Keys to the game
1 Feeding the Beast
The running game was not why Seattle lost to San Diego last week, 30-21. But the fact the Seahawks ran the ball just 13 times, with Marshawn Lynch carrying only six times, was symbolic of how out-of-whack the team’s game plan was once the Chargers took a 13-point second-quarter lead. Like most teams, Seattle tends to run more when things are going well. But don’t be surprised to see the Seahawks try to get Lynch more involved from the beginning against the Broncos and attempt to establish a tone of physical dominance. Lynch has gained 146 yards on 26 carries, 5.6 yards per attempt, this season.
2 Third-down turnaround
Maybe the biggest reason for the defeat at San Diego was the Seattle defense allowing the Chargers to convert 10 of 17 third downs. Five came on plays of third-and-two or less. Two San Diego touchdown passes, though, came on third-and-eight, indicative of how the Seahawks just couldn’t stop the Chargers when it mattered most. Through two games, Seattle has allowed opponents to convert 16 of 29 third downs, 55.2 percent, the highest percentage in the NFL. Denver isn’t much better at 15 of 29, 51.7 percent, 28th in the NFL. Something, you’d think, will give Sunday.
3 Taming (Julius) Thomas
Three touchdown receptions by San Diego tight end Antonio Gates were the difference a week ago. Now Seattle faces Denver tight end Julius Thomas, who has four touchdowns in the first two games to lead NFL tight ends. Seattle shut down Thomas in the Super Bowl, holding him to four catches for 27 yards. Seattle linebacker K.J. Wright, who often ends up matched against tight ends, said the challenge of Thomas isn’t quite the same as that of defending Gates. “They are kind of different,’’ Wright said. “Gates is more of a wiggle guy. He’ll beat you off the line of scrimmage. Thomas is more of a straight-ahead guy. Younger, more of a speed guy.’’