A 12th win for the 12th Man

Posted Dec 16, 2013

Monday metatarsal musing: The 12th Man phenomenon went coast to coast on Sunday. Literally, as the Seahawks were cheered on by their fans during their shutout victory over the Giants and also when they returned to SeaTac and VMAC.

The Seahawks are being stalked this season.

But it’s OK, because the stalkers have a definite stake in what’s going on – which just could turn out to be the most successful season in the franchise’s 38-year history.

Everywhere the players turn, there’s the presence of 12. The power of the 12th Man has been most obvious at CenturyLink Field, where the Seahawks are 14-0 dating back to last season and can cap the winningest season in franchise history by taking care of business against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday and the St. Louis Rams on Dec. 29 to finish 14-2.

But this team of road warriors that just put the finishing touch on the best road season in club history (6-2) with Sunday’s shutout of the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium also has been serenaded by the sounds of 12s in Carolina, Houston, Indianapolis, Arizona, St. Louis, Atlanta, San Francisco and the Meadowlands.

And coach Pete Carroll didn’t forget to salute the team’s always boisterous and increasingly nomadic fans after Sunday’s oh-so-impressive performance against the Giants.

“Everywhere we go, they’re showing up,” Carroll said. “When we go back home, they’ll be hanging out in the middle of the night by the airport.”

And there they were, almost 100 strong as the buses left SeaTac after the charter flight had landed – 90 minutes later than scheduled.

“They’ve been incredible,” Carroll said. “It’s great they’re having so much fun with it.”

And there they were, too, some 300 cheering, waving, sign-holding diehards as the buses arrived home at Virginia Mason Athletic Center at 10:30 p.m. on Sunday. And some of those fans began showing up at 7.

Then there were those that made the coast-to-coast trip to Jersey.

“Our 12th Man did a great job showing up and showing out, and we appreciate that,” said All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, who now has six interceptions to share the NFL lead after picking off two against the Giants and also tipping a third pass that All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas intercepted in the end zone.

“That’s a testament to how dedicated they are to us, how dedicated they are to wanting to be a part of the victory, to wanting to be a part of impacting the game. They were making noise throughout the game and they made us feel at home. They made our comfort level improve and increase.

“And we appreciate them coming out – 12th Man, thank you again for showing up and showing out.”

With that said, here’s a look at just three of the on-field elements that worked against the Giants and three things that need work as the Seahawks prepare for Sunday’s game against the Cardinals and the regular-season finale against the Rams:

What worked

The pass defense – Giants quarterback Eli Manning entered Sunday’s game with a league-high 20 interceptions. He left the game with five more, as third-option cornerback Byron Maxwell added two to go with Sherman’s pair of picks and Thomas’ end-zone interception.

The five picks were more than the Seahawks had in their previous five games (four); more than they’ve had since intercepting five against the Detroit Lions in Week 9 of the 2009 season; and ties for the third-highest total in franchise history.

But it wasn’t just that the Seahawks intercepted the most-intercepted passer in the NFL, it was the coverage that led to the picks as Maxwell and Sherman were on Manning’s intended receivers like second jerseys in New Jersey.

“A lot of it happened upfront,” said Carroll, offering a reminder of what former coach Chuck Knox always used to say – pass defense is rush plus coverage.

“But our guys on the backend came through again with the matchups that we had and played great coverage all day long. The picks, it was huge to get those. But the coverage was great. That’s as good a day as we’ve covered people in the time I can remember.”

The run defense – It didn’t just start upfront with the pass rush, it also including completely shutting down the Giants’ running game. They gained 25 yards on 14 carries, an average of 1.8 yards.

Nose tackle Brandon Mebane blew up the Giants’ first play of the game, an incomplete pass; and then stopped Andre Brown for no gain on second down. On the first play of the second half, Mebane bowled through three Giants to drop Brown for a 4-yard loss; and Michael Bennett then stopped Brown for no gain.

Tempo-setting efforts on a day when the Seahawks not only controlled the tempo, by dominated it.

Doug Baldwin First, the third-year receiver made a statement on the field by catching six passes for 71 yards and a touchdown. And on the seven-play, 62-yard drive to the toughest 2-yard touchdown run that you’ll in a while by Marshawn Lynch, Russell Wilson went to Baldwin on the left side for a 9-yard gain, on the right side for the 25-yard gain and over the middle for a 13-yard gain to the Giants’ 6-yard line.

In the locker room, Baldwin made a statement about the disrespect the Seahawks’ wide-outs receive – most recently in a story in USA Today late last week that had an unnamed league source saying the lack of a proven No. 1 receiver would be the Seahawks’ downfall.

“There’s no big name, so we must be average,” Baldwin said. “There was no factual evidence in that article. No stats. Nothing to back up his statement. But I think if he did look into advance stats and actually did some research he would find that we’re actually a pretty efficient receiving crops, and not only efficient but one of the most explosive receiving corps in the NFL. And, we don’t throw the ball nearly as much as some of these other teams.

“So that’s all I’ve got to say about that.”

What needs work

The run game – Opposing defenses are on to the Seahawks’ run-first offensive philosophy, and especially the presence of Lynch and his Beast Mode persona. He has been running into fronts stacked to stop him for the past month, and Lynch does not have a 100-yard rushing performance during that four-game span.

Against the Giants, Lynch had 16 carries for 47 yards. His blockers need to find a way to give Lynch the initial crease he needs to reach the second level, where no one player will bring him down.

Red-zone offense – This might be picking a nit, since the Seahawks scored on each of their four possessions inside the Giants’ 20-yard line. But two of the scores were field goals. We don’t want to be greedy, but those left-on-the-field points will mean more as the games mean more.

Penalties – Another eight infractions for 50 wrong-way yards, bringing the season totals to 112 penalties for 1,016 yards. But Sunday was actually a slight improvement after the Seahawks were flagged nine times for 85 yards in their loss to the 49ers in San Francisco last week. And that’s the trend that needs to continue, as the Seahawks lead the league in penalties and only the Buccaneers (1,032) and Texans (1,026) have more penalty yards.