What a difference four days made for Kris Richard.
Last weekend the NFL’s youngest defensive coordinator was scorned and doubted by Seahawks fans. His vaunted group blew its second two-score lead in a fourth quarter in as many weeks. The two-time defending NFC champions were 2-4.
“When there’s a breakdown on the defense, I’m the defensive coordinator, so it absolutely starts and stops with me,” Richard said Tuesday. “We’re going to get it fixed.”
Thursday, Richard went from ostracized to overlooked.
Two days after everyone wanted him to comment on his unit’s problems, he walked alone out the Seahawks locker room at the bottom of Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Dressed in a sharp light-brown suit, the 35-year old greeted a couple friends he recognized in passing while starting a long walk down a tunnel to the team bus. His unit had just allowed only a field goal, forced nine punts and held San Francisco to just 142 yards, the 49ers’ lowest output in eight years.
After just two full practice days between the loss to Carolina and 20-3 steamrolling of San Francisco, the defense went from ransacked to revived.
So what suddenly changed? How did the Seahawks get their swagger and domination back for an entire game after blowing fourth-quarter leads in all four losses?
First, they weren’t playing undefeated Cincinnati or Carolina Thursday night. It was San Francisco (2-5), which essentially disintegrates each time it plays Seattle nowadays.
The 49ers had 17 net yards passing on 17 drop backs by Colin Kaepernick in the first half. Seattle sacked him six times — a career-high 3 1/2 times by Michael Bennett, who now shares the league’s sack lead with Cincinnati’s Carlos Dunlap. Thursday’s half-dozen sacks set the Seahawks’ season high.
Richard saw other reasons than it being the 49ers.
“We played like a team. We came out and we handled our business the way we know we are capable of,” Richard said. “The only thing that mattered was the fact that we just kept playing. There wasn’t going to be a circumstance where, good or bad, that was going to have an effect on how we responded.
“We maximized each play.”
Bennett said his theme to defensive mates this short week between games was “chopping wood.”
The result: San Francisco sawdust. It was Seattle’s fewest yards allowed since Philadelphia’s 139 last Dec. 7 in a 24-14 win.
“That’s just a worker’s mentality,” Richard said of the chopping wood theme. “Put your hard hat on, strap on your boots and just go to work.”
Richard said he felt the need to reinforce that mentality this week, after his guys allowed 27 points in each of the previous two games.
“Yeah, absolutely,” the coordinator said. “In light of our past two games it’s was ... Just. Go. Play. Don’t worry about anything else. Not finishing. Not all the other stuff that’s come about. You can make a big deal about all that stuff right there, and all of a sudden that rallying cry becomes something more of a dreadful thing. Really, the main thing is to just keep playing.”
Richard credited defensive line coaches Travis Jones and Dwaine Board for the plan that got the Seahawks the six sacks, including 1 1/2 from Cliff Avril.
The defensive end opposite Bennett doesn’t dance as Bennett does and is far quieter — who isn’t quieter than Bennett? Avril just continues to excel. He may be the best, most consistent Seahawks defender through seven games.
“They were prepared,” Richard said. “The guys locked in. They studied. And they executed.
“A great exhibition of Seahawks football.”
The Seahawks are off this weekend and will return to practice Monday for the Nov. 1 game at Dallas. … Expect the team to active WR Paul Richardson off its physically unable to perform list Monday. The speedy second-round draft choice’s rookie season ended in the January playoff win over Carolina because of his second torn ligament in the same knee in a couple of years.