Seattle Seahawks

The key in D.C.: Seahawks must stop Redskins on third down

For openers, they faced Aaron Rodgers. Then came Philip Rivers. After that, Peyton Manning.

So excuse the Seahawks’ defensive backs and pass rushers if they aren’t exactly spooked by Monday night’s date with … Kirk Cousins?

After all, Washington’s fill-in for the dynamic Robert Griffin III just got done throwing four interceptions and losing a fumble in the Redskins’ last game. That was a 31-point loss at home to the previously inert New York Giants that left Washington 1-3.

Leave it to All-Pro safety Earl Thomas to keep his Seahawks (2-1) from falling into the this-will-be-easy trap.

“From last week watching (the Redskins) play the Giants, I kind of took it as they were kind of sleeping on the Giants. They didn’t think the Giants were going to come in there and do what they did.” Thomas said. “So we can’t watch that tape and feel like they’re going to do that against us. We’re going to give everybody the best shot.”

Problem for the Redskins is, they know the same thing about these Seahawks. Seattle hasn’t played in 15 days and is, in the words of Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, “excited to get back to football.”

“Super Bowl champions,” Washington’s glib first-year coach Jay Gruden said. “It will be a …”

Then he chuckled.

“… a nice little outing for us at home.

“They really don’t have a weakness.”

Ah, but yes they do.

One of their bigger ones will be a key to whether the Seahawks take care of the business they should here — or drop to an unacceptable 2-2.

Thomas and his defensive mates are allowing opponents to convert 49 percent of their third downs. Only putrid Oakland is worse at allowing third-down conversions, by a mere percentage point.

The last Seahawks game, Sept. 21’s overtime win against Denver, was the first time this season they had kept someone under 40 percent on third downs; the Broncos converted just six of 16 chances (38 percent).

As Gruden said: “If you’re ever going to look at stats and be a stat guy, third down and turnovers is probably where you could end.”

The last time the Seahawks went on the road, Sept. 14 at San Diego, the defense allowed Rivers and the Chargers to cash in on 10 of 17 third downs. That kept Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Percy Harvin and the multithreat Seahawks offense from running more than a mere 40 plays that day.

Of course, it was about 231 degrees on that field in San Diego. It’s going to be in the low 60s into the 50s for this one, about nine miles away from the U.S. Capitol.

That famous rotunda, by the way, had scaffolding all around it Sunday as part of a refreshing project.

Another refreshing project: Kam Chancellor. He is a key to Seattle’s Monday here. The hard-hitting strong safety can keep the Redskins from controlling field position and much of Monday’s game with the rugged running of Alfred Morris.

Chancellor will be playing after two weeks of rest for the bone spurs in his ankles that so pained him in San Diego three weeks ago, when he looked like he was running in a tar pit trying to cover Antonio Gates. Chancellor says new, higher-cut shoes have him feeling like his usual thudding self.

So much for his fears last month he would need surgery and miss many games. Chancellor says he’s refreshed for the Redskins.

“No concerns,” he said with a smile, “nope.”

If Chancellor, currently flying middle linebacker Bobby Wagner (double-digit tackles in each of the three games) and the rest of the Seahawks’ defense mash on Morris, this game will be in the throwing hand of Cousins.

The Seahawks considered drafting Cousins out of Michigan State three years ago as a Plan B at quarterback if another team took Wilson ahead of them.

Why? Cousins’ 427 yards passing and three touchdowns two games ago in Washington’s 37-34 loss at Philadelphia was a glimpse.

“We did, extensively,” look at Cousins, Carroll said, “and we interviewed him and the whole thing. We had him at the combine and all that stuff. He’s a really cool kid, really great competitor, real bright, hard-working, kind of a squeaky-clean guy. He’s just had such great history and background. His mentality was so on it. We were really impressed with him.”

So the Seahawks are vowing this lack of a marquee name — Kirk who? — after facing three of the best quarterbacks of this generation in the previous three games isn’t going lull them into mistakes in what many are warning could be a “trap game.”

They will be coming after Cousins as if he was Manning, Rodgers, RGIII or anyone else anyone had heard of before last month.

“Those two quarterbacks are two totally different people. RGIII can run and pass. Both of them make some mistakes when you put pressure on them. That’s any quarterback,” Thomas said.

“We definitely have to be on our keys because this guy is putting up numbers, 400 yards of offense. The running backs are 4.7 yards a carry. So we definitely have to know how they want to attack us in certain situations — especially on third down.

“We definitely have to improve on third down.”

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