When fans last had a good look at the Seattle Seahawks secondary, a group of All-Pros shared puzzled looks, obviously confused and certainly dazed.
They had been torched by the Carolina Panthers late in a loss on Sunday, only a week after suffering a similar fate against the Cincinnati Bengals.
It wasn’t that they’d been beaten by superior talent, they’d been imprecise in their assignments, and victims of miscommunication. And it left opposing receivers alone in open spaces to pick up big yardage.
But in the 20-3 win over San Francisco on Thursday, the Seattle secondary was in full lockdown mode most of the night.
Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick completed 13 of 24 pass attempts and was sacked six times — 3 1/2 of those by Michael Bennett.
By keeping Kaepernick under pressure, the Seattle front seven made work easier for the secondary.
“That’s our D-line, those guys play hard,” said safety Kam Chancellor. “They’re relentless.”
A blown coverage that allowed a touchdown pass to Panthers tight end Greg Olsen on Sunday forced the Seahawks secondary into some serious self-examination.
After that loss, they gathered in a tight cluster to hash out what the problem had been.
“The biggest thing was acknowledging we were at fault,” said cornerback Cary Williams. “We had to be certain to figure out how we could get better and make sure that situation didn’t happen again.”
The focus, Williams said, was on communication. “We knew we had a mental bust and that happens in football, but we had to overemphasize getting it right for this week.”
With the pressure on Kaepernick, the Niners managed just one third-down conversion in 11 attempts. Their 142 total yards averaged out to a scant 3.2 yards per play. Their punts (9) outnumbered their first downs (8).
“We focused on communicating a lot,” Chancellor said. “That was the biggest thing with us getting back to who we are. We had to communicate across the board and be in the (right) place.”
A new look this season has been All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman being deployed against the opponent’s top receiving threat rather than simply manning his customary spot on the left side.
“I just play what they tell me to play,” said Sherman, who spent most of the night going against San Francisco’s Torrey Smith, who finished with no catches and only one target.
While the shut-down effort seemed like a performance out of the noted Legion of Boom secondary in past seasons, Sherman said it’s felt “normal” for several weeks.
“A few plays got away from us late in the game and that’s unfortunate,” Sherman said. “But we didn’t lose confidence from those things; those were good teams and they executed down the stretch the way they were supposed to, and we didn’t.”
Thursday night, there were no such lapses.