IRVING, Texas – You couldn't ask for a better person to preview the Seattle Seahawks than Clare Farnsworth – a guy who has covered the team, basically since its inception.
This week, I asked Clare for his insight on a variety of topics – including the success of the Seattle run defense and the championship spotlight in Seattle this season.
1. From what you've seen, how have the Seahawks responded to the spotlight and the expectations that go with defending a championship?
The same way they responded during their run to the Super Bowl last season, and even in 2012 – when they made the leap from back-to-back 7-9 records in their first two seasons under coach Pete Carroll to finish 11-5. Carroll has instilled a one-game-at-a-time mentality that the players have not only bought into but expanded upon. From quarterback Russell Wilson to the All-Pro duo of cornerback Richard Sherman and free safety Earl Thomas, the players talk about each week being a championship opportunity and that the goal for each game is going 1-0. Corny? Sure. Clichéd? Yeah, that too. But it has worked, and is working. The thing the Seahawks have discovered this season is that each week they'll get the opposition's best shot-plus, because they are the defending Super Bowl champions.
2. The defensive backs are the big names on the Seattle defense, but who or what makes the Seahawks' run defense so formidable?
The obvious place to start is middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, who is leading the team in tackles for the third consecutive season and playing as well as any defensive player in the league. The hidden element, if you can refer to someone who weighs 330 pounds as being hidden, is nose tackle Brandon Mebane. It's his ability to control double-team blocks that allows Wagner, strong safety Kam Chancellor and outside linebacker K.J. Wright paths to the ball carrier. They rank 1-2-3 on the team in tackles, and each ranks Mebane's presence as a big reason for their success. Another key has been better tackling in the past two games. After missing 12 tackles in their only loss – Week 2 against the Chargers in San Diego – they've had a total of eight in the past two games. Here's something else to ponder as DeMarco Murray tries to join Jim Brown as the only backs in NFL history to rush for at least 100 yards in each of his team's first six games: The Seahawks have allowed six 100-yard rushing performances at CenturyLink Field in 4¼ seasons under coach Pete Carroll.
3. It's easy to forget, but the Seattle offense didn't have Percy Harvin for the vast majority of 2013. What does his versatility do for the offense? [embedded_ad]
The Seahawks had Harvin for one game last season – Week 11 against the Vikings, his former team, when he broke a 58-yard kickoff return and made a falling catch of a 17-yard pass in a handful of snaps. This season, Harvin is obviously playing more, and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is using him in more ways in what he calls a "Where's Waldo" approach. Harvin leads the team with 19 receptions and also is averaging 11.6 yards on eight rushes, including a 51-yard TD run – and that doesn't count the three touchdowns he scored against the Redskins on Monday night that were nullified by penalties. So the first thing a defense has to do is locate Harvin, because he'll lineup outside, in the slot and even in the backfield; and go in motion regardless of where he begins the play. As a runner, he is especially effective on jet sweeps because of his speed, but he's also gotten carries off of zone-read plays that also have been so productive for Wilson and running back Marshawn Lynch.