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Two big reasons to smile
It was former coach Chuck Knox who always said that pass defense is rush plus coverage.
The Seahawks should bebetter on each end of the equation for Sunday’s rematch against the NFCWest-leading Cardinals in Arizona. First, Patrick Kerney, their bestpass rusher, is fully recovered from the strained groin that forced tosit out the second half of the 27-3 loss to the Cardinals in Week 6.Also, Marcus Trufant, their best cover cornerback, has returned aftersitting out the first six games because of a lower back issue.
Maybe that’s why defensive coordinator Gus Bradley was smiling after practice Wednesday.
“It’s nice to have thoseguys back,” he said. “Going into a game like this, against a goodpassing team, it’s great to have Tru’s coverage skills and Patrick’srush ability.”
The Seahawks had none ofone and only a half of the other in the Week 6 game at Qwest Field,when Cardinals QB Kurt Warner passed for 276 yards and two touchdownswhile completing 32 of 41 passes. Larry Fitzgerald caught 13 passes for100 yards and a TD, while Steve Breaston and Anquan Boldin combined for13 receptions, 131 yards and a score.
If the Seahawks are goingto have any chance to reverse their misfortunes from that game, theywill need to get some pressure on Warner and make plays on the ballwhen it’s in the air against Fitzgerald (56 receptions for 632 yardsand seven TDs), Boldin (35 for 404 and one) and Breaston (35 for 466and two).
What can it mean to have Trufant back?
“It’s great,” Kerney said.“I’ve always said that pressure and coverage go hand in hand, and youget a guy like Marcus back who can buy you that extra second, it’sgreat for the whole defense.”
Fitzgerald is lookingforward to yet another matchup with Trufant, who had a career-bestthree interceptions in a 2007 game against the Cardinals and returnedone of them 84 yards for a score.
“I love Marcus, man. I gota chance to really forge a great relationship with him a couple yearsback at the Pro Bowl,” Fitzgerald said this week. “I relish theopportunity to go against a player of his caliber. He makes me a lotbetter player.
“This week is extremelystressful, getting prepared for him, and I know what he’s capable of.Just two years ago, he had what, three interceptions, one for atouchdown return? He’s a phenomenal talent. I know I’m going to have myhands full whenever I see him.”
Speaking of full hands,Trufant was watching from the sideline in Week 6 when Fitzgeraldslipped and fell while running a route on the Cardinals’ initialthird-down play, but still managed to reach up and catch the pass.
“That’s just the kind ofteam they have, the kind of players they have,” Trufant said. “Theymake plays at the perfect time. So the goal of the defense is to try tolimit their big plays.”
So, what can it mean to have a healthy Kerney for the entire game?
“It means a lot, man,”Trufant said. “He’s an outstanding pass rusher. He’s an outstandingleader on the field. So just having him on the field – his presence –is big for us.
“Our goal as a defense isto go out and make things happen, so if both of us can go out and makeplays for our team it’s better for everybody.”
Warner is an odd duck, or Cardinal. The 38-year-oldQB will hold the ball for a prolonged period to allow his receivers toget open. But he has such a quick release that it’s difficult to get tohim for sacks. The Seahawks had two in Week 6 – one by Kerney, theother by middle linebacker David Hawthorne. For the season, Warner hasbeen sacked 15 times while putting the ball up 315 times – the secondhighest total in the league.
“It looks so easy to him ontape,” Bradley said. “He drops back, he sees the coverage, he knowswhere to go. And that’s why he gets rid of the ball so quick.”
Kerney, however, has cracked the code. His sack in Week 6 gave him 10½ in his past six games against the Cardinals.
“Most of the elitequarterbacks in this league – Kurt being one of them – they’ve gotquick releases,” Kerney said. “He senses pressure. And as soon as hesenses it, he’s good at getting rid of the ball. He will hold it, butit’s just hard to get your hands on him and get the sack.”
So how does Kerney explain being able to get his hands on Warner and sack him so frequently?
Kerney smiled beforeoffering, “St. Louis is a team I’ve had success against throughout mycareer, too. Different tackles. Different quarterbacks. Differenteverything. I think it’s pretty much just a coincidence.”
Coincidence. Scheme. Luck. Whatever it takes. That’s what the Seahawks will need on Sunday.