Coach Pete Carroll was determined for the second consecutive offseason to improve the Seahawks’ pass rush. So Avril and Bennett were signed on back-to-back days in mid-March.
Sunday night, during the Seahawks’ nationally televised home opener against the defending NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field, each of the Leo ends put Colin Kaepernick on his back. That’s the 49ers’ elusive – no, slithery – quarterback who was sacked 16 times while attempting 218 passes last season and twice while putting the ball up 39 times in a season-opening victory over a Green Bay Packers team that features Clay Matthews coming off the edge.
The pressure generated by the D-line and linebackers helped the Seahawks’ secondary intercept three of his passes after Kaepernick was intercepted three times all of last season, when he started the final seven games and played in 13.
Avril not only had a fumble-forcing sack, it came in his Seahawks’ debut after he missed the season opener and all of the preseason because of hamstring injury.
“I was fortunate enough that this is my sixth season, so I think I know how to play a little bit,” Avril said with a smile in the locker room after the 29-3 victory. “But they got me out there and I was able to do a few things.”
Like separating Kaepernick and the ball for a second-quarter fumble that was recovered by linebacker
“I also left a lot of plays out there,” Avril said. “So my whole goal is to continue to just keep getting better and hopefully I can make more plays.”
Bennett’s style points came because he collected his sack while on the turf with 323-pound tackle Anthony Davis on top of him. Bennett came close to getting Kaepernick twice on a play in the fourth quarter when the QB scrambled for a 16-yard gain.
“He’s so elusive. I was just like, ‘Dang,’ ” Bennett said of his close call. “Cliff missed him once. Red (Bryant) missed him twice. We should’ve had a nine-sack night.”
That could be on the horizon. Leo end
“It’s crazy because everybody’s impressed with our defense, and we don’t even have all our guys back yet,” Bennett said. “Once Bruce is playing and Clem’s back then everything changes. There’s going to be even more pressure from all over the place.”
Just as Carroll envisioned when the Seahawks signed Avril, who had 29 sacks the past three seasons with the Detroit Lions; and Bennett, who had nine sacks last season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“You talk about competition, those guys will be battling to get those rush opportunities,” Carroll said. “We’re going to keep getting better.”
With that said, here’s a look at three other things that definitely worked in Sunday night’s victory and a couple of things that need work as the Seahawks prepare for this week’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at CenturyLink Field:
The defense’s ’Tude – If you love the way these guys play, you’ll really love the way they think and the way they carry that attitude onto the field.
As usual, these guys had backed up their words with their actions. After catching 13 passes for 208 yards in the 49ers’ season opener, Anquan Boldin had one catch for 7 yards against the Seahawks. After passing for 412 yards and fashioning a 129.4 rating in the opener, Kaepernick was 13 of 28 for 127 yards against the Seahawks for a 20.1 rating.
“That’s the crazy thing about it, we thought we could win like this,” Thomas said. “There’s something scary about this secondary. We have a chance to be the best to ever do it. And we take pride in it.”
“You can’t really put it words,” wide receiver
Sherman on Boldin – Sherman usually lines up almost exclusively on the left side. Not Sunday night. He had Boldin almost 75 percent of the time, regardless of where Boldin began the play.
“I asked coach for the challenge. I wanted to follow him,” Sherman said. “There were a lot of things said this week. He had a great game last week. He went for 200-plus yards and had a resurgence. There’s a lot of talk about elite corners and who follows who. I wanted to negate that.”
And he negated Boldin’s impact on the game in the process.
What needs work
Penalties – The most-penalized team in the league during the preseason, the Seahawks have 19 for 183 yards in two regular-season games. But three teams actually have more – the Buccaneers (23 for 220), 49ers (23 for 206) and Denver Broncos (21 for 193); while the Detroit Lions have as many (19) for more yards (189).
“We put ourselves in a hole just by setting ourselves back,” Baldwin said. “It’s frustrating because we know how good we can be. We know how good we are. We’ve got to eliminate those penalties. Those self-detrimental things that keep coming up, we can’t have those.”
And Wilson has made a habit of achieving his goals, regardless of how lofty.
“It had nothing to do with nothing,” Carroll said when asked about the 1-of-9 start. “It was just plays and situations and stuff like that. I don’t care. He’s going to play a heck of a football game every time he goes out, and he did it again tonight.
“He made the big throws. He had another really good night.”