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Originally published December 20, 2013 at 4:33 PM | Page modified December 20, 2013 at 8:05 PM

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Seahawks defense prides itself on coming through in tough situations

When opponents start in Seattle’s end of the field, they generally are held out of the end zone.


Seattle Times staff reporter

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RENTON – There are many ways to measure a defense, and here’s one:

When a team has started drives on the Seattle side of the 50-yard line, the Seahawks have generally kept them from scoring touchdowns. Opposing teams have had 10 drives start in Seahawks territory this season. Only three ended with touchdowns, including one scored by Seattle’s opponent Sunday, Arizona.

“We’re into those stats,” safety Earl Thomas said. “We love that because it proves how good we are. Numbers don’t lie.”

Most of those drives have come off turnovers by the Seattle offense — what the Seahawks call “sudden changes.” Those are the moments in a game when defenders go from drinking water on the sideline to quickly grabbing their helmets and heading onto the field.

Those also are the times when offenses are likely to be aggressive and try to catch defenses napping. To counter that, the Seahawks do something very simple. They gather the defense on the sideline, give everyone time to put on their helmets and go over the situation they’re facing.

“We try to keep everybody in a group mentality,” linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. said.

Coach Pete Carroll puts heavy emphasis on sudden changes. During walk-throughs, he places his defense in tough situations, with their backs near their own end zone, just so they can get used to it.

Of those 10 drives that started in Seattle territory, five have resulted in field goals. The Seahawks consider that a “win” for the defense. Two other drives ended with the opposing team experiencing its own sudden change because of Seattle interceptions.

“It’s a testament to the guys that we fight that much harder,” defensive end Red Bryant said.

In fact, of the three touchdowns scored on drives that started inside the Seattle 50, two of them came on drives that started inside the Seahawks’ 3.

“And we’re very upset and tough on ourselves when they score from the 2 and 3 because we feel like we can stop them,” Thomas said.

When the Seahawks have their backs against their own end zone, they can be more aggressive because they don’t have to worry about getting beat over the top. Carroll and his staff harp on not giving up explosive plays, but that’s less of a concern when a team starts a drive inside the Seattle 50.

“We can be more aggressive with our coverage,” Norton said. “A lot of times when we’re up the field we play off of guys and then we tackle and keep everybody in front of us. Down here, we can be a little more aggressive on our man coverages.”

Said Thomas, “We’re very aggressive, and we’re aggressive at all cylinders. When you can be aggressive like you want and you know they can’t throw it over your head, now you can really play.”

• Starting guard J.R. Sweezy will not play against the Cardinals on Sunday because of a concussion. Sweezy sustained the concussion during the Seahawks’ victory over the New York Giants on Sunday. He practiced Wednesday before the Seahawks realized he had a concussion and wasn’t able to make it back after that. In his absence, the Seahawks could start James Carpenter at one guard spot and Paul McQuistan in the other. The two have been splitting snaps at left guard; Sweezy plays right guard. Other candidates are rookie tackles Michael Bowie and Alvin Bailey, who both have put in some work at guard.

• Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (concussion) is listed as questionable.

• Seattle WR Percy Harvin (hip) won’t play Sunday.

Jayson Jenks: 206-464-8277 or jjenks@seattletimes.com



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