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Tuesday in Hawkville: Seahawks’ run defense steps it up

Posted Dec 17, 2013

The Seahawks allowing 25 rushing yards against the Giants, the lowest total yielded in a span of 120 games, was just the latest – and greatest – example of the defense’s improved efforts against the run.


A recap of the activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Dec. 17, when the players had their “off” day and the coaches were compiling the game plan for Sunday’s matchup against the Arizona Cardinals at CenturyLink Field:

WORD OF THE DAY: STINGY

That’s what the Seahawks’ run defense has been, for the most part, in the past five games. A defense that allowed back-to-back 200-yard rushing performances against the St. Louis Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers to close October and open November has allowed an average of 85.6 since then.

YOU DON'T SAY

“At this point of the season, it’s about making plays and winning games. Nothing else matters. You just have to win.”

Jay Feely, the kicker for a Cardinals team that has won six of seven games since losing to the Seahawks in Arizona in Week 7

It’s been a bit uneven, as the Atlanta Falcons rushed for 64, but the Minnesota Vikings had 132. The San Francisco 49ers got 163 rushing yards, but that was sandwiched between holding the New Orleans Saints to 44 and the New York Giants to 25 on Sunday – the fewest allowed by the Seahawks since yielding 17 to the Rams in Week 16 of the 2002 season, a span of 120 games.

What gives? A reverse of the things the Seahawks were giving the Rams and Bucs in Weeks 8 and 9.

“Our tackling is the best it’s been. Team pursuit has been the most consistent,” coach Pete Carroll said. “The things that I would tell you back then is we were missing some fits and some things like that. That’s not happening nearly as much. And our consistency is there.

“The overall attitude about playing fundamental football is really what’s improved. We realized it in the middle (of the season) that we were kind of flip-flopping around. We weren’t doing much.”

That’s when coordinator Dan Quinn, the other defensive coaches and their players started doing more.

“We took it up a notch. We challenged the players. The players challenged each other,” Carroll said. “They took after it to really play really hard-nosed, tough football, and it showed up. We really have improved a lot.”

ROOKIE WATCH: JORDAN HILL

The defensive tackle from Penn State that the Seahawks selected in the third round of April’s NFL Draft was inactive for 10 of his first 13 games. But Hill wasn’t just active for Sunday’s game against the Giants; he was, well, active. He was credited with only one tackle, but it was his first full NFL sack.

STAT DU JOUR: IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BALL

Sunday’s five-interception performance against the Giants has lifted the Seahawks even higher in several turnover categories:

Total takeaways
Team  No.
Chiefs 35
Seahawks 33
Buccaneers 29
Cardinals  28
Panthers 27
Rams 27
Bills 27

Interceptions
Team  No.
Seahawks 22
Buccaneers 21
Chiefs 20
Bills  20
Cardinals 19

Fumble recoveries
Team  No.
Chiefs 15
Rams 13
Cowboys 12
Seahawks  11
49ers 11
Patriots 11
Raiders 11

Fewest interceptions thrown
Team  No.
Chiefs 14
Seahawks 14
49ers 15
Cowboys  16
Rams 17
Eagles 17
Chargers 17

Fewest giveaways
Team  No.
Chiefs 14
Colts 14
Cowboys 15
Panthers  16
Seahawks 17
Rams 17
Eagles 17
Saints 17
Chargers 17

Turnover differential
Team  Net Diff.
Chiefs plus-21
Seahawks plus-16
Panthers plus-11
Cowboys  plus-11
Buccaneers plus-11

“He did alright,” Carroll said. “He got himself the first sack and chased the ball a little bit. It’s the first time he’s been out there much at all, so it was good to get him out there.”

Hill played more because Tony McDaniel, the starter at the three-technique spot, was ill. So Clinton McDonald started and Hill was the next-man-up in the rotation.

“It gave Jordan a chance to get out there, and it was good to see him,” Carroll said. “He was active. He has a really good motor. He really chases the ball and finishes well. So he adds well to the group.”

STATS ’N STUFF: RICHARD SHERMAN’S SIX INTERCEPTIONS SHARE NFL LEAD

With two interceptions in Sunday’s shutout of the Giants, All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman pulled into a tie for the league lead with six. Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy already had six and Giants strong safety Antrel Rolle also got his sixth in Sunday’s game. All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas made his fifth interception against the Giants, tying him for fourth in the NFL.

Steven Hauschka leads the NFC and is tied for the second in the league in scoring with 130 points, while Marshawn Lynch is third in the NFL among non-kickers with 78. Lynch is sixth in rushing yards (1,089), eighth in total yards (1,396) and fifth in first downs (71). Hauschka, meanwhile, has the highest field goal percentage in the league (.968, 30 of 31) and is tied for seventh with 44 touchbacks.

Russell Wilson is sixth in passer rating (105.0), eighth in completion percentage (.647) and third-down passer rating (97.2). Golden Tate is sixth in punt return average (11.7).

As a team, the Seahawks’ defense is ranked No. 1 in average yards (279.5) and passing yards (174.2) and No. 10 in average rushing yards (105.3) allowed. The offense is No. 2 in average rushing yards (141.0), No. 12 overall (354.5) and No. 24 in average passing yards (213.5).

UP NEXT: “COMPETITION WEDNESDAY”

The players return from their “off” day to begin practicing for Sunday’s game against the Cardinals, when a victory would give the Seahawks the NFC West title and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Seahawks had a chance to wrap up the division in Week 14, but lost to the second-place 49ers in San Francisco.

It was a two-point loss that could prove to be a point-making victory in the long run.

“It would have been a different challenge,” Carroll said when asked about wrapping up the division with three games to play. “It would have been a different challenge for us mentally, and for the coaching staff and the players as well. This could be the best scenario, that you have to stay in it, just keep battling.

“I’m more concerned about losing the edge that we’ve gained. We’ve taken months and months and months to get here and then all of a sudden you kick into a month mode where it’s different, it could be different. So this is much more the same. It’s kind of like Groundhog Day all over again.”