INDIANAPOLIS—Throughout the preseason, one of the most encouraging signs for Seattle's defense was that a pass rush playing without its starters still looked deep and productive.
And when the defense took the field at full strength to start the regular season, that group showed it might have the ability to live up to the hype this season.
In a 28-16 win over the Colts, the Seahawks got sacks from defensive ends Rasheem Green, Darrell Taylor and Benson Mayowa, plus one more from Carlos Dunlap II on a 2-point conversion attempt, and they hit Colts quarterback Carson Wentz 10 times and pressured him several others. For a team that struggled to find a pass rush early last season before taking off in the second half of the year, this kind of start is a good sign that the defense might be able to pick up where it left off.
"I thought we felt our pass rush much more than we (did) early in last season," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "(It was) much more like how we finished the year."
In addition Dunlap's sacks preventing a possible 2-point conversion, all of Seattle's sacks stopped drives, with Green and Mayowa getting third-down sacks, and with Taylor recording his first career sack with an impressive combination of speed an power on a fourth-and-2 in the red zone.
"Big rush," Carroll said of Taylor's sack. "He had a number of rushes, you can see it. When we get him with the 12s, he's going to be 12s best friend now. When they can get to roaring on third down and on passing downs and get him the chance to get off, you can see how explosive he is coming off the football. He's going to have some big games. He'll have some big games where it'll be really hard for people to match him up, so I'm excited about that. And it showed."
Seattle's defensive line depth was evident before the game in the fact that L.J. Collier, a 16-game starter last season, was a healthy scratch, and it showed in-game when the Seahawks frequently played with five linemen on the field.
"The reason we're able to do that is because of the versatility of the players, the edge players," Carroll said. "So, we've been developing that ability for a while now to see how flexible we can be. We have a number of guys that can all do it. We didn't see a whole lot of Alton (Robinson) today, but he's in that mix too. It's just part of it."
When asked about the pass rush being so successful, Dunlap pointed to the depth of the rotation keeping layers fresh.
"The rotation," he said. "You're going out there, you're setting up the rushes, and guys are coming in hot, fresh and they're getting home. We've got two groups of rushers."
The Seahawks still blitzed a decent amount, but it was a good sign that a lot of their pressure came from four-man rushes.
Safety Jamal Adams, who last year led the team with 9.5 sacks, described this pass-rush group as "Very elite. So many guys that can get after the quarterback and do special things. A rotation of really three fronts, you know what I mean? It can be really, really, special. I'm coming at times. Bobby (Wagner) is coming at times. Quise (Marquise Blair) is coming at times. Ugo (Amadi) is coming at times, Quandre (Diggs)—everybody's coming. That's what makes us very unique in a lot of ways. It's very exciting."
And for as exciting as the pass rush is, that only tells half the story of what was a very good day for Seattle's front seven. The Seahawks came into the game knowing they'd have to contend with a very good running back duo, and they held Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines to a combined 90 yards on 26 carries.
"The main thing was just to stop the run," said defensive tackle Bryan Mone, who had five tackles and quarterback hit. "That was our goal coming in. Like Coach (Ken) Norton says, nobody runs on us, so that was the goal, stopping the run."
As Mone was being interviewed, Dunlap interrupted, saying, "Five tackles, QB hit, woo!
"The way he dominated the center. He commanded two guys on him, and that allowed the edge guys to do what they did today. That's the part you guys don't see, so give him his credit."
Carroll was also impressed with the work Mone and Al Woods did in the middle of the defense.
"He played great. Mone did a great job today," Carroll said. "I heard he had five tackles and he had a tackle for loss and he was causing problems the whole time. You know, Bobby (Wagner) had 13 tackles, but we kind of expect Bobby to have 13 tackles, but for Bryan to have a game like that to get us started—and I know Al played well too—those two big guys did a great job, so that's great for Bryan."
The Seahawks' defensive line came into the with a goal of, as Dunlap described it, wanting to "get sacks, hits and pressures all day long, then we wanted to dominate the run… Big Al was dominating inside too. We've got a 1-2 of big guys dominating inside."
There are still 16 games to go this season, but one week into the 2021 campaign, a defensive line that looked in training camp like a strength of the team appears to be proving itself to be just that.
The Seattle Seahawks take on the Colts in their first game of the 2021 season at Lucas Oil Stadium. This album will be updated throughout the game. Game Action photos are presented by Washington's Lottery.