EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ —Cliff Avril, who was placed on injured reserve heading into the weekend, was not able to be on the field with the Seahawks in Sunday's 24-7 road win at MetLife Stadium. But with their star teammate out of action, the Seahawks defensive line came through and delivered an impressive performance that No. 56 would be proud of.
"The one thing we wanted to do collectively as a defensive line was play for Cliff," Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark said. "It's almost like him being able to play through us."
The defensive line performed much in the spirit of Avril while stepping forward in a big way as a unit to compensate for his absence. The line was a big key in holding the Giants to 177 total yards, and most notably, 46 rushing yards on 17 attempts a week after New York rushed for a season-best 146 yards in their first victory of the season at Denver.
"We noticed Denver gave them a lot," Sheldon Richardson said of what he saw on film when preparing for the Giants. "They weren't finishing blocks, weren't getting off of blocks and weren't finishing tackles, things of that nature. You can't do that in the NFL, because every team is good."
Pete Carroll also confirmed how pleased he was after the Seahawks bottled up the New York ground attack, when it was apparent they wanted to run the ball effectively after being so successful at it in Week 6.
"We had a big rotation tonight and everybody played and all that, but those guys really, really held up play after play after play to keep the running game to what it was," Carroll said of his defensive line's effort. "And they were trying to run it, they were trying really hard to run it, and they just didn't let them."
Once the Seahawks' front wall had firmly established that the Giants were not going to be able to take pressure off their passing game with the run, the defensive line was eventually positioned to make the most impactful play of the game. At 9:57 of the fourth quarter, with the Seahawks clinging to a 10-7 lead, Jarran Reed sacked Eli Manning at the New York 35-yard line and forced a fumble that was recovered by Clark. One play later, Russell Wilson hit Paul Richardson for a 38-yard touchdown pass, and the Seahawks had a cushion that could not be surmounted.
"That's doing what the D-line does, and being up for the team when the team needs us," Clark said. "Our coach told us before we took the field 'we need the ball.' J-Reed came up big, he made that play, he did his job. He got the strip, I got the recovery."
Clark then compared he and Reed working together on the pivotal turnover to how a famous WWE outfit operates.
"That's how you work," said Clark. "Hand in hand, tag team partners like the Hardy Boyz out there."
Clark's "tag team partner" Reed had seven solo tackles, the sack, and two tackles for a loss in the most productive game of his young career so far. Pete Carroll talked about how the breakthrough performance for Reed is clearly the result of how far he has come from his rookie campaign.
"He has grown a lot," Carroll said. "He had a fantastic offseason. He just got more fit and stronger, in great shape, which means he put a lot into the offseason. Well, he followed that up with a really good connection to the workload and the details and doing things right and growing and being consistent. He's a legit, starting defensive tackle in the NFL. In just two years time he got cranking. He's a very responsible, tough kid and he's worked hard, he's doing things right, and we love him. He's doing everything we want."
Statistically, Reed was easily the most dominant defensive lineman of the game, but his teammates took control of the interior in a manner that does not always show up on the individual stat logs. With Richardson, Reed, Clark and company owning the line of scrimmage, Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright were able to combine for 19 tackles, and Kam Chancellor added six as he was frequently in on run support.
"The D-line stepped up, they had a lot of pressure," Wagner said. "J-Reed got the sack/fumble, it came at a crucial point in the game. Frank Clark's been playing great, he's a real monster on the line. He's really dominant in the run game. He's becoming a really great all-around player. It's hard to account for everyone on our D-line because everyone is a playmaker."
With the front wall being such a force against the Giants, the Seahawks secondary was not pressured very often. Earl Thomas only had two tackles, but he certainly did not mind as he admired the line spur the second half surge to victory.
"The past three games especially, J-Reed has been a force getting pressure up the middle," said Thomas. "Last week he was able to get a tip on an overthrow and I was able to catch a big (interception). Those guys are young and they're hungry."
The defensive front constantly stifled the run and set up adverse passing situations for Manning, who finished with only 134 passing yards and 20 incompletions on 39 attempts. The Giants converted only two of 12 third down opportunities. Manning was only sacked once, but it turned out to be more about quality of sack than quantity. The Seahawks never let Manning get comfortable and outside of one second quarter touchdown pass, the New York passing game was rendered ineffective.
"You can't get the sack, get him off his spot," Richardson explained of the defensive line's approach to keeping Manning from developing a rhythm. "Get in the backfield, create as much havoc as you can."
Richardson also enjoyed returning to MetLife Stadium, where he played the first four seasons of his career as a New York Jet.
"It felt good, it felt real good," Richardson said. "Especially to come out with the 'W.'"
For Clark, the victory was a sweet tribute to Avril, who has been a steadying influence on him early in his career.
"The number one thing he taught me is to utilize my skill set," Clark said. "And to not to limit myself."
The Seahawks defensive line certainly did not limit itself in Week 7, stepping forward to shut down the Giants on the ground and setting the tone for another sound defensive effort.
Game action photos from the Seahawks' 24-7 victory over the New York Giants in Week 7.