The 3 questions: Is the Seahawks’ defense for real after Week 10 revival?
The Seahawks are sailing into their bye week after a thrilling 27-24 overtime win over the San Francisco 49ers.
The victory gives them a boost in the NFC West, but they’ll need more strong performances from their defense – and a healthy return for a key starter – if they want to pull ahead during a tough upcoming slate of games against NFC rivals.
Here are three questions on our minds this week:
Will the Seahawks’ pass rush excel in the second half?
After Week 9, the biggest question facing the Seahawks was whether they could foster a consistent pass rush.
There had been some bright spots for the defense. Outside of three contests, Seattle had limited opponents to less than 100 yards on the ground. It had also gone just one week without a takeaway, and a single interception from quarterback Russell Wilson entering Week 10 left the team with one of the league’s best turnover differentials. However, they tallied just 10 sacks from Weeks 2 through 9 and allowed an average of 278 passing yards per game from opposing quarterbacks, ranking 28th league-wide.
The idea that Seattle’s defense would continue to struggle with consistency this season – already a surprise for fans and critics alike given the history of success on that side of the ball under Pete Carroll and the talent in the front seven – had started to settle in. However, a Week 10 revival brought the group’s best performance. Seattle had five sacks, 10 quarterback hits, an interception, two forced fumbles and one touchdown in a win over the league’s last undefeated team, the San Francisco 49ers.
Now, there’s a new question emerging: Can this version of the Seahawks’ defense stick around?
Head coach Pete Carroll is counting on it.
“I’m hoping we can take the step forward and really bring a really active pass rush like the guys that we were saying,” Carroll said Tuesday. “We’ve got good guys. We’ve got good blitzers and all that. It’s just been kind of quiet, just uncomfortably quiet for a while. What happened before doesn’t matter. Let’s go do something now and see if we can take off from this week.”
Carroll credited that success to a few factors – some more subtle than others. There was a big night from Jadeveon Clowney, who earned NFC defensive player of the week honors, but also the return of defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson, who had missed two weeks. Defensive tackles Jarran Reed, Poona Ford and Al Woods also made the most of their opportunities; the trio combined for three sacks, six tackles and four quarterback hits.
Clowney has been double-teamed more than any other edge rusher this year, so those contributions from the rest of Seattle’s defensive line is one reason for hope for Seahawks fans.
How serious is Tyler Lockett’s injury, and who will play TE?
The Seahawks left Monday’s game with injury concerns for two players: Wide receiver Tyler Lockett (lower leg contusion) and tight end Luke Willson (hamstring).
Lockett’s long-term status appears to be less serious than was originally feared. Willson could be out for a while, however, which isn’t great news for a team that lost its starting tight end earlier this season in Will Dissly.
“Our people think he’s going to be fine to play,” Carroll said about Lockett, who had a two-night stay at Stanford Hospital following Monday’s game. “He’ll need the rest of this week to make sure everything goes away. He should be fine to play next week (against the Philadelphia Eagles).”
At tight end, if Willson is out, the Seahawks will be down to just Jacob Hollister at the position on the active roster. They’re not totally out of options, though. They still have veteran Ed Dickson, who returned to practice last week but as of yet hasn’t been activated from the injured reserve. Due to IR rules, Seattle must do so before the Eagles game if they want to use Dickson at all this season, and a roster move will be needed to add him. Carroll said the team will turn to Dickson if Willson isn’t able to return, which sounds likely at this point.
“Luke’s got a legit hamstring – legit meaning that it’s not just a little cramp or something,” Carroll said Tuesday. “It showed up in the MRI testing of it. It might be a couple weeks for him, we’ll just have to wait and see.”
So what’s next?
The Seahawks will return to practice Monday, Nov. 18.
Their thrilling overtime victory against the 49ers was just the first of a tough NFC slate. Five of their final six games will be against opponents with a winning record – the Eagles (5-4), Rams (5-4), Vikings (7-3), Panthers (5-4) and 49ers (8-1). Two of those matchups are scheduled to be in primetime (Dec. 2 against Minnesota, Dec. 8 at Los Angeles) and two more will be 10 a.m. road games (Nov. 24 at Philadelphia, Dec. 15 at Carolina).
More Seahawks coverage
• Gallant: Why Seahawks need to pay up and extend Clowney past 2019
• Has Shaquem Griffin passed Ziggy Ansah on Seahawks’ depth chart?
• Clayton’s Observations: Seahawks keep getting gifts from Bill Belichick
• Is this Hawks team the most resilient we’ve seen?
• Wyman: Who deserves the credit for Reed strip sack, Clowney TD
• Huard: Nerve-racking win over 49ers is Hawks’ biggest in 3 years
• O’Neil: Seahawks’ new identity is the team you can’t put away