While most National Football League teams are trying to make their offenses more exciting, the Seattle Seahawks have taken the oppposite tack and it's paying off.
No more gambling, wide-open football in the Kingdome, at least by the Seahawks. Instead, they have decided to plod along with an offense affectionately called "ground chuck" after new Coach Chuck Knox. And it has carried them to upset victories over the New York Jets and San Diego Chargers the last two weeks.
The Seahawks played their old bombs-away style in their opener and lost to the Kansas City Chiefs, 17-13.
They play the Washington Redskins at the Kingdome Sunday.
"Ever since we started as a franchise we wanted a balanced offense, but it's never worked out until now," said Jim Zorn, the team's starting quarterback since its inception.
"There are two basic reasons for the change," said Zorn. "Chuck Knox and Curt Warner."
Knox, a conservative disciplinarian, was successful with his approach at both Los Angeles and Buffalo before coming to Seattle.
Warner, the team's No. 1 draft choice from Penn State, already has ran for 330 yards, scored three touchdowns and in each of the last two games gained more than 100 yards. He is averaging five yards a carry.
With Warner running so well, the Seahawks have been able to control the ball on the ground and Zorn hasn't had to throw two of every three downs as he used to. After 43 passes in the loss to the Chiefs, Zorn threw only 15 against the Jets and 24 against the Chargers.
In his career, Zorn has averaged 29 passes in 94 games. In 1979 he became only the third player in league history to pass for more than 10,000 yards in his first four seasons. The others were Joe Namath and Norman Snead.
Zorn, noted for his agility, said he likes his new role much better.
"My physical ability is the same," he said. "I still throw the ball left-handed. It's just the style of play that's changed. We are genuinely a ball control team now."
Knox said his philosophy has always been to control the ball to keep such high-powered offenses as those of the Chargers and Jets off the field. "How can a quarterback like (San Diego's Dan) Fouts hurt you if he's not on the field?" Knox asked.
"We want to control the ball with our running game and short passing. And if we get the opportunity for a quick strike, we'll take it."
Zorn said that Mike McCormack, who replaced Jack Patera for the final seven games last season, started the team at least thinking in different terms. "But Chuck has been able to put it all together. He made some key moves. Obviously, getting Curt Warner has meant a lot, but so has having (tight end) Charle Young and (guard) Reggie McKenzie. They were the additives we needed."
The defense is just as pleased with the new look on offense.
"Having a ball control offense is a luxury the defense never had before," said cornerback Keith Simpson. "In the past, we never knew when we'd be back on the field."
Said Zorn: "What used to happen is that we'd abort our running attack early. Now we'll stick with it, so the games aren't just one pass after another."
Will Zorn go to the air Sunday to take advantage of the Redskins' problems in the secondary?
"The Redskins are a quality team," he said. "You can look all you want for weaknesses and you can try to pick them apart, but they are balanced in all areas, so the only way to beat them is with basic, solid football.
"And that's the kind of football the Seahawks are playing these days."