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Revisiting Brandon Browner’s building-block play
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Rewind to Oct. 7, 2012: With the Carolina Panthers holding a 10-6 lead late in the third quarter, Brandon Browner not only rips the ball from the grasp of DeAngelo Williams, the Seahawks’ cornerback recovers the fumble at the Panthers’ 27-yard line to setup a touchdown pass from Russell Wilson that gives Seattle a 13-10 lead it will not relinquish.
As Dan Quinn was reviewing video of all the good things the Seahawks’ defense did during the 2012 season that one play in that Week 5 victory stood out for the team’s first-year coordinator.
That one play among so many plays is highlighted on the highlight reel this week because the Seahawks will open their season of heightened expectations on Sunday with a rematch against the Panthers at Bank of America Stadium.
It wasn’t just that Browner’s play was a momentum-grabber in that game, it also was pivotal in the season because the Seahawks had lost the Rams in St. Louis the week before to fall to 2-2. The next week, they would upset the New England Patriots at CenturyLink Field and then, after back-to-back road losses, would win seven of their last eight regular-season games.
It’s tempting to say that Browner’s rip-and-recovery play was the biggest of the season by what might be the best defense in franchise history. Except that there were so many other big plays by a Seahawks defense that allowed the fewest points in the NFL last season and ranked a franchise-best No. 4 in average yards allowed. And then there’s the problem of crowning this defense over those from 1984, when the Seahawks produced 63 turnovers, the second-highest total in league history; registered 55 sacks and pitched three shutouts. Or the 1992 unit that, despite the team’s 2-14 record, ranked 10th in the league, held opponents to 20 points or fewer in 10 games and had 46 sacks – including 14 from NFL Defensive Player of the Year Cortez Kennedy. Or the 1998 defense that scored 10 touchdowns.
“Turnovers,” All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman said when asked how an already-good defense can improve this season. “Turnovers. Turnovers. Turnovers. That’s what the game is about. You want to get the ball as many times as you can. That’s what we’ve been focusing on.”
The constant reminder from coach Pete Carroll is on the sign in the defensive meeting room at Virginia Mason Athletic Center: “It’s All About the Ball.”
“Obviously, Pete’s always focusing on it,” Sherman said. “But just getting strips, rips, interceptions. Whichever way you can get the ball, get the ball.”
That Week 5 win over the Panthers is memorable for more than just Browner’s signature play. The Seahawks held the Panthers to 12 points, which ties for the fourth-fewest allowed last season; 190 yards, the third-lowest total the Seahawks allowed; and sacked Cam Newton four times, which tied for the second-highest total.
And it all started by defusing the read-option plays that had been and would be so explosive for Newton. The Seahawks used the 6-foot-4 Browner and 6-3 Sherman to take away his outside pitch options, leaving the linebackers to plug the gaps that Newton usually exploits for big gains.
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“They were very competitive. They battled. They did a nice job,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said this week. “That’s a solid defensive line with good depth there. I like their linebackers. I think those guys run very well. And of course they have a very physical secondary.
“It’s a very well-rounded football team, and there’s a reason why so many people talk about who Seattle is.”
As for that play from last year’s game that is generating so much talk this week, the player who made it says he was just doing his job.
“It was a pivotal point of the game, but I don’t look at it in terms of the whole season,” Browner said. “I just slow-played the option, like you’re supposed to play it. Get to the line of scrimmage and just slow-play the quarterback to give your guys time to play the quarterback and eventually get out there on the running back.”
Slow-play? “You’ve got two guys that you’re keying on the play – you’ve got the quarterback and the pitch man,” Browner explained. “So what I mean by slow-playing it, you don’t want to pursue one guy and then he dishes the ball to the running back. Or you take the running back, and the quarterback cuts it up in there. So I slow-played, so I gave my guys some time to come help me out.
“I had a good feel on that play. I was able to play both of them.”
And turn in a highlight-reel play that is the perfect example of the types of plays the Seahawks want more of this season.