Week 3 was so long ago, it might as well have been another season.
So much has changed for these two squads in the three months since they last played. Back then, they were both mediocre teams just scratching to get into the win column. I don't think many would have guessed that either would make the postseason – let alone both.
So here's a new look at the Seahawks as we prepare for Round 2. Let's take a look at what has changed for them as they've ripped off a 10-6 record since starting 0-2.
Nemesis: QB Russell Wilson
It was a poor start to the season for Russell Wilson, but he has more than made up for it since the previous time these two clubs met. It took some adjustments to get used to Brian Schottenheimer's style of play calling, but both appear to be on the same page at this point in the season.
Schottenheimer has found a way to protect Wilson with a strong running game while also allowing Wilson to use his athletic ability in the passing game. There was a time where opponents just teed off on him, but that's no longer the case because of that running game. For years, Wilson has always kept his team in games in large part due to his athletic ability and toughness. I would describe his ability to move around the pocket as rare. As a defender, just when you believe you have him, he finds a way to escape.
Rod Marinelli said to play Wilson you need to build a well around him and make him throw from there. This makes perfect sense, but I'd also add to try and make him plays backwards. When Wilson can run to the line or face it, he has a good chance of completing the ball. When he plays off his back foot, he has trouble getting enough on the ball to finish plays. There were times in the Kansas City game where they were able to keep him in the pocket and it affected the way he played.
When Russell Wilson can escape from the pocket, he's as dangerous as they come in the league. He's going to make plays but limiting the number of his big plays is a must.
Weapon: RB Chris Carson
Seahawks general manager John Schneider knew when building his squad that he needed to find a way to help Russell Wilson. Schneider has drafted and traded for offensive linemen, but he's also used the draft and waiver wire to help his running game -- which in turn has allowed Wilson the ability to maintain his health during games.
As with most clubs, when you can run an offense with balance, then you're a much more effective unit. With the exception of the Cowboys, nobody relies on the running game more than the Seattle Seahawks -- and that starts with Chris Carson. In the previous three games, Carson has averaged 119 yards per contest. Earlier in the season against the Cowboys, he carried the ball a season high 32 times in a Seahawks victory.
This Cowboys defense has an understanding of how Carson's physical running can impact a game. It's not surprising how many tackles he breaks due to how he's physically built. Defenders take good shots on him, but he will just continue on his path up the field. It's when opponents are committed to stopping him that it's opened things up on the outside for Wilson and his skill guys. If defenses are forced to play extra defenders in the box in order to keep Carson from gashing them in the running game, it now allows Russell Wilson to shine in the play action passing game.
The Seahawks will wear you out with the play action pass once they get the running game going and Chris Carson is a direct reason for that.
Under the Radar: DE Jacob Martin
Jacob Martin is a rookie out of Temple that, quite frankly, I didn't remember much about while working on the NFL Draft last year. At 6-2, 248 pounds, there really isn't much about him physically that would draw your attention to him. The first time these two clubs met, he didn't have any stats to speak of -- but a lot has changed for him since then.
About midseason, in a game against the Packers, he recorded his first NFL sack. Since then, as a situational pass rusher, he's recorded two more against the Vikings and another last week the Cardinals. You're starting to see him play with more confidence and it's showing in the games. In the games I studied this week, Martin is one of those rushers that has jumped out on tape. Guys like Frank Clark and Dion Jordan are going to be the flashiest of the Seattle pass rushers, but Martin has had his moments as well.
He fits in the mold of what we've seen from these Seahawks rushers in the past -- explosive, with relentless effort to capture the edge. Martin is not the biggest or the strongest physically, but where he will give Tyron Smith and La'el Collins issues is if he can win on that first step. Martin has shown the ability to dip underneath blockers instead of taking them on toe-to-toe.
Smith and Collins are going to need to get their hands on him quickly to stop him and make him have to restart his rush. Another factor working against Martin will be that he doesn't have the home crowd noise aiding in his rush. There are few venues in the league that are as helpful to a pass rusher as CenturyLink Field.