Eye on the Enemy: Seattle Seahawks

TEMPE, Ariz. – The Seattle Seahawks’ resurgence over the last month can primarily be pointed in the direction of their defense. Over the last four games – all wins for Seattle – the defense has given up an average of 188 yards per game. In those four games, Seattle’s defense gave up less than seven points per game on average.

Seattle’s been fighting the injury bug, which hit their defense pretty hard. Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner hurt his toe against the Dallas Cowboys in mid-October and missed five games. As soon as he returned, that’s when Seattle’s current win streak started.

Seahawks’ head coach Pete Carroll sees a correlation between the defense’s explosion and them finally being healthy again.

“I think that’s part of it. We’ve just improved through the course of the year,” Carroll said. “We’ve kind of recaptured the intensity that it takes to play at a really high level. We saw glimpses of it early in the year, and we had games where we played really well, and we had games where we didn’t play really well. We just hadn’t found consistency yet.”

“It seems like in the last month or so we’ve done a little bit better, and we’re hoping to put one more game along those same kind of lines and see if we can get ourselves a win at your place,” Carroll said.

Seattle has the “Legion of Boom,” and they’re playing up to their namesake. They are the stingiest secondary in the NFL, giving up a league-low 184.3 yards per game.

Cardinals quarterback Ryan Lindley is tasked this week with dealing with a maniacal Seahawks defense on Sunday Night Football. All he sees is talent across the board with Seattle’s defense.

“A great group of guys – great front, an athletic group of linebackers and obviously a great group of guys that can cover,” Lindley said. “29 [safety Earl Thomas] on the back end is one of the best in the business at what he does.”

“You just have to be on your P’s and Q’s,” Lindley said. “You have to be all over what we do game plan wise this week, and we’ll just let it rip once we get out there.”

Lindley hasn’t thrown many passes lately, other than the 10 he threw against the St. Louis Rams last Thursday night. In other words, there’s not a lot of tape for Carroll and Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to pull from on Lindley as they get their game plan together.

“Well, we’re just going to prepare like we always do and go with what we have,” Carroll said. “We’ve seen him play before and we know that that’s a very successful team that’s had a lot of good things happen. They have a style in the way they play and expect them to play somewhat the same. They’ll adapt and we’ll have to adapt as the game develops.”

Wagner and the Seahawks defense will see a two-headed quarterbacking monster in Lindley and Logan Thomas on Sunday night. They’re two different quarterbacks, so naturally, the preparation for both will be different.

“One’s a passer and one’s more of a run threat, so we have to be ready for different formations, different plays that they might want to run,” Wagner said. “Honestly, I don’t think we focus on who’s going to be back there. We just are going to make sure we find the ball and get them.”

Russell Wilson is Lindley’s direct competitor at quarterback for the Seahawks. The Cardinals defense was able to keep Wilson in check for the most part in their first meeting in Seattle, Wash., in late November. They sacked Wilson seven times, but they were unable to withstand a nine-play scoring drive in the third quarter, which broke the game wide open, thanks to Wilson’s ability to make plays.

Safety Tyrann Mathieu is set to make his return against Seattle, after being out for the last two games with a left thumb injury. Mathieu played 32 snaps in the game at CenturyLink Field, and recalls what the defense did to hold Wilson down prior to that scoring drive.

“We just tried to put as many guys in the box as possible, contain him [and] play man-to-man on the outside,” Mathieu said. “Hopefully we can keep him inside the pocket, not let him do the zone read, escape the pocket [and] I think we’ll be alright.”

The problem with trying to play Wilson man-to-man is he’s one of the best-broken play quarterbacks in the NFL. Wilson doesn’t even need to have a play go wrong for him to beat you with his legs, his arm and his mind. As Mathieu alluded to, Wilson is lethal when he’s in the zone read formation, making him extremely hard to deal with when he gets out in space.

“He’s [Wilson] extremely tough to play man-to-man on, especially when he scrambles, then you have to find a [wide] receiver again,” Mathieu said. “It’s gonna be critical for us to stay in coverage.”

The Cardinals defense will also have to contend with running back Marshawn Lynch, who’s third in the league in rushing yardage [1,133] and second in the league in touchdowns [10].

It’s not going to be easy shutting Wilson and Lynch down at the same time. So, who should be priority No. 1?

“A little bit of both. I’d put them neck and neck,” cornerback Jerraud Powers said. “If you don’t stop Lynch, obviously you’re gonna have a long day, but then again, if you don’t stop Wilson from scrambling and doing what he does, extending plays, he can make it very difficult.”

“Our first and foremost is to stop the run,” Powers said. “We don’t want to have Lynch going, and for them to be able to run the ball and pass it. After that it’s containing [Russell Wilson] and making sure he [doesn’t] extend plays, tackling him when we get an opportunity and make sure our backend is covered the way we’re supposed to cover.”







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