By Brady Henderson
It was moments like this one that the Seahawks envisioned when they upgraded their pass rush in March with a pair of free-agent defensive linemen.
That’s at least true about how Cliff Avril came roaring off the edge for a strip-sack of Drew Brees, though not necessarily what Michael Bennett did next.
Cliff Avril’s strip-sack was recovered by Michael Bennett and returned 22 yards to the end zone as Seattle’s two biggest defensive additions of the offseason combined to give the Seahawks their first touchdown Monday night. (AP)
Seattle’s two most significant defensive additions combined to make the most memorable play of Monday night’s 34-7 win over New Orleans, Bennett catching Avril’s forced fumble in mid-air and rumbling 22 yards to the end zone to kickstart the Seahawks’ rout.
“That was my first touchdown, man,” Bennett said. “It felt to good just to get out there and just make a big play.”
With the Saints facing a third-and-5 on their second possession, Avril blew by the right tackle then worked his way back upfield to knock the ball out of Brees’ hand. The deflection went right to Bennett, who snagged it in stride and got a block from cornerback Jeremy Lane en route to the end zone.
Avril now leads the team with 7.5 sacks, showing the pass-rushing chops that made him one of the NFL’s biggest free agents over the offseason. He signed a two-year deal with the Seahawks, saying that part of the appeal of this team was the opportunity he would have to play half his games in a deafeningly loud stadium that is a pass rusher’s dream.
On a night in which the biggest crowd ever at CenturyLink Field reclaimed the Guinness world record for loudest roar at a sports stadium – registering a decibel reading of 137.6 during the second quarter – pass blocking was plenty difficult for New Orleans’ offensive tackles.
“They said it was so loud that they had trouble getting off on the cadence,” coach Pete Carroll said in reference to postgame conversations he had with some Saints offensive linemen. “Without question, it was a factor tonight.”
Wilson, Seahawks shine under pressure
The Seahawks figured New Orleans would send plenty of blitzes their way, a hallmark of any defense coordinated by Rob Ryan. They also knew all that extra pressure would create opportunities for big plays.
More coverage of the Seahawks’ Week-13 win over New Orleans at CenturyLink Field.
|• Recap | Stats | Photos | ‘The Pete Carroll Show’||• O’Neil: What We Learned||• O’Neil: Seahawks make a major statement||• Huard: How Seahawks beat Saints’ blitz||• Henderson: Carroll says K.J. Wright stood out||• Stecker: Saints’ vaunted offense sputters|
“We like the sense of pressure because there is a lot of green grass behind it,” said quarterback Russell Wilson.
That was indeed the case in the second quarter when New Orleans sent eight defenders after Wilson and receiver Doug Baldwin got behind the defense for a 52-yard gain. Tight end Zach Miller had a 60-yard reception during a first-quarter play in which the Saints sold out to stop the run.
“All game long they tried to play a lot of zero looks and that just puts everyone on a man,” Miller said in reference to a defensive playcall that includes man-to-man coverage and no deep defender.
“The guy who had me bit on the run and so I got behind him so fast. They were really coming after us. They wanted to stop the run, they wanted to get up in our face and create pressure, create problems for Russell Wilson, and every time they ran zero we were able to beat them.”
Miller’s long gain set up his 2-yard touchdown reception, which gave Seattle a 17-0 lead.
• TE Kellen Davis was the only Seahawk to sustain an injury of note.
“He’s got a neck sprain or something,” Carroll said. “We’re not quite sure what that is yet.”
• Wilson now has 22 regular-season victories, which is tied for the most by a starting quarterback in his first two seasons since 1966. Wilson has four remaining regular-season games to take sole possession of the record, which he shares with Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger.
• The crowd of 68,387 was the largest ever at CenturyLink Field, eclipsing the previous record of 68,338 set in Week 2 against San Francisco.
Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.