Looking to build off back-to-back wins, the Seahawks head east this weekend ahead of a Monday Night Football showdown with the New York Giants, who are looking to get their season on track following a 1-2 start.
"This is a classic opportunity for us to go against a team that's got to have a win," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "We've got to have one too. Matching up in the setting for Monday night is always fun. We're looking forward to that."
Here are five things to watch when the Seahawks face the Giants on Monday night:
1. Jamal Adams' 2023 debut in his former home stadium, and a secondary getting back to full strength.
One of the big stories on Monday night will be the return of safety Jamal Adams, who has not played since tearing his quadriceps tendon in last year’s season opener. And while Adams' return is a great story on a personal level given the severity of the injury and all it took to get back, it's also a big positive for the Seahawks defense.
With Adams coming back, and for a game in the stadium he called home for three seasons with the Jets, no less, the Seahawks will finally be able to deploy the three-safety looks they've been looking forward to using since they signed Julian Love in free agency, and even before that when the plan was to utilize three safeties last season before the injury struck.
What exactly it will look like with all three safeties on the field together remains to be seen, but based off Carroll’s comments after Love was signed, all three safeties should play together quite a bit.
Adding the excitement for the defense is that this game should be the first time the Seahawks will have cornerbacks Riq Woolen, a Pro-Bowler as a rookie, and Devon Witherspoon, the No. 5 pick in this year's draft, playing together for an extended period of time. Witherspoon missed Seattle's opener due to a hamstring that limited him in camp and the preseason, then when he made his debut in Week 2, Woolen left that game early with a chest injury that also kept him out of last week's win.
"I am excited to see that," Carroll said of those two corners playing together. "I'm excited to see if we can make it through the week and both guys get to play, and Jamal getting out there too. We've had this image of what it could be and how we could play. I'm not setting expectations off the charts here; I want our guys to get out there and play and come back and help their team. That's all I'm asking of them. It is exciting. I'm so happy for Jamal, he gets to get back to football and playing again."
2. Can the Seahawks improve on third down on both sides of the ball?
The Seahawks have improved in a lot of ways since their season-opening loss to the Rams, but one negative that has continued even in consecutive wins has been the team's struggles on third down on both sides of the ball. Opponents are converting 57.4 percent of their third downs against Seattle's defense, the second-highest rate in the NFL, while Seattle's offense ranks 28th at 30.3 percent.
The defense has improved in the past two games, and last week the third-down numbers were inflated somewhat by late conversions when Carolina was down two scores. And with the secondary getting healthier and the pass rush improving, there is optimism things will improve across the board for the defense.
The third-down issues on offense, however, are harder to put a finger on because the Seahawks have been so good on offense overall, ranking fourth in points scored after putting up 37 points in each of the last two games.
"We weren't as clean as we needed to be on some stuff that we have to adjust," Carroll said. "We have to adapt. We're not as sharp as we need to be. We have guys that can do stuff, and Geno (Smith) can deliver it, we were protecting OK; we need to hook it up. We're in the process of fixing some things up. The ones that really matter was we got close, down inside the 30 (yard-line) and all."
Added offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, "I think the challenge is always going to be finding that consistent rhythm. We know we're not where we want to be right now on third downs, and it's been something that we've stressed, we're worked at, but also making sure that we know that third down, it's an important down. We know it's that, but it's not making it more than it is. We had some great drives where we were executing at such a high level on 1st and second down and then getting into the red zone, so we just add the 3rd down into making it normal like it is on 1st and second down and operating and executing at a high level, that's something that can really come full circle for us offensively and allow us to operate at an even more efficient level."
3. How does an improved run defense handle its first test against a dual-threat quarterback?
The Seahawks have been one of the best teams in the NFL when it comes to defending the run, limiting opponents to just 79.3 rushing yards per game, which ranks sixth in the league, and 2.9 yards per carry, which ranks third.
The Giants likely will be without Pro-Bowl running back Saquon Barkley, who is doubtful with an ankle injury, though he and Giants coach Brian Daboll both kept alive the possibility of Barkley playing when asked about his status on Saturday. Even if Barkley can't play, however, the Giants will present a challenge Seattle's run defense has not faced yet this season in the form of a dual-threat quarterback, Daniel Jones.
Jones, who rushed for 707 yards and seven touchdowns in 2022, hasn't run as frequently so far this season, but the Seahawks know they need to be ready for that threat, especially if Barkley isn't able to go.
"The biggest thing is not allowing him to use his feet to make plays," said linebacker Bobby Wagner. "And not just in the run game but passing as well. A couple of his big plays, he scrambles, and guys because they respect his running abilities so much, they leave coverages, and then he throws the ball over his head. But he also has the ability to sit in the pocket and make good throws. Our job is to make sure he feels the pressure and make sure he tries to get the ball out quick. I feel like he's done a good job using his legs to make plays and I don't see why they won't lean on that."
So far the Seahawks have been stout against the run thanks to a disciplined approach as well as the playmaking ability of individuals, and they know if they're going to have a third straight good game against the run, they'll have to do that not just against running backs, but Jones as well.
"The first three guys that we played you didn't have to worry about them pulling the ball, not really a zone-read type team," defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt said. "You have to make sure all of your run fits, when the quarterback is a runner, you're disciplined that you've got to have the rush lanes is all a big part of it because they may not hurt you with handing the ball off to a back but the quarterback can break contain a couple times, and next thing you know it can be a rough day. He can extend plays and keep the chains moving. It adds another level of discipline and awareness that we have to play with."
4. Can Geno Smith and the offense capitalize against an aggressive defense?
The Giants have one of the most aggressive defenses in the NFL when it comes to blitzing opposing quarterbacks. Under defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale, the Giants are blitzing on 53.1 percent of plays so far this season, the second-highest rate in the NFL through three games. That has led to pressure but not a lot of sacks so far—the Giants have just two in three games—but the Seahawks still know that type of pressure, especially on the road, will present challenges.
Blitzing, of course, can also lead to opportunities for opposing offenses, and the Seahawks fully expect that Geno Smith and his weapons can capitalize.
"The good thing about sports and football, is that they can blitz anytime they want, and that goes for any team," Smith said. "We're always antennas up for the blitz. We know that they have a very aggressive defensive style, they have a very aggressive defensive coordinator, and they want to be an attacking defense. We like to think of ourselves the same way on offense. We like to attack. I think it will make for a great matchup as always. They have some great guys in their back end, great linebackers, really great guys up front that will always make it difficult for us. Again, it's about us staying connected, doing our jobs, and going out there and executing."
5. Will the Seahawks create another happy memory at MetLife Stadium?
The Seahawks have enjoyed a lot of success on the road under Carroll and John Schneider, posting a 49-32-1 record dating back to 2013, the third best road record in the NFL over that span. And no road stadium is home to more happy memories for the Seahawks than MetLife Stadium, which most notably was the location of Seattle's Super Bowl XLVIII victory over the Broncos.
That Super Bowl blowout is one of five wins, with no losses, for Seattle at MetLife, in addition to wins over the Giants in 2011, 2013 and 2017, and a win over the Jets in 2016. And the timing of this trip to New York feels somewhat fitting, as the Seahawks just celebrated the 10-year anniversary of that Super Bowl winning season during last weekend's win over the Panthers.
"We had a nice night there," Carroll said. "That's something that these guys don't know. There's only a couple of guys that would even relate to that. Just the staff, we've been there before and it's fun to go back kind of coming off last week with our guys all around and all of that."
The Seahawks and Giants face off for Monday Night Football on Oct. 2, 2023. Kickoff is set for 5:15 p.m. PT. Take a look back through history at the Seahawks' matchups against the Giants.