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Rush hour arrives at right time for Seahawks

Posted Oct 18, 2013

The seven-sack effort, by eight different players, against the Cardinals is just the tip of how good the Seahawks’ pass rush can become once the coaches figure out an even more-effective rotation.

On the seventh play of Thursday night’s game against the Cardinals, Tony McDaniel flung a 300-plus pound, would-be blocker to the ground and then dropped Carson Palmer for a 14-yard sack.

The wow-factor play by the 6-foot-7, 305-pound McDaniel signaled the start of a prolonged rush hour at University of Phoenix Stadium in a 34-22 victory that would help push the Seahawks to the first 6-1 start in franchise history.

Before this painful night was over for Palmer, the Cardinals’ QB would be sacked six more times – by seven different Seahawks.

It wasn’t just a season-high performance for the Dan Quinn-coordinated defense; the seven sacks were two shy of what the Seahawks had compiled in their previous three games combined. In fact, it was the most for the Seahawks since they dropped Aaron Rodgers eight times in the “Monday Night Football” game at CenturyLink Field in Week 3 last season.

“We’ve got so much depth there at the defensive end position,” All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas said in the locker room. “The crazy thing about it is we take one guy out because he’s tired, another hoss is coming in to get after the QB.”

That definitely was the case on this night, against that quarterback.

On back-to-back plays late in the third quarter, the flood gates open and the deluge washed over Palmer. On the first play, defensive end Red Bryant, middle linebacker KJ Wright and Leo end/linebacker Bruce Irvin all arrived at the QB in the same half-blink. On the next play, it was Leo end Chris Clemons and versatile lineman Michael Bennett.

“I said, ‘Man, you’re going to be sore,’ ” Irvin offered of the conversation he had during one of the pig-piles that Palmer endured. “He told me he’s used to it.”

That kind of pass-rush production is something the Seahawks would like to get used to.

Before it was over, rush-end Cliff Avril, linebacker Malcolm Smith and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald has joined the sack parade that was started by McDaniel and shoved into warp speed by Bryant, Wright and Irvin, and then Clemons and Bennett.

As the players head into a four-day mini-break before returning on Tuesday to begin preparing for the Oct. 28 “Monday Night Football” game against the Rams in St. Louis, the Seahawks have 23 sacks in seven games – after collecting 36, 33 and 37 in Pete Carroll’s first three seasons as coach.

And the depth and width of the production has been just as varied as it was Thursday night: Bennett with 4.5; Clemons with 3.5 in just five games since returning from the knee surgery he had in January; McDonald with 3.5, after being released on the cut to the 53-man roster and re-signed just before the Week 2 game against the San Francisco 49ers; Avril with 3; McDaniel with 2; Wright with 1.5; Irvin, O’Brien Schofield, Smith and “group” with one each; and Bryant and rookie defensive tackle Jordan Hill with shared sacks.

It’s the kind of high-but-even-heat situation Carroll has been trying to create since he walked through the doors at Virginia Mason Athletic Center in January of 2010. It’s why the Seahawks traded for Clemons that offseason. It’s why Irvin was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft last year. It’s why Bennett, Avril and McDaniel were signed in free agency this offseason and Hill was added in the third round of the draft.

Now that all this pass-rushing talent is finally available, it has line coach Travis Jones feeling like a coach with five running backs all clamoring for more carries but having only one ball to try and appease all of them.

But it’s one of those situations that coaches love.

“It’s great to see the production in the pass rush,” Carroll said. “That’s something that’s getting better. We said earlier that it’s going to take us awhile before we figure out how to mix our guys in our pass rush because we’ve got a number of different kinds of athletes to mix in there. So we’re still finding that out.

“We’re going to get better there. We’re going to improve at mixing our guys properly and then using them to the best things they can do.”