Seahawks defense needs to return to last season’s form
Let’s not overlook the fact that the Seahawks this season have been in equal-opportunity regression. To be blunt, their defense simply has not been as impactful and disruptive as it was in their championship run.
Seattle Times columnist
So far this week, much of the Seahawks-related angst — and it’s predictably rampant in the wake of a home defeat — has been focused on their meandering offense.
Why can’t they spring Percy Harvin? Why isn’t Russell Wilson throwing downfield more often? And why in the world aren’t they riding Beast Mode as relentlessly as they did last year en route to the Super Bowl?
Those are legitimate points to ponder (or obsess over, depending on your level of distress).
But let’s not overlook the fact that the Seahawks this season have been in equal-opportunity regression. To be blunt, their defense simply has not been as impactful and disruptive as it was in their championship run.
Those Seahawks were all about the swagger. They spoke loudly, and carried a big stick to back it up. They oozed intimidation and conveyed (not very subtly, either) an unmistakable aura: Mess with us at your own risk.
The success of this approach was evident in the statistics, which showed the Seahawks dominating the NFL in just about every category that counts — total defense, scoring defense, giveaway-takeaways.
Beyond that, however, it seemed as if the Seahawks’ defense was able to impose its will on opposing teams. They certainly did in the Super Bowl, starting with Kam Chancellor’s devastating hit on Demaryous Thomas over the middle.
The raging debate after that game, and a valid one, was whether the Seahawks’ defense deserved to be rated with the best of all-time. But one season later, the Seahawks are still waiting to unleash the same level of mayhem.
They are tied for 14th in points allowed per game (22.6) and 19th in passing yards allowed per game (252.2).
Oh, there have been flashes, and it’s far too early to jump to any definitive conclusions. This is a snapshot of a season-in-progress, not a portrait of a team come undone.
Ask Richard Sherman about the Seahawks’ defense, and he says, “I think it’s been fine,’’ pointing out rightly that both of their losses have come down to the wire.
“Anytime you have the chance to win the ballgame at the end, you’re doing pretty good,’’ Sherman said.
There are explanations for the startling decline in turnovers, the drop from 28 interceptions in the regular season last year, down to two this year. They’ve faced practically a who’s-who of quarterbacks, and some teams have been more conservative in their game plans in homage to Seattle’s takeover ability. There have been impactful injuries, including a new one to linebacker Bobby Wagner, on top of the departure of some key players from last year.
Pete Carroll will tell you all their woes are interconnected, and he’s right, of course.
“How we play on defense and how we’re running the football and how we’re converting on third down on both sides of the ball has a lot to say about what happens,’’ he said.
Last year, the Seahawks were dictating the conversation, its tone and its tenor. Not just with Marshawn Lynch’s fierce running, but via a defense that played with a synergy, from pass rush to coverage, that was marvelous to behold.
Now they sit tied for 26th with seven sacks, after racking up 44 last year. To Carroll, that’s where it all begins.
“The focus to me goes to hitting the quarterback,’’ he said. “It’s caused by good coverage and it’s cause by good rush. We just need to complement better.”
In the meantime, there are signs of cracks in their aura of intimidation. Teams have shown a growing inclination to attack the Legion of Boom. After the Chargers’ victory, San Diego’s Keenan Allen crowed that Sherman wasn’t a shutdown corner.
“He’s not what he’s hyped up to be,’’ Allen told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Last week, NFL Network had a report that Dallas’s coaching staff was conveying to Cowboys players that Sherman was overrated.
These kinds of slights, and the very notion that the Seattle defense isn’t what it used to be, is just the perceived lack of respect that the Seahawks have always pounced upon as motivation.
I’d expect them to do so again. Playing against a less established quarterback like St. Louis’ Austin Davis should embolden the Seattle defense.
Carroll said Wednesday, “I would think it’s going to turn. We’re doing a lot of the same stuff with a lot of the same people.”
Now it’s time to produce the same results.
About Larry Stone
Larry Stone gives his take on the local and national sports scene.