From shredded to sublime.
That was the overlooked story of the Seattle Seahawks’ defense on Sunday against the New York Giants.
Eli Manning and rookie receiver Odell Beckham Jr. swamped Seattle with 192 yards passing and 224 total yards during the first half. It ended with the Seahawks fortunate to be down only 17-14.
All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman was shadowing Beckham some as Seattle played more man-to-man at the line of scrimmage early. With cornerback Byron Maxwell returning after missing three games with a strained calf and Jeremy Lane back for the first time since the opener following a groin injury, the Seahawks secondary was in flux. It alternated Lane and Marcus Burley at nickel back and Maxwell with Sunday starter Tharold Simon on the outside opposite Sherman.
And the Giants feasted, especially targeting Lane and Burley on key third downs.
But after halftime, New York gained just 100 yards on 30 plays. They didn’t score a point in the second half, having their closest chance snuffed out when All-Pro safety Earl Thomas intercepted a Manning throw tipped by Beckham directly into his arms in the end zone with the game tied at 17 late in the third quarter.
With everyone wowed by Marshawn Lynch’s and Russell Wilson’s 100-yard rushing days and the offense running for a team-record 350 of a total 510 yards, the Seahawks’ defense pitched a second-half shutout in the 38-17 victory.
“I think we started out of character early with not staying on top (deeper in coverage),” Thomas said. “We made the correct adjustments to get everything together … but they did some things (early) that we hadn’t seen.”
Giants coach Tom Coughlin said of his team after halftime: “There was great disappointment and disillusionment.”
What also helped Seattle: The Giants weren’t running — they had 17 rushes in 61 total plays. Once New York fell behind in the fourth quarter the Seahawks had their 2013 recipe for a ferocious pass rush, playing with the lead and knowing the foe had to throw. Michael Bennett got his team-high fourth sack of the season in the final period. The defensive front that only had blitz help on six of New York’s 23 pass attempts in the first half didn’t need any to swarm Manning late.
Maxwell broke up Manning’s fourth-down pass near midfield to Rueben Randle with less than six minutes left and the score 31-17. That set up Wilson’s touchdown run for the game’s final score.
“They were running that route all day long. I knew he was coming backside, 3-by-1. They always come backside, 3-by-1,” said Maxwell, who also had three tackles. “So I knew they were going to come and try to make that route. Just about being patient and trying to play ball.”
Coach Pete Carroll estimated Maxwell played about 30 snaps. Maxwell said his groin “feels better, but it’s not all the way ready. It’s getting there, though.”
Lane finished with four tackles and played more of the second half. Burley was limited by a hamstring injury from late last week.
“It felt good to be back. Since I put a helmet on in my lifetime, this is the longest I’ve ever been out of football,” Lane said. “Coming in my rookie year I was inactive, active, inactive, but never two months in a row. It was hard, but my teammates kept me uplifted, and I’m glad to be back.”
YET MORE INJURIES
Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane was doing what he’d been doing all season — blowing up double teams to begin the game. But Seattle lost him in the first half to what Carroll later called a pulled hamstring injury of unknown severity.
Tight end Luke Willson, filling in as starter Zach Miller remains out after undergoing ankle surgery, limped off with his own ankle injury in the second quarter. That made the decision before the game to keep newly signed Tony Moeaki inactive more important, because Cooper Helfet (one career NFL start) was the only healthy tight end for Seattle
Helfet had a leg injury but played on. The Seahawks used undrafted rookie backup tackle and guard Garry Gilliam as an extra tight end throughout the rest of the game.
Without tight ends, Lynch’s second touchdown run from the 2-yard line late in the second quarter came from a spread, three-wide receiver formation.
Kam Chancellor missed a second consecutive game, and just the third game of his five-year career. Chancellor missed the entire week with a groin injury on top of the bone spurs in his ankles. The thudding strong safety also missed last week’s win against the Oakland Raiders. Jeron Johnson made the first start of his four-year career and had a career-high eight tackles.
Carroll said he hopes to have Chancellor back next Sunday at Kansas City.
Left guard James Carpenter missed the game with a sprained ankle he suffered against Oakland last week. Alvin Bailey made his second consecutive and second career regular-season start. Last week he was at left tackle for Russell Okung. Okung was back starting Sunday after a groin injury last week.
Max Unger’s first start since spraining his foot Oct. 6 in the win at the Washington Redskins meant Seattle had 40 percent of its offensive line back.
The Seahawks’ inactives also included safety Steven Terrell, linebacker Malcolm Smith (likely out at least another week with a groin injury) and linebacker Bobby Wagner.
Wagner (turf toe) and Miller (ankle surgery) may not return for next week’s game against the Chiefs.
The Seahawks commemorated a pre-Veterans Day national anthem before the game with local United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard personnel holding the perimeter of a giant flag that stretched from end zone to end zone. Veteran Army Major Scott Smiley raised the 12th Man flag to the roars of 68,352 at CenturyLink Field immediately before kickoff. Smiley is a 2003 West Point graduate and father of two who has climbed Mount Rainier, earned his masters of business administration and won an ESPY award since a car bomb blinded him on duty in Iraq.