SEATTLE - Seattle right guard D.J. Fluker went head-to-head with Los Angeles Rams defensive tackles, Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh all game during Sunday's 33-31 loss to the Rams at CenturyLink Field.
Fluker won some. He lost some. But mostly, he set the tone for the offensive line that had its best game of the season, leading the team to a season-high 190 yards on the ground.
However, with the game on the line, Fluker got called for a holding penalty that pushed Seattle out of field goal range in the final minutes, ultimately costing Seattle a chance to steal an upset win. Seattle punted. The Rams (5-0) ran out the clock. The Seahawks (2-3) were left to ponder a slew of what ifs.
"We played with passion, we played with heart, we played with some charisma, and everybody played together," Fluker said. "I think we played as a team on fire and we didn't stop until the bitter end. But at the end of the day, a loss is a loss."
It's officially time to declare this offensive line fixed.
Seattle began the season struggling to run the ball and to protect quarterback Russell Wilson (12 sacks in two games). Then Fluker returned from an injury in Week 3 to make his Seattle debut at right guard against Dallas and the team rushed for 113 yards. Last week the Seahawks pounded out 170 at Arizona. On Sunday, Seattle nearly reached 200. Along the way, Wilson has been sacked a reasonable six times over three games.
Already, Seattle running backs have gained 567 yards in five games. Seahawks' backs gained just 994 all of last season with Wilson leading the team with 586 yards on the ground.
Fluker doesn't deserve all of the credit, of course. The offseason acquisition of veteran J.R. Sweezy, a starter on Seattle's Super Bowl teams, has proven to be a big plus. He has become the starter at left guard in place of the injured Ethan Pocic. Also, right tackle Germain Ifedi has become better than average in the past few weeks.
Suddenly, a line of left tackle Duane Brown, Sweezy, center Justin Britt, Fluker and Ifedi is looking downright formidable.
Running back Chris Carson, who had 116 yards on 19 carries against the Rams, said the team's mindset is that the running game can't be stopped.
"We never believed that this team couldn't run the ball," Carson said. "The whole time we always thought that if given a chance, we can make something happen. So we're starting to show people that."
Indeed. Seattle coach Pete Carroll left Sunday's game pleased with how well the running game has developed.
The nastiness of Fluker can't be overlooked. He said success is all about being physical, which is why he embraced going head-to-head with Donald and Suh. The latter, Fluker drove into the ground on Mike Davis' first quarter touchdown run.
"I'd been taking him to the water all game," Fluker said. "Me and 93 went at it all day....Where he needs to go, I'm going to take him there. I ain't scared of no one. I'm not going to back down to no one. At the end of the day, they got lucky."
Should the success on the ground continue, Seattle could be in position to win many games this season. Closing them out is another thing. Seattle had chances to win all three of its losses. Sunday's late mistakes, which were on the offensive line, hurt the most.
"It's a great sign," Brown said of the team's running game. "Very encouraging. We didn't get the win, though. So we can't enjoy it as much."