Will the real Seattle Seahawks defense please stand up?
Inexperienced and injury-plagued on offense, the Seahawks’ defense was supposed to carry the load until veterans like offensive lineman Sean Locklear and receivers Deion Branch and Bobby Engram returned.
But in the first two games – including a 33-30 overtime loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday – Seattle’s defense has looked vulnerable, giving up an average of 33.5 points and 351.5 total yards per contest.
Worse, with a speedy, ballhawking defense that depends on creating turnovers, the Seahawks only have one this season.
Seattle’s defensive front forced San Francisco quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan into eight sacks. But Seattle defenders had O’Sullivan in their grasp several other times and could not reel him in.
“He should have been sacked more, in my opinion,” Seattle coach Mike Holmgren said.
And during critical moments, the Seahawks either gave up a big play or suffered defensive penalties that kept San Francisco drives alive.
Seattle gave up six plays of 25 yards or more and had four defensive penalties that resulted in first downs for the 49ers.
Even with the sloppy play from the defense, Seattle middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu said it’s still too early to panic.
“There are still 14 games to be played,” Tatupu said. “I’m not calling us the New York Giants, but they did start 0-2, didn’t they?”
Seattle gave up several big plays in the passing game that either extended drives or put the 49ers in position to score.
After Seattle battled back late in the second half to take a 30-27 lead with a little over seven minutes left, O’Sullivan found receiver Isaac Bruce deep down the middle of the field for a 30-yard gain to Seattle’s 42-yard line. The 49ers ultimately got a 28-yard field goal from Joe Nedney to tie the game at 30 with less than three minutes to play in regulation.
San Francisco received the ball first in overtime and again marched down the field. Bruce, who was held without a reception in the 49ers’ opener against Arizona, again came up with the big play, corralling a 33-yard reception on third-and-7 from San Francisco’s 23-yard line to move into Seattle territory.
After Bruce’s catch, San Francisco settled into field goal position and Nedney, who missed a 41-yarder that could have won the game in overtime, drilled a 40-yard field goal for the win.
Bruce finished with four catches for 153 yards, including a 63-yarder in the first half in a blown coverage between cornerback Marcus Trufant and safety Deon Grant. That play led to a 3-yard touchdown pass to Bryant Johnson.
“We really have to go back and study that to see what we did wrong and why they got the big plays,” said cornerback Kelly Jennings, who was in coverage on several of the long gains. “We know that we have a great defense and we try not to allow that. So we’ve got to go back and find what exactly was happening, and see if it’s fixable or not, but I think we definitely can get it corrected.”