Seahawks' Defense Backs Up ... for Backups?


Posted Jan 1, 2008


When the Seattle Seahawks face the Washington Redskins on Saturday afternoon, they will once again be facing a backup quarterback, though they have had a strange lack of success against the ones they have recently seen.

For the eighth consecutive week, the Seahawks will face a backup or a backup to a backup.

Starting in Week 10, in succession the Seahawks have faced Chicago's Rex Grossman, who was back starting for Brian Griese; St. Louis' Gus Frerotte after Marc Bulger was knocked out with a concussion in the first quarter; Philadelphia's A.J. Feeley, who was standing in for Donovan McNabb; Arizona's Kurt Warner, who replaced Matt Leinart; Carolina's Matt Moore, who played behind Vinny Testaverde and Jake Delhomme; Baltimore's rookie Troy Smith, stepping in for backup Kyle Boller; and Atlanta's Chris Redman, the Falcons' third quarterback of the season.

Though Seattle soundly stymied the inexperienced Smith, it could not figure out Moore, an undrafted rookie out of Oregon State who deftly read Seattle's coverages and got rid of the ball quickly to avoid Seattle's pass rush.

And on Sunday, the Seahawks were picked apart by Redman, who a year ago was selling insurance but who completed four touchdown passes against a defense that had allowed only 11 previously.

Against Washington, the Seahawks will face Todd Collins, who had more than a decade between starts but has led the Redskins on their four-game win streak after starter Jason Campbell was sidelined with an injury.

Perhaps the Seahawks did not know what to expect from Moore or Redman, who don't have a deep trove of film from which to prepare. Or, perhaps they just caught those players on days that they played well. But the primary difference is pressure. Moore was the beneficiary of right tackle Jordan Gross and a bevy of tight ends double-teaming NFC sack leader Patrick Kerney, and the Seahawks do seem to play more base defenses against quarterbacks they aren't able to scout as much. Before facing Baltimore's Smith, defensive coordinator John Marshall talked about how the first-time starter's mobility could cause defenders to leave their pursuit lanes, leading to larger gains from the Ravens' offense.

But the Seahawks will face a 36-year-old veteran with a great deal of savvy, familiarity with his offense, and limited mobility. Like Moore, Collins will have to get rid of the ball quickly against Seattle's pass rush, which ended the regular season with 45 sacks.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Seahawks defensive end Patrick Kerney went into the season finale with a half-sack lead for the NFL sack title. He did not get any sacks against his former team. Neither did Houston's Mario Williams, directly behind him. But Kansas City's Jared Allen had two, sneaking in from the third spot to win the sack title with 15.5. Kerney had 14.5 but only one in the final three weeks. "If you come into a game and you have good numbers, you have to find a way to overcome (extra attention)," Kerney said. "There were some games late in the season where I didn't overcome it."

--Shaun Alexander became the eighth player in NFL history to score 100 rushing touchdowns, joining Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, Marcus Allen, Jim Brown, John Riggins, LaDainian Tomlinson and Marshall Faulk. "It's good, but at the same time when you've got a shot to do well in the playoffs and go deep, that's kind of the focus," Alexander said. "After the season, I'll crack jokes with my brothers and cousins and be like, 'Ah, yeah, 100, that's really good.'"

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--QB Matt Hasselbeck injured his right wrist in Sunday's loss to the Falcons. He is expected to play Saturday, though he is not likely to be 100 percent.
--RB Shaun Alexander injured his ribs Sunday. He returned and scored a touchdown while rushing for 31 yards. He called it "just football."
--DT Rocky Bernard did not play Sunday because of a sore groin. He will play Saturday against Washington.
--OT Walter Jones sat out Sunday's season finale with a sore shoulder, but he will play Saturday against Washington.
--WR Deion Branch did not play against the Falcons because of a sore calf but will play against the Redskins.
--OG Chris Gray came out of Sunday's game after halftime, replaced by Ray Willis. However, Gray will play Saturday. The team was resting the 15-year vet.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

REPORT CARD VS. FALCONS

PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus -- The Seahawks did throw for 353 yards and three touchdowns on Sunday. Matt Hasselbeck's passer rating was 89.9 and Seneca Wallace's was 116.9. But both quarterbacks fumbled the ball away after being hit, both of which led to touchdowns. And Wallace threw an interception deep in his own territory that led to a touchdown.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- The running backs combined to total a season-high 167 yards on 31 carries, a 5.4 average. Mo Morris had 91 yards on 13 carries, including a 29-yard touchdown run, and Shaun Alexander had 31 yards on eight carries, including his 100th career rushing TD. This despite not having Pro Bowl OT Walter Jones and a mix-and-match offensive line.

PASS DEFENSE: F -- Against an unknown QB, Chris Redman, the Seahawks gave up 251 yards passing and four touchdowns. They had permitted only 11 all season. Granted, some came after critical turnovers, but the secondary was not nearly as stingy as it needed to be. Tight end Alge Crumpler had a 55-yard touchdown after making a short catch and running over linebacker Lofa Tatupu.

RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus -- With Redman slinging the ball all over the Georgia Dome, it opened up things for Warrick Dunn and Jerious Norwood to combine for 124 yards, 70 by Dunn, including a touchdown. Dunn also had a 38-yard jaunt.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-minus -- Yes, Josh Brown made field goals of 54 and 51 yards. But he also had to make a key tackle on a kickoff that was returned 61 yards by Jennings. Overall, the Falcons had 237 yards in kickoff return yards.

COACHING: C-minus -- Mike Holmgren seemed not to be able to impress upon his players that he wanted to win this meaningless game, and their effort was halfhearted. It also appeared that they did not want to give anything away to their next opponent so everything was vanilla.



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