Seattle Seahawks

Michael flinched, and now he’s gone

New England defenders tackle Seattle running back Christine Michael (32) Sunday. Michael was waived by the Seahawks on Tuesday.
New England defenders tackle Seattle running back Christine Michael (32) Sunday. Michael was waived by the Seahawks on Tuesday. The Associated Press

Yes, it’s a simplification among other issues.

But here are two reasons why the Seahawks waived Christine Michael on Tuesday, and chose rookie C.J. Prosise instead of him at running back:

▪  Last month in a smashmouth test of attrition at Arizona, Michael was the starter and running toward the sidelines in the open field. The veteran then veered, untouched, inexplicably out of bounds short of the first-down marker.

▪  Sunday night in the first quarter at New England, C.J. Prosise caught a pass on third-and-6 from Russell Wilson in the left flat near midfield. The third-round draft choice ran past the first-down marker down the left sideline. He could have easily stepped out of bounds, as Michael did without contact against the Cardinals. Instead, Prosise turned his shoulders upfield. A wide receiver for his first three seasons at Notre Dame, Prosise slammed into Patriots safety Duron Harmon to gain 5 more yards, for a total of 18 yards to set up a field goal. Prosise ran over Harmon far more than did Harmon tackle him.

On the opposite sideline, his Seahawks teammates went bonkers. On the field, teammate Doug Baldwin congratulated the rookie. And admired him.

That, as much as anything, is why Prosise was minutes into his first career start, putting Michael on the bench.

Prosise had 17 carries for 66 yards in the win over the Patriots. It was exactly twice as many rushing yards as the Seahawks’ offense produced in the previous game, against Buffalo. Prosise also had seven catches for 87 yards. He got popped on more than one of those catches down the field but held onto the ball and kept running for big gains.

“Not only that, but some of the hits he took (in) what we call ‘dark creases’ in the offense: When the hole is not really there and you have to trust that the offensive line is going to open it up,” Baldwin said later, describing the yards on which Marshawn Lynch built an All-Pro career. “And he did that several times. He went into the ‘dark crease,’ got smacked a few times, but hopped right back up — and his facial expressions and his mannerisms didn’t change. It was just business as usual.

“One catch on the sidelines I remember, he didn’t step out of bounds. He sought contact and it lit up our sidelines. To see a guy do that who’s been struggling with injuries, he shows his dedication to his teammates when he does stuff like that.”

That, as much as the yards and the potential, is why Prosise is rising in prominence with a possible co-starring role with the returning Rawls in the backfield.

It’s why Seattle’s leading rusher is now Prosise — with all of 96 career yards.

And it’s why Michael is an ex-Seahawk for the second time in 14 months.

Seattle waiving its leading rusher sounds loony on the surface. But Prosise, who’d been delayed for more than a month by a broken hand, had 24 touches of the ball to Michael’s six at New England.

Plus: Thomas Rawls is coming back at running back this week.

Plus, plus: The Seahawks have Troymaine Pope, the undrafted rookie who led them in rushing this preseason, lurking and waiting on their practice squad.

The Seahawks also waived defensive tackle Sealver Siliga and signed defensive tackle John Jenkins. Jenkins was the Saints’ third-round draft choice in 2013 whom New Orleans waived last week after rookie first-round pick Sheldon Rankins returned from injury .

Michael seemed resigned to his fate in New England. As Sunday night was turning into Monday morning in Foxborough, Massachusetts, Michael dressed silently with his head down along that back wall of the visiting locker room at Gillette Stadium. His back was turned to the mass of attention, microphones, cameras and notepads Prosise was attracting at the locker immediately to his left.

Turns out that juxtaposition of bad times-good times was Michael’s last scene as a Seahawk.

Michael ran for 469 yards and six touchdowns in nine games. He had his career day of 106 yards on 20 carries and his first two touchdowns of the season on Sept. 25 against San Francisco. But since that big day against the league’s worst run defense, he has rushed for just 58, 64, 52, 40, 1 and 22 yards, the last against the Patriots last weekend, on five carries.

Yes, he gained 1 yard, on Nov. 7 against Buffalo on five carries. That was against a Bills defense that had been 25th in the league against the run entering that game.

Michael made mistakes that were relapses into his failed, first stint with the Seahawks from 2013 through the ’15 preseason. Besides going out of bounds untouched at Arizona Oct. 23, he flinched out of his tailback stance on second and goal at the 5 on a drive at New Orleans the next week. That ruined a drive that ended in a field goal instead of a touchdown — in a game Seattle lost by five, 25-20.

In Week 2 at Los Angeles, with 45 seconds left and the Seahawks driving from their own 12 to the winning touchdown, Michael lost a fumble trying to bull between two defenders for a first down at the Rams 25. Seattle lost 9-3.

Michael wouldn’t have been the Seahawks’ lead back this season if Rawls hadn’t cracked his fibula in that second game Sept. 18 at Los Angeles. Coach Pete Carroll said on Monday he expects Rawls, the replacement for Lynch as lead back, to play on Sunday against Philadelphia for the first time since that injury.

The Seahawks’ running game, which tripled its output against the Patriots from the previous week yet still didn’t manage 100 yards, will plan its revival without Michael. He has failed to stick for the second time with Seattle since the team drafted him in the second round out of Texas A&M in 2013.

In September 2015, the Seahawks gave away Michael to Dallas in a trade.

Now it’s Prosise. He’s been so impressive so quickly after the broken hand he could get a co-starring role with Rawls beginning Sunday when the Seahawks (6-2-1) host the Eagles (5-4).

Carroll said Prosise’s early success running the ball against New England made Seattle’s offensive line better, and led to center Justin Britt’s best game.

“It just fit all together,” Carroll said.

And the coaches expect Prosise to get even better. Carroll said Monday “he can’t be in great game shape, he can’t be” after being out from early September into late October with the cast over his right hand.

“I think what stands out the most is the variety of things that he did, that he looked good at,” Carroll said of Prosise’s first start. “He ran the ball inside. He ran the ball outside. He caught the ball well in the short passing game to make some first downs and he caught the big ball down the sidelines. He got smacked on the catch and held on to it, just like the receiver that he has in his background.

“I was excited to see that.”

Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle

Seahawks’ next opponent

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (5-4)

1:25 p.m. Sunday, CenturyLink Field, Seattle

Against the Seahawks: The series is tied at seven wins each. The Eagles have lost the last two meetings, late in the 2011 and ’14 seasons. Philadelphia last won in Seattle two tries ago, in November 2008 by a score of 26-7. The Eagles have won two of the three meetings in the Seahawks’ new stadium dating to 2002. The exception was Seattle’s 31-14 home win Dec. 1, 2011, Pete Carroll’s second season coaching the Seahawks. Marshawn Lynch ran for two touchdowns that night, and Tarvaris Jackson threw a TD pass.

Line: Seahawks by 6 1/2.

What to know: The runaway optimism of an Eagles Super Bowl with a rookie quarterback from September’s 3-0 start has subsided in Philadelphia. The Eagles have lost four of their past six games. But they held what entered the game as the NFL’s best offense to 15 points in a home win over Atlanta last weekend. … Philadelphia is 1-4 on the road. The lone win was at Chicago in Week 2, 29-14. … The Eagles went to the run early against the Falcons last week to help make life easier for rookie quarterback Carson Wentz. It worked. The No. 2 overall pick completed 25 of 36 passes for 231 yards, while the Eagles rushed for a season-best 208 yards and won by nine. … Wentz, from North Dakota State, has started since game one. Contrast that with the top overall choice picked just before him this spring. Jared Goff will be making his first NFL start for the Rams this week when Los Angeles hosts Miami. … Wentz is completing 65 percent of his throws with nine touchdown passes and five interceptions. He completed 74 percent of his throws for 301 yards in a 34-3 rout of Pittsburgh that left the Eagles 3-0 in September. He threw for a career-best 364 yards, but hit on just 57 percent of his 47 throws with two interceptions in a loss to the Giants two weeks ago. That led to the Eagles running more last week. … Pressure wins against Wentz: He’s been sacked six times in Philadelphia’s five wins, and 13 times in its four losses. … The Eagles are 17th in total offense, eighth in rushing and 26th in passing. … Pick your Mathews/Matthews: RB Ryan Mathews is the Eagles’ leading rusher (396 yards with seven touchdowns, fourth-most TDs in the league); WR Jordan Matthews has 48 catches with three TDs. …Veteran running back Darren Sproles is second on the Eagles with 33 receptions. … Philadelphia’s defense is tied for third in the league in points allowed (17.8 per game). It is sixth in total defense, 13th against the run and seventh against the pass. The Eagles have been great defending third downs (allowing a 35.5-percent success rate, fifth-best in the league) and in the red zone (allowing 44.4 percent TDs, tied for third-best). … Last week, the Eagles went to more man defense. The league-owned NFL.com said Philadelphia was in man coverage on 18 of 37 Falcons pass plays. Rookie cornerback Jalen Mills, the 23rd-overall pick, covered top Falcons receiver Julio Jones for the majority of the game. Jones had 10 catches on 16 targets for 135 yards. The Seahawks will look for Mills on Sunday, likely sending Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett and perhaps tight end Jimmy Graham at him. … Fellow cornerback Nolan Carroll has started all nine games this season but got a concussion last weekend and is iffy for Sunday’s game. He is currently going through the league’s protocol for that injury. … Common opponent: The Eagles beat the Falcons, 24-15, last weekend. The Seahawks beat Atlanta in Seattle, 26-24, on Oct. 16. … Eagles coach Doug Pederson is a native of Bellingham who played at Ferndale High School.

Quotable: “It’s going to be tough. We’re going into a hostile environment — ‘12th Man.’ We have to come with the same intensity that we come with at home games,” Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham, to the Philadelphia Tribune, knowing his team is 1-4 on the road and that Seattle is an NFC-best 82-34 at home since 2002.

Gregg Bell: gbell@thenewstribune.com

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