When St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher studied the defense of his next opponent – the Seattle Seahawks – he flirted with a unique approach to minimizing the damage their sack-happy defensive unit might inflict.
“I thought about starting Kellen Clemens,” Fisher said.
Clemens is the backup to starter and 2010 No. 1 overall draft pick Sam Bradford, who is a far more valuable commodity to the long-term future of the Rams franchise.
Fisher was joking about letting a backup absorb a possible beating, but the message of the Seahawks’ eight-sack defensive performance Monday night against Green Bay was clear: Quarterbacks beware.
While the rest of the nation was watching video of the Seahawks’ final play Monday night more than all the skateboarding dogs, sneezing pandas and cats with bread on their heads, the Seahawks’ defensive effort has gone underappreciated.
Except by the opposition.
“You look at what they were able to do Monday night … they looked unbeatable, almost,” Bradford said in a teleconference with Seattle media Wednesday. “They’re so big and physical and then you add (Chris) Clemons with his speed, it’s a tough group to try to block. They’re so multiple in the way they can rush you. They can beat you with power, beat you with speed, they can beat you around the edge with their pressure.”
They did all those things, with Clemons recording four sacks (all in a stunning second period) while rookie Bruce Irvin and tackle Brandon Mebane each added two.
It’s valuable to remember that this came against the Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers, among the most resourceful quarterbacks in the game.
“I thought that the (pressure) in the first half was as outrageous as I’ve ever seen,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “The ability to rush such a good quarterback and such a good offense in that manner was extraordinary.”
Carroll made the point that the success of the pass rush was also a function of great secondary coverage that didn’t allow Rodgers the freedom to find quick targets.
“We worked very hard in scramble mode on the deep end and we did a very good job of not allowing him the open guys he’s used to getting, and that gave us second chances on the pressure up front,” Carroll said.
Holding Green Bay to 12 points, its lowest total since a 7-3 loss to Detroit in December 2010, enhanced the notion that the Seahawks may have their best defense in franchise history.
Their best ranking in total defense was No. 6 in 1984, and they’re ranked No. 4 in the NFL now, while being No. 1 in points-against average (13.0) and No. 2 in rush defense (58.7 yards per game).
As impressive as those numbers are, NFC West rivals San Francisco and Arizona are also dominating. Arizona is No. 2 in scoring defense and San Francisco is eighth against the rush and 11th overall.
It’s an impressive reversal in a short period.
Bradford came into Seattle in the final game of the 2010 season as a rookie, when the Seahawks managed to claim the division title with a losing record (7-9).
“Obviously, our division is much stronger now,” Bradford said. “When I came in everybody looked at the NFC West as the weakest division in football, and it was kind of a joke. And now it’s a very tough division, especially defensively … it’s definitely one of the reasons you’ve seen the records in this division improve against the rest of the league.”
While the Seahawks play defense with obvious energy and pride, and a scheme that is varied and creative, they don’t seem too concerned about drawing attention to themselves.
When asked about the way focus on the Sahawks’ controversial touchdown on the final play against Green Bay diverted attention from their defensive effort, a number of key Seattle defenders just shrugged.
“Nah … I don’t care about that,” linebacker Leroy Hill said. “We know what we did. We played a helluva defensive game. We prepared well and had a great effort.”
“We can’t care what people on the outside think,” cornerback Richard Sherman said. “I don’t really listen to what people say, as long as we know we’re pretty good, that’s all that matters.”firstname.lastname@example.org 253-597-8440 @DaveBoling