Seahawks Insider Blog

Seahawks' defense could be even better -- especially if it only has to keep covering just 2/3rd of the field

Normally I would lead with a video slice of what coach Pete Carroll said following a game. But Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett was far, far better.

He wasn't bad on the field tonight, either.

Bennett's sack and fumble he forced on Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers that turned into a safety plus two quarterbacks hits -- plus the sacks by O'Brien Schofield in the first half and Cliff Avril on fourth down that was also during Seattle run of 19 unanswered points into the fourth quarter -- were impressive. Even more impressive: They came with the Seahawks rushing only three and four defensive linemen and dropping sometimes even as many as eight defenders into coverage.

"Obviously we were the more physical team, offensively and defensively," Bennett said.

Obviously.

As the Seahawks started and stayed in nickel defense with Jeremy Lane as the fifth defensive back and Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright as the only linebackers, I expected the Packers to power runner Eddie Lacy directly at that scheme. But Lacy had just four carries after halftime -- when it was a 17-10 game -- and just 12 in all. For, as Bennett gleefully detailed afterward, just 38 yards.

It was the best postgame quote I've heard in a bit.

“Lacy?” Bennett said, his voice rising. “Obviously he didn’t run on us. He had 12 carries for 40 yards.

“I mean, I could do that.”

If Seattle can hold one of the NFL's better quarterbacks to 188 yards passing and one of the league's better offenses to one touchdown in the first 3 1/2 quarters and 255 total yards by only having to commit four linemen to the pass rush while giving up only 45 yards on the ground, this defense might be in decent shape, eh?

Yet Richard Sherman said afterward it wasn't a shutdown performance, given the meteoric standards of a team that led the league in yards and points allowed last season.

Fellow All-Pro defensive back Earl Thomas may have gotten it right when he was told of Sherman's assessment: "Maybe that's because he didn't get the ball thrown his way," Thomas said. "Maybe he was bored."

Yes, Rodgers threw 33 times, but not once in the direction of Sherman.

"You get a little surprised by it," Sherman said. "But it happens."

Will it continue to?

Sherman may not like it -- coach Pete Carroll said "I talked to Richard about it in the locker room, and he was kind of disappointed that he wasn't able to help us more" -- but if quarterbacks continuing with Philip Rivers on Sept. 14 in San Diego don't throw his way at all this season think about what that does for Seattle's defense. The other 10 guys only have to defend one-third of the field in the Seahawks' three-deep zone. Seattle has been the NFL's best defense covering the entire field that last two years. Think the Seahawks might thrive in having to cover 33 or, if the QB doesn't even look to Sherman's side, 50 percent less of it each week?

"He helped us immensely," Carroll said, "by the fact that they are the cutting the field in half.

"I'll help him through it," Carroll, the former defensive back and defensive-back coach, said. "We talked about it, and he'll be good about it."

Byron Maxwell's interception on Rodgers' sixth target of him, on a pass Jordy Nelson should have caught on a slant route but he let bounce off his hands, to set up Steven Hauschka's field goal that made it 20-10 in the third quarter and Avril's sack on fourth down in Seattle territory when it was 20-10 effectively finished off the Packers.

"Defensively," quarterback Russell Wilson said, "we were lights out."

I'm 18 paragraphs into this and have yet to mention Wilson's Seahawk offense. And it scored 36 points.

That's how good Seattle played.

The Packers went with what we surmised they would, two down linemen and five linebackers for much of the game. Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell began not by pounding the Pack with Marshawn Lynch but with two bubble-screen catches and a fly sweep run by wide receiver Percy Harvin over Seattle's first seven plays. Harvin had the Packers running horizontally, and that left Lynch gaping holes and the Seahawks' offensive linemen much easier blocking angles on linebackers that were cheating outside looking for Harvin. Lynch had seven carries for 59 yards by halftime, well on his way to his 30th career 100-yard rushing day and 24th in four seasons plus one game as a Seahawk.

Wilson is becoming so dependable and efficient that his 19-for-28, 191-yard night with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 110.9 QB rating seemed almost mundane. His best play exemplified what he said this week was the most improved part of his game from last season: Quicker, more decisive reads.

At the Green Bay 33 2 minutes into the second quarter, Bevell sent Ricardo Lockette, the No. 6 wide receiver and thus not exactly in the first pages of Green Bay's defensive game plan, in to split out left in an otherwise tight formation. Wilson's faked a zone-read option handoff that the Packers expected; Green Bay sent its cornerback on Lockette's side blitzing in for the run. Wilson read the blitz and flipped a short throw out to the lonely Lockette, who ran the final 20 or so yards for the 33-yard touchdown.

It's a play that becoming popular in college football with all the zone-read stuff that version of the sport runs.

"Great read by Russell," Lockette said.

"He's just improving on every aspect in his decision-making," receiver Doug Baldwin said.

--Carroll didn't say Thomas wasn't going to return punts anymore because of his fumble in the first quarter. Sherman blocked a Packer into Thomas just after he fielded the punt, causing the ball to pop out. Carroll did say he is going to advise Thomas to fair-catch such punts in traffic, though Thomas said "That's the way I play. I'm aggressive." WR Bryan Walters had one fair catch of a punt in the second half subbing for Thomas.

--Walters, by the way, was open down the right sideline for what would have been the fifth-year veteran's first career touchdown on a pass play in the third quarter, but Wilson was pressured into having to throw the ball away.

--I was glad for Garry Gilliam, the former Penn State tight end and undrafted rookie who played a series in the third quarter as a third tackle and blocked on a couple nice runs by Lynch. Not a bad week for a guy who was sent away to boarding school for low-income families when he was seven in eastern Pennsylvania, then became the first in his family to go to college before unexpectedly making the Super Bowl champions' regular-season roster.

--Wagner had 14 tackles. Kam Chancellor had 11 and said he felt strong coming off spring hip surgery.

--My News Tribune colleague Don Ruiz is writing a more-detailed story on rookie right tackle Justin Britt and his NFL debut tonight. A big key coming in was Britt having to repel Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews and rush end Julius Peppers. Matthews had four tackles, no sacks and no quarterback hits. Peppers had four tackles, no sacks and one QB hit. The Seahawks used tight end Zach Miller some to help Britt early. One time they even had wide receiver Jermaine Kearse go in motion, stop where the H-back or wing would be one yard behind and one yard outside Britt and then had Kearse chip on Peppers with Britt.

--Carroll had only one injury he knew of: Lane "tweaked," in the coaches' word, his groin. Lane had the same injury entering this week of practice. Marcus Burley, the second-year pro from Delaware from whom Seattle traded a sixth-round draft pick in 2015 to Indianapolis last week, replaced Lane in the third quarter and impressed Carroll.

--The Seahawks will meet tomorrow at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, with Carroll having a press conference at 3 p.m. The players are off from practice Saturday and Sunday before returning to the field Monday to prepare for the Sept. 14 game at San Diego.

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