Thunder and Lightning

Posted Dec 20, 2011

The Seahawks selected Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor in last year's draft with the hope that they would form a potent safety tandem. That hope is happening this season.

Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor arrived in the draft last year, and the extra-fast free safety and extra-large strong safety formed an instant bond.

Each played a significant, if varied, role in the Seahawks winning the NFC West championship during their rookie season. This season, both are starting, as the last line of defense on a much-improved and only-getting-better unit.

But what they combined to do in Sunday’s 38-14 victory the Bears in Chicago inched toward the eerie.

On the Bears’ sixth offensive play, the always-physical Chancellor forced a fumble that the always-alert Thomas recovered at the Chicago 22-yard line. Five plays later, the Seahawks scored their first touchdown.

On the Bears’ ninth play of the second quarter, after they had reached the Seahawks’ 29-yard line, the long-armed Chancellor deflected a pass that the fleet-footed Thomas picked off 9 yards deep in the end zone and returned 26 yards.

Joined at the hype? OK. But simpatico in their every move and reaction? Well, that’s what every coach wants from his safety tandem. These were plays where Chancellor and Thomas turned the typical into atypical with their unique talents.

“The first turnover, that guy’s got the ball in his hands and Kam knocks it out,” coach Pete Carroll said when asked about those plays on Tuesday, as the Seahawks began preparing for Saturday’s game against the NFC West champion San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field.

“That’s just a regular play if you just make the tackle. Kam found a way to find the football and knock it out of there and we had good pursuit and we recovered it.”

On the interception, Carroll said, “Kam is all over the guy, and they throw the ball to him anyway. And he gets up and knocks the ball around that Earl gets because he’s hustling and flying around and he can make plays.”

Carroll paused briefly before adding, “That’s what you hope for everybody. The hope is that we all play like that.”

The hope when the Seahawks selected Thomas with the 14th pick in the first round of last year’s NFL Draft and then grabbed Chancellor with the second pick in the fifth round was that they would mesh their explosive talents just as they did on those two bang-bang plays.

Asked about it, Chancellor broke into a large smile and offered, “ ‘Thunder and Lightning.’ We’re a tag team back there.”

The 6-foot-3, 232-pound Chancellor is obviously “Thunder.” Thomas, who has run 40 yards in 4.37 seconds, is just as obviously “Lightning.”

Together, they form a formidable storm front in the Seahawks’ secondary.

“We’ve always played off each other like that since Day One, and sometimes it pays off like that,” Chancellor said.

These two definitely are paying off for the Seahawks by playing off one another. Down after down. Game after game.

Thomas is second on the team with 85 tackles, 10 behind middle linebacker David Hawthorne. Chancellor is fourth with 76, four behind linebacker Leroy Hill. They each have a sack, while Chancellor has four interceptions and Thomas two. Chancellor also is third on the team with 12 passes defensed.

But, as with most of the players on the Seahawks’ No. 8-ranked defense, their contributions can’t be measured in stats alone.

Just ask John Lynch, the former nine-time Pro Bowl safety who is now an NFL analyst for Fox.

“I love the way they play. I’m a big fan,” he said earlier this season. “It’s neat to see young guys and you can tell the game is important to them. And they’ve obviously been blessed with some God-given abilities that lend themselves to the position.

“Just watching them, I can tell they want to be special. They complement each other extremely well. I’m real high on them.”

Thomas and Chancellor do want it. All of it; the plays that lead to team success, which in turn bring individual honors.

“Kam has played exceptionally this year,” said Thomas, who also was a starter last season when Chancellor filled a situational role in the nickel defense. “He’s playing like he’s been playing here for a long time. It sure doesn’t seem like it’s his first go-around.

“He’s got my Pro Bowl vote.” 

Chancellor’s Pro Bowl potential was never more apparent than on those plays against the Bears.

“Kam is a great safety, and he got me both of my plays,” Thomas said. “We know each other very well. Obviously Kam is a banger and I’m looking for anything that’s tipped up or knocked out, because I know he’s about to make someone dizzy.”

Chancellor agrees: “We’ve always got each other’s back. If I make a good play, Earl is right there to scoop it up.”

It all goes back to the 2010 Draft, when each arrived from separate schools and backgrounds – Thomas from Orange, Texas, and the University of Texas; Chancellor from Norfolk, Va., Virginia Tech – but somehow bonded almost instantly. 

“The chemistry back there is just dangerous,” Chancellor said. “What Earl brings and what I bring, that’s a dangerous combination. And there’s a lot more to come.”