Seahawks’ Kam Chancellor makes his presence felt in return
One of the most significant factors in the Seahawks’ 31-24 win over New England was the impact that strong safety Kam Chancellor had on Seattle’s defense in his return to the starting lineup. Two penalties notwithstanding – he was flagged for pass interference and roughing the passer – Chancellor was arguably Seattle’s best defender while recording eight tackles and a pass breakup along with a forced fumble that his team recovered.
Backup Kelcie McCray filled in admirably while Chancellor missed four games with a pulled groin, but he didn’t make the type of game-changing plays that Chancellor produced Sunday night.
“Unbelievable effect. He had a huge effect,” coach Pete Carroll said of Chancellor on “Brock and Salk” Monday morning. “He was just there and on it and you knew he was out there. You couldn’t miss him. He knocked the ball loose a couple times, those matchups that he was battling through to keep them at bay somewhat, and then just his presence is so welcomed and so meaningful. He’s just a freaking stud, and he just did it again. It was awesome to have him back.”
Here’s a closer look at four key plays Chancellor made Sunday night.
Pass breakup vs. Gronkowski. Free safety Earl Thomas delivered the huge hit on a second-quarter incompletion up the seam to tight end Rob Gronkowski, but Chancellor’s tight coverage was the key to this play. He ran stride-for-stride with Gronkowski even after being turned around mid-route by an inside move then dived to break up the pass as it arrived. This is not a play Chancellor would have made had he been at all rusty following his four-game absence. “That was perfect play,” Carroll said about Chancellor’s coverage and Thomas’ hit.
Forced fumble on Edelman. The Seahawks were clinging to one-point lead midway through the fourth quarter and New England had driven past midfield when Chancellor gave Seattle the ball back with a forced fumble. He held up receiver Julian Edelman after a catch over the middle and ripped the ball out of his hands. Chancellor appeared to have forced a fumble on Gronkowski on a similar play in the first half, but it was overturned upon review. This one gave the Seahawks a short field and set up their final touchdown.
Goal-line tackle on Blount. Chancellor came up big twice during Seattle’s final goal-line stand. Two plays before covering Gronkowski on the fourth-down incompletion, he shot around the edge and made a diving tackle to help stop LeGarrette Blount just shy of the goal line. Blount had already scored two short-yardage touchdowns and may have hard a third had it not been for Chancellor’s tackle.
Final play. Chancellor manned up on Gronkowski on New England’s final play, and while his coverage may not have been textbook, it got the job done. Interestingly, Seattle’s final practice of last week ended on the same play, with Chancellor breaking up a fade pass intended for practice-squad tight end Marcus Lucas in the end zone. Carroll told “Brock and Salk” that Lucas had caught a pass in the red zone against Chancellor during the seven-on-seven portion of that same practice and celebrated afterward. “He kinda had some fun with it and he spiked it and he kinda made a big deal about it,” Carroll said, “and so everybody was kinda hooting and hollering at him.” That made for a dramatic moment when Chancellor and Lucas lined up across from each other again. “So it comes right down to the last play. Here we go,” Carroll said. “We shift the guy out and it’s exactly the same play and Kam – we don’t even have helmets on or nothing – he goes all out, lays out, knocks the ball down, makes a great play, runs over, gets the ball, slams it right at Marcus and (all the) secondary guys jump on him.” Carroll shared another interesting note about a technical adjustment Seattle made against Gronkowski and how it came into play on the final throw. He said he talked with Chancellor and linebacker K.J. Wright about “backing off just a little bit” and giving the 6-foot-6, 265-pound Gronkowksi more space as to not allow him to get his hands on defenders’ bodies as easily. Gronkowski was lined up off the ball on fourth-and-goal from the 1. Chancellor was a yard behind the goal line and even gave some ground before engaging Gronkowski. “That was the first time Kam really took advantage of it there,” Carroll said of the adjustment. “He knew what was coming. He knew the play. He just had to wait it out.”