to three weeks before needing to be added to the active roster.
Photo Credit: CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 17: Khalil Mack #52 of the Chicago Bears rushes against Germain Ifedi #65 of the Seattle Seahawks at Soldier Field on September 17, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Seahawks 24-17. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)