Kam Chancellor was on the field two months ago in Oakland when Raiders rookie quarterback Derek Carr shredded the Seahawks for 143 yards and three touchdown passes. That was in just over one, stunning quarter.
So what exactly does Seattle’s veteran strong safety who played about two series that night remember from that exhibition game?
“I remember that it was a preseason game,” Chancellor deadpanned.
Carr is the bold, second-round draft choice from Fresno State with all of seven games in the league. Yet he has been around long enough to know Chancellor has a valid point entering Sunday, when the Raiders (0-7) visit the Seahawks (4-3) at CenturyLink Field.
“To be honest with you, I didn’t think too much of it. You know, it being a preseason game, it wasn’t a regular-season game,” Carr said.
“This is the real deal now.”
This real deal may not be as easy as most think it should be for Seattle.
The Seahawks are entering month three of trying to find continuity and consistency – not to mention a few wins in a row. The players can feel the urgency to finally get going now. They have another home game next weekend against the New York Giants (3-4) before a string of six treacherous games: home-and-homes with NFC West leader Arizona plus division rival San Francisco bracketed by tests at Kansas City (4-3) and Philadelphia (5-2).
“It’s time to get back to normal,” linebacker K.J. Wright said. “We are a good football team. It’s time to start stacking these wins together.”
But right now the only thing stacking up for Seattle are injuries. The Seahawks will have four starters out against Oakland: tight end Zach Miller, middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, cornerback Byron Maxwell and outside linebacker Malcolm Smith, the Most Valuable Player of February’s Super Bowl. Three more starters will test injuries in pregame warmups to determine if they can play: Chancellor, left tackle Russell Okung and center Max Unger.
The pains on defense leave the secondary and linebackers in mix-and-match mode for a Raiders team that throws the ball 67 percent of the time and has run it the fewest times in the league (133 rushes). Tharold Simon will make his third career start for Maxwell; expect Carr and the Raiders to target Simon with leading receiver James Jones, and for Seattle to perhaps counter by matching All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman on Jones instead of keeping him on his usual, left side of the field.
Smith’s injury means Wright moves back from inside linebacker to outside linebacker, and undrafted rookie Brock Coyle will make his first NFL start for Wagner at middle linebacker. At least Coyle shouldn’t have to worry too much about Oakland’s running game. It is averaging just 69.6 yards per game, though Raiders interim coach Tony Sparano has talked this week of getting running back Maurice Jones-Drew more carries to try to balance an offense that has been living and mostly dying with Carr’s downfield throws.
Yet beware of what this looks like. Nothing’s easy these days for the Seahawks.
Coming off a two-game losing streak, they managed just six points for the first 55 minutes last week at Carolina and trailed 9-6 with 4:37 left. Then Russell Wilson led a game-winning, 80-yard drive that ended with 47 seconds left on his touchdown pass to Luke Willson, Miller’s fill-in at tight end. It took the defense sacking Cam Newton twice on the Panthers’ final four plays to ensure a slogging, 13-9 win.
Chancellor said he thinks winning that tough way was great for the Seahawks, that it will pay dividends over the final two months of the regular season.
Leave it to him to appreciate toughness. Chancellor has been playing through bone spurs in both ankles that had him contemplating surgery in mid-September.
“I think last game was a game that we needed, hard-fought game, came out with the victory,” the rugged safety said. “I think we came together as a team during that game, and we finished strong.
“I think that was a start. We’ve got to start building on that. I told a lot of the guys, and our coaches. I told them I think it was better for us to have that hard-fought game, that grit game, that fight-out-through adversity game. I think that last game was one of the ones we needed.”
That’s what the Seahawks thought almost exactly a year ago. And they were right.
Last Nov. 3, they were 7-1 coming off a 14-9 slog of a win on a Monday night at St. Louis. Tampa Bay came to Seattle winless – then jumped out to a 21-0 lead on the Seahawks after 28 minutes.
Properly motivated – make that, alarmed – the Seahawks rallied for a humbling, 27-24 win. They regrouped and revived, winning their next three games over Atlanta, Minnesota and New Orleans by a combined 108-37 on their way to winning the Super Bowl.
Asked if these Seahawks have to guard against complacency against the winless Raiders, Wright shook his head side to side.
“No, not at all,” he said, thinking of 12 months ago against Tampa Bay. “We’ve been in this position before, and we know we can go out there and lose this game if we’re not careful.
“This team is focused. We are worried about us, and not the Raiders and their record … They are going to come out (hard). I’m sure they are tired of losing.
“We are trying to take care of our business.”