Seahawks’ defense successful in turning Broncos into a one-dimensional offense
Shutting down the Denver running game proved to be key for Seattle in 26-20 victory Sunday.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Near the top of the to-do list for the Seahawks defensive players each week is this: Turn whoever they’re playing into a predictable, one-dimensional team.
But that task took on added importance Sunday, when Denver quarterback Peyton Manning and his talented group of receivers arrived. If the Seahawks could strip the Broncos of the ability to run the ball, they could zero in on discomforting Manning in the pocket and shutting down his receivers in the passing game.
Check and check.
The Seahawks held the Broncos to just 1.8 yards per carry. They forced a fumble on Denver’s first carry. And they did the very thing they so badly wanted to do heading into the game: They made the Broncos predictable.
“So we just pinned our ears back and tried to get after the quarterback,” defensive end Cliff Avril said.
When you think of Manning and the Broncos, you immediately think of their prolific passing attack. And when you think of how to defend them, you think about the importance of getting a pass rush.
Both are valid, but the key to Seattle’s pass rush was first stuffing the run. Defensive tackle Kevin Williams said the Seahawks wanted to make Sunday a “for-sure passing game.” They did that by first improving their tackling and then by jumping out to a 14-point lead in the first half.
The Seahawks didn’t gang tackle in the defeat last week against the Chargers when their missed tackles turned 4-yard gains into 10 or 11 yards. Even though the Chargers averaged less than 3 yards a carry, they ran the ball just well enough that the threat of a run play kept Seattle off-balance.
But the Seahawks’ tackling was much crisper against Denver. As Williams put it, “A 5-yard gain was a 5-yard gain.”
If the Broncos were going to win, they were going to have to do it throwing the ball on Seattle’s terms.
“We dictated the game pretty much the whole way,” Williams said, “and in the second half, when we had a lead, we made it a pure passing game.”
The benefits of doing that were plentiful. It allowed Seattle’s linebackers to look for and attack Denver’s screens and quick passes — the very types of plays that were so successful a week earlier for San Diego.
It allowed Seattle’s secondary to be able to anticipate routes. And, perhaps most important, it allowed the defensive line to focus almost solely on getting after Manning.
The Seahawks had just one sack — and that was only when Manning fell — but they hit him eight times and consistently forced him to move. Manning gets the ball out quickly, and he is at his best when he can scan the field from the same spot in the pocket.
The Seahawks thought their pressure forced Manning to get “happy feet,” and he didn’t look comfortable until the Broncos’ final, game-tying drive.
“That’s the main thing: Just get around him,” Williams said. “Some of the times we got around him, it made him hurry his throw or not follow through. It’s not all about sacks.”
That pressure was largely a byproduct of Seattle’s ability to stop the run. The Seahawks said the Broncos have been a balanced team this season, and Seattle’s defensive players learned the hard way the difficulties of stopping a San Diego team that had just enough of a run game to throw them off-balance.
They made sure that didn’t happen again.
“We saw the first two games they were able to run and pass,” linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “We didn’t want them to be two-dimensional. We wanted them to beat us one way.”
|Stuffing the run|
|The Seahawks didn’t allow much on the ground to the Broncos.|
Jayson Jenks: 206-464-8277 or firstname.lastname@example.org