The best venue for getting to the opposing quarterback should be CenturyLink Field, where the din generated by the 12th MAN crowd makes it more difficult for the offensive tackles to hear the snap count and therefore should grease Clemons’ path to not only sacks, but multiple-sack games.
Right? Not for the Seahawks’ “Leo” end, who has produced 11 sacks in each of the past two seasons since being acquired in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles to fill the hybrid position in coach Pete Carroll’s defense that is coordinated by Gus Bradley.
Of Clemons’ 11 sacks last season, 6½ came in road games. This season, it’s been an even more dramatic disparity, with nine of his sacks coming on the road – including two in Sunday’s bigger-than-big victory over the Bears in Chicago.
But wait, there’s more: Clemons has seven multiple-sack games for the Seahawks, and six have come away from the raucous confines of the venue the team calls home.
Clemons let us all in on his little secret in the locker room at Soldier Field on Sunday afternoon.
“My thing is, the competition level is a lot better because you can get more on the road,” he explained. “Getting off the ball at home, you can’t hear really anything. That’s not an excuse for me not being able to produce at home as much as I do on the road.
“But teams tend to play us differently at home, with the quick throws and things like that. When they’re at home, they think they have a better opportunity because of the hard counts and because of the snap counts. So they get an opportunity to drop back more.”
This, of course, gives Clemons more opportunities to do his thing. And this year, he’s doing it in a lot less pain. Last season, he played with and through an ankle injury that prevented him from practicing most days and eventually needed three surgeries to correct in the offseason. This season, Clemons is inflecting the pain on opposing offenses.
“The thing about it is, just keep plugging away and stay focused,” Clemons said. “I wouldn’t have half as many sacks if it wasn’t for these guys up front stopping the run, and then those guys who come in when we go to our nickel package. I just give all the credit to those guys.”
Whatever works, and Clemons definitely continues to work his pass-rushing magic. He is the first Seahawk with double-digit sacks in back-to-back seasons since Michael Sinclair in 1996 and 1997, when one of the ends on the franchise’s 35th Anniversary team had 12 and a league-leading 16½. Clemons also is the first Seahawks to produce double-digit sacks since 2007, when Patrick Kerney led the NFC with 14½.
Sinclair was voted to the Pro Bowl in ’96 and ’97, as was Kerney in ’07.
Clemons probably won’t get that honor this week, when the players and coaches around the league cast their Pro Bowl votes. But he should.
“He’s been beyond our expectations and been so productive,” Carroll said. “He fits exactly what we’re looking for because of the versatility that position calls for. He needs to be an outside linebacker as well as a rusher in our system and have those kinds of capabilities, and Clem fits it just right.
“He’s a great competitor to go along with it, and he has terrific speed. So that’s been a great move for us.”
With that said, here’s a look at two other things that worked in the 38-14 victory over the Bears, and three things that need work as the Seahawks prepare for Saturday’s game against the NFC West champion San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field:
The second half – The score over the final 30 minutes, 31-0, should say it all. But there was so much more to it.
The defense, which held the Bears to 53 yards after halftime, intercepted two passes and returned them for touchdowns – one by 330-pound end
After completing four passes in the first half,
“They went right down the field and scored on us,” Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher said. “It was all downhill from there.”
Penalties – It’s not so much that this “worked,” as it is that the reduced number of penalties (six) and wrong-way yards (36) weren’t as big a factor in preventing the Seahawks from going to work in previous games. Remember, the Seahawks had been averaging nine penalties for 70 yards.
WHAT NEEDS WORK
Starting faster – This has been a season-long nit, but it still needs to be picked. The Seahawks’ second-half dramatics have been so dramatic because of what has transpired in the first half. They finally got into triple digits for points in the first and second quarters combined (106), but Sunday’s first-half TD was set up when the defense gave them the ball at the Bears’ 22-yard line as strong safety
Jackson’s internal clock – Another nit. But, hey, try coming up with three needs-work elements after the dominance of the performance against the Bears. On the end-zone sack that led to the fumble the Bears recovered for their first touchdown, Jackson simply held the ball too long. Carroll said it, and Jackson also admitted it.
He’s trying to make something happen, but sometimes it’s just better to throw the ball away – as he did in the second half.
The production from the running game – After running for more than 100 yards in six consecutive games, the Seahawks had 60 against the Bears. But even this element had a positive, as the Seahawks continued to run the ball (33 times) despite having little to show for it at times (1.8-yard average). That helped set up the play-action passes that Jackson turned into big gains.