Clayton: New Seahawks standouts to sort through going into Week 13
Things continue to shape up well for the Seattle Seahawks and their playoff run.
By beating the Philadelphia Eagles 17-9 on Sunday, the Seahawks improved to 9-2 and stayed in the race for the NFC West even though the San Francisco 49ers blew out the Green Bay Packers 37-8. The upcoming Monday night game between the Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings is one where the winner will stay in its divisional race and the loser might be thinking more about an NFC wild card spot.
Something that is breaking nicely for the Seahawks is when games are being played. They will visit the Los Angeles Rams on Dec. 8, but the Rams (6-5), who looked horrible Monday night in a 45-6 loss to Baltimore, could be on the verge of playoff elimination. And by the time the Seahawks play Carolina (5-6) on Dec. 15, the Panthers could be officially out of the playoff race. That makes those games more winnable.
Let’s look back at what we learned in the Seahawks win over the Eagles.
• The Seahawks’ defense continues to improve. In the first nine games this season, the Seahawks were a bend-but-don’t-break defense. In victories over San Francisco and Philadelphia, they started looking like the normal Pete Carroll defense.
Carroll loves a defense that can pressure a quarterback with four defensive linemen and create turnovers. The Seahawks created five turnovers against the Eagles and have eight in their past two games. They also had three sacks and nine hits on the quarterback, which was particularly impressive because they did that without Jadeveon Clowney, who was inactive due to injury, and Jarran Reed left the game early with a sprained ankle.
• Ziggy Ansah started to look like the former Pro Bowl defensive end that he is with his performance against the Eagles. For 10 games, he struggled with his weight. He plays his best at 270 pounds but was at 258 at the start of the bye week because he didn’t have as much ability to lift after offseason shoulder surgery.
Whatever he did during the bye week worked. He beat Eagles left tackle Jason Peters with a bull rush several times and had 1 1/2 sacks. He looked like the player he was when he was with Detroit. Things got so bad for Ansah that he had only 14 plays in the 49ers game but he stepped up in Philadelphia and had his best game in a Seahawks uniform.
• Clowney should be able to play Monday night despite a hip or core injury (depending on your definition). He isn’t planning on having core surgery, which may be something that will have to happen after the season. Clowney wants to play. You can sense he’s on perhaps the best team he’s played for, and he’s been to the playoffs in Houston.
What this shows is he wants to be a Seahawk. Clearly, he’s one of the most talented defensive ends in recent team history. He’s a free agent after the season and the Seahawks need to pay him.
• Rashaad Penny’s 129-yard day couldn’t have come at a better time. At running back, the Seahawks been going mostly with Chris Carson, who is having a Pro Bowl season. Carson’s two fumbles (one officially) against the Eagles aren’t going to have him go to the bench. He’s too valuable despite his eight fumbles this year.
Penny’s playing time should improve, however. He told an interesting story about his weight. In the previous game he played at 238 pounds. That’s too much, so he stopped going to McDonalds, hired a nutritionist and is now done to 230 pounds, though he wants to get all the way down to 225. Either way, he looks faster and more explosive.
• The Seahawks’ addition of safety Quandre Diggs may hasn’t made as big of a difference as the Steelers received in getting free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, but the impact of Diggs is huge. He makes the secondary legitimate. He works well with strong safety Bradley McDougald. Now, the Seahawks have two safeties who were Pro Bowl alternates last year, and you can see why.
Diggs has great range as the deep safety. He hits hard. McDougald is also a physical play-maker. Marquise Blair is the future, but the improvement with Diggs working with McDougald has made a major improvement in the secondary.
• Akeem King was used as the Seahawks’ nickel cornerback against Philadelphia over Ugo Amadi for a couple of reasons. First, the Eagles are a two-tight end offense and King is bigger than Amadi. It was almost like the Seahawks were going with three safeties. Ugo will get his chance at nickel corner in weeks ahead.