Gameday has dawned sunny and warm, as promised, here in San Diego. The temperature by the 1:05 p.m. kickoff (on Fox/Channel 13 in Seattle) is expected to be above 90 degrees.
That makes the Seahawks' defensive-line rotation even more important than usual today in Seattle's first road test of the 2014 season.
The Seahawks have won 21 of their last 25 regular season games and 25 of their last 30 games overall dating to the middle of the 2012 season. They have 64 sacks in that span. Forty-four of those sacks have come after halftime. In this morning's News Tribune I look into how going eight and even nine men deep along the defensive line has given Seattle huge advantages in its pass-rush game later in games.
--Colleague and columnist Dave Boling is here with me in San Diego. In today's TNT he asks: Will the Seahawks stay hungry, stay driven today against the Chargers?
--Here are my key players to watch today:
No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Year
11 Percy Harvin WR 5-11 184 sixth
Everything the offense is doing so well right now begins, middles and ends with supersonic Harvin
28 Marcus Burley CB 5-11 185 second
Philip Rivers, favorite target Antonio Gates will the new nickel back each time San Diego throws
51 Bruce Irvin DE 6-3 248 third
After hip surgery may double his 19 snaps from last week; still not full LB/DE combo he will be
No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Year
74 Rich Ohrnberger C 6-2 300 sixth
Guard-center filling in for first time with Nick Hardwick on IR; Brandon Mebane & pals will zero in
31 Richard Marshall CB 5-11 198 ninth
With starter Brandon Flowers questionable, Marshall may start. Taller Jermaine Kearse, Richardo Lockette will find him
24 Ryan Matthews RB 6-0 220 fifth
He needs good production early to keep SEA from teeing off its pass rush on the stationary Philip Rivers,
And my keys to the game:
Stay cool. Stay fresh. Stay unbeaten: If there was ever a time for the Seahawks’ eight- and nine-man rotation of defensive linemen to make a huge impact on a game, here it is. San Diego’s Philip Rivers was second only to Peyton Manning in the AFC last year in quarterback rating. But as accurate he is, he is relatively stationary in the pocket, a classic drop-back passer. That will give Seattle’s pass rush more time to beat San Diego’s battered offensive line that is starting a backup center. Plus, it’s supposed to be 90-plus degrees on the field. More reason fresh may be best.
Get home with just four: Another reason the Seahawks have shut down passing games the last two seasons: They’ve been able to pressure quarterbacks with just their four down linemen. Doing that Sunday would allow linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright to help out in pass coverage underneath a nickel defense that will have in its middle Marcus Burley, the fill-in fifth DB for injured Jeremy Lane who has been on the team for just two weeks
Percy, then mercy: One of the big reasons Marshawn Lynch ran for 110 yards and Seattle rushed for 207 last week was offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell sending supersonic wide receiver Percy Harvin outside on bubble screens and fly sweeps early, including three of the first seven plays. That stretched the Packers’ linebackers and entire defense horizontally, from sideline to sideline. That, in turn, widened Lynch’s running games later and made the blocking angles easier for Seattle’s still-jelling offensive line. Expect more of Harvin in every which way to begin this one, with Lynch again the hammer later.
The pick: Harvin's speed again sets up Lynch for a big finish, the pass rush affects Rivers and the Super Bowl champions hold off a late Chargers rally.