CHANDLER’S CROSS, England—The setting will be different when the Seattle Seahawks face the Oakland Raiders at Wembley Stadium, but as Seahawks coach Pete Carroll noted earlier this week, “it will still be the same game as always.”
So regardless of where the game takes place, it will still come down to what team executes and can win some of these key matchups that could make the difference in Sunday’s game:
1. Seattle’s running game vs. Oakland’s run defense.
By getting their running game going the past three games, the Seahawks have found a style “that we’ve been seeking,” Carroll said. And even though Seattle lost a close game to the Rams in Week 5, the 190-yard rushing performance was a very positive sign for the offense moving forward.
Even more encouraging is that the Seahawks have been able to run the ball well with multiple backs, a sign that the entire running game is functioning well. Chris Carson went over 100 yards for the first time in his career three weeks ago, then when he missed a game with a hip injury, Mike Davis took over and had his own big game, only to have Carson come back with another 100-yard performance last week. Those three games marked the first time the Seahawks have had a 100-yard rusher in three straight games since Marshawn Lynch did it in four straight to close the 2012 season.
“I think it just shows you that we’re a pretty good running team,” offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. “Both of those guys are really good players. They both are running very hard. They’re running with confidence. The line gets a lot of credit. Our tight ends—Nick Vannett has done a great job, throwing George (Fant) in there some last week was good for us. The receivers, they don’t get enough credit. You watch those guys work in the running game; they do an awesome job. Sometimes it’s hard for a receiver. You throw it 21 times and there’s not enough balls to go around but you watch the way that those guys compete in the running game and it’s pretty cool. It’s a philosophy, it’s a personality that all those guys have bought into and it’s just been cool to see us, when teams know we want to run it, that we can still do that.”
As Carroll has always said, he wants his teams to run the ball not just for yards those plays gain, but for what it does for the overall performance of the team in all three phases.
“We’ve always been seeking this kind of balance that you’re seeing now for years,” Carroll said. “I’ll go back to the USC days, we’ve always have been in the same mentality because of the philosophy of it. Because the running game does fit with the defense, does fit with special teams, and it all does fit together. When you can close the circle with a really aggressive, tough running game, then you really can make your style known. It’s a great formula and it has always been a winning formula for us. We were just a little bit out of it the first couple weeks of the season and we got rolling, got back on track. We can feel the connection of the whole team and how we’re trying to win our football game. It’s a good observation, it does affect the entire style of the way we play.”
The numbers suggest the Seahawks should be able to run the ball against Oakland, which ranks 28th in rushing yards allowed and 27th in yards-per-carry given up, but the Raiders have held two of their last three opponents to 79 and 41 yards. That the game in between those saw the Browns rush for 208 yards against the Raiders shows there are yards to be had, but Oakland’s defense has demonstrated at times it can be solid against the run.
2. David Carr and the Oakland passing game vs. Seattle’s pass defense.
One of the big storylines in this game will be Marshawn Lynch facing his former team, and indeed Lynch remains a very productive back even at the age of 32. But while stopping Lynch will certainly be a focus for Seattle, the toughest test might come against a passing attack that averages 316 yards per game. And Derek Carr has put up those prolific numbers while still completing 71.3 percent of his passes under Jon Gruden, who returned to coaching after nine years in the broadcast booth.
“They’re throwing the football really well,” Carroll said. “The quarterback is terrific—Derek Carr is a good player with all the ability you need. He’s got a great group to throw to. His receivers are fantastic. They’ve got a whole array of guys, different styles, big guys, speed guys—Amari Cooper is as talented as you can get, but what he’s really done is Jared Cook has really turned out to be their leading receiver and their go-to guy right now, which just makes those other guys even more difficult to cover. Marshawn (Lynch) in the back behind it all to run the football, it’s a really good looking offense with really highlighted players across the board.”
The Seahawks, meanwhile, rank sixth in passing yards allowed, giving up 226 yards per game, and fifth in opponent passer rating allowed at 79.3.
3. The turnover battle.
While Carr has done a lot of good things for Oakland’s offense, Gruden noted that his quarterback also has things he “has got to clean up and eliminate, no question.” In particular, Carr has thrown a league-high eight interceptions, contributing to Oakland’s minus-4 turnover ratio, which is tied for 28th in the league.
Cleaning that up won’t be easy against a Seahawks defense than has recorded nine interceptions, the second most in the league, including two more last week against the Rams. That number has helped the Seahawks get to plus-6 in turnover differential, which is tied for the second best mark in the league, but another reason Seattle is strong in that category is that its offense has gone three straight games without committing a turnover.
“You go week after week after week after week of not giving the football up, that’s a big deal; you can’t play ball any better than that,” Carroll said. “It’s a huge aspect towards being successful and we’re learning the respect that you have to have for the ball and how you take care of it. Russell (Wilson) has always been great at it. The young runners are doing a good job. Hopefully, we can just keep that going one more week and keep taking care of it. It’s an enormous asset when you can do that.”
Seahawks vs Raiders Through the Years
Take a look back at games played between the Seahawks and Raiders as the two sides ready for Sunday's matchup in London at Wembley Stadium.
Seattle Seahawks cornerback Dave Brown (22) runs in pursuit during an NFL game against the Oakland Raiders in Oakland, on November 6, 1977. The Raiders defeated the Seattle 44-7. (AP Photo/NFL Photos)
Oakland Raiders Hall of Fame tight end Dave Casper (87) tries to break away from Seattle Seahawks safety Autry Beamon (27) during an NFL game in Oakland, Nov. 26, 1978. The Seahawks defeated the Raiders 17-16. . (AP Photo/Arthur Anderson)
Seattle Seahawks Jim Zorn and kicker Efren Herrera (1) watch as the winning field goal goes through the crossbars in the last three seconds of play in game with Oakland Raiders in Oakland, Calif., Nov. 26, 1978. The kick was good for 46 yards and provided Seattle with 17-16 margin of victory. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
Oakland Raiders defensive end John Matuszak (72) pressures Seattle Seahawks quarterback Jim Zorn (10) during play in an NFL football game in 1981. (Al Messerschmidt via AP)
Los Angeles Raiders Hall of Fame linebacker Ted Hendricks (83) takes on Seattle Seahawks linebacker Rodell Thomas (59) on special teams during an NFL game in Los Angeles, Dec. 5, 1982. The Raiders defeated the Seahawks 28-23. (AP Photo/NFL Photos)
Los Angeles Raider Marcus Allen (32), center, makes his way over the goal line to score in second quarter action against the Seattle Seahawks at Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, Ca., Dec. 5, 1982. (AP Photo/Doug Pizac)
Los Angeles Raiders Hall of Fame linebacker Ted Hendricks (83) pressures Seattle Seahawks quarterback Dave Krieg (17) during an NFL game at the Los Angeles Coliseum on October 30, 1983. The Seahawks defeated the Raiders 34-21. (Peter Read Miller via AP)
Seattle Seahawks Cullen Bryant (32) runs through the line for short gain and into an awaiting Rod Martin (53) during first-quarter action, Sunday, Jan. 8, 1984 in Los Angeles in the AFC championship game between the Seahawks and the Los Angeles Raiders in the Coliseum. (AP Photo)
Seattle Seahawks Hall of Fame wide receiver Steve Largent (80) is covered by Los Angeles Raiders Hall of Fame cornerback Mike Haynes (22) during an NFL game, Oct. 7, 1984. The Raiders defeated the Seahawks 28-14. (AP Photo/NFL Photos)
Seattle's Dave Krieg (17), pitches out to a running back behind the blocking of Reggie McKenzie in NFL game, Nov. 13, 1984 in Seattle against the Los Angeles Raiders. Moving in is Lyle Alzado of the Raiders. Seattle won 17-14. (AP Photo/Barry Sweet)
Los Angeles Raiders' running back Marcus Allen (32) makes a short-yardage run against the Seattle Seahawks in Los Angeles, Dec. 15, 1985. Allen is helped by teammate Frank Hawkins (27) while the Seattle defenders are John Harris (44) and Keith Butler (53) in this second quarter play. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
Seattle Seahawks receiver Steve Largent (80), grasps the ball and scores on quarterback Dave Krieg's 10-yard pass at Seattle, Dec. 8, 1986. Seattle scored first in their battle at the Kingdome against the Los Angeles Raiders. Raiders safety Vann McElroy attempted to foil the play. (AP Photo/Barry Sweet)
Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Dave Wyman (92) flips Los Angeles Raiders running back Marcus Allen (32) in the air during the NFL football game against the Los Angeles Raiders on Dec. 18, 1988 in Los Angeles. The Seahawks won the game 43-37. (Paul Spinelli via AP)
Los Angeles Raiders defensive end Greg Townsend (93) is seen in action during an NFL game against the Seattle Seahawks Oct. 1, 1989, in Los Angeles.
(NFL Photos via AP)
Los Angeles Raiders defensive end Scott Davis (70) is seen in action against Seattle Seahawks guard Bryan Millard (71) during an NFL game Oct.14, 1990, in Los Angeles. (NFL Photos via AP)
Los Angeles Raiders guard Steve Wisniewski (76) is seen in action during an NFL game against the Seattle Seahawks Oct.14, 1990, in Los Angeles. The Raiders defeated the Seahawks 24–17. (NFL Photos via AP)
Seattle Seahawks Chris Warren(42) in action during his 1992 season game against the Los Angeles Raiders on November 15, 1992 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California. The Raiders beat the Seahawks 20-3. Chris Warren played for 11 years with 3 different teams and was a 3-time Pro Bowler.(AP Photo/David Durochik)
Los Angeles Raiders running back Nick Bell (38) is seen in action during an NFL game against the Seattle Seahawks Dec. 12, 1993, in Los Angeles. (NFL Photos via AP)
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Rick Mirer (3) gets set to throw a pass during an NFL game against the Los Angeles Raiders Dec. 12, 1993, in Los Angeles. (NFL Photos via AP)
Oakland Raiders vs. Seattle Seahawks at Oakland Alameda County Coliseum Sunday, December 22, 1996. Seahawks beat Raiders 28-21. Oakland Raiders linebacker Greg Biekert (54) stops Seattle Seahawks running back Lamar Smith (36). (AP Photo/Al Golub)
Oakland Raiders vs. Seattle Seahawks at Oakland Alameda County Coliseum Sunday, December 14, 1997. Seahawks beat Raiders 22-21. Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Sinclair (70) pulls down Oakland Raiders quarterback Jeff George (3). (AP Photo/Al Golub)
Oakland Raiders vs. Seattle Seahawks at Oakland Alameda County Coliseum Sunday, December 14, 1997. Seahawks beat Raiders 22-21. Oakland Raiders defensive back Lorenzo Lynch (43) attempts to stop Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Warren (42). (AP Photo/Al Golub)
Seattle Seahawks linebacker Chad Brown (94) is seen in action during an NFL game against the Oakland Raiders Nov. 15, 1998, in Oakland, Calif. (Allen Kee via AP)
Seattle Seahawks running back Ricky Watters (32) runs upfield during an NFL game against the Oakland Raiders on November 15, 1998, at the Network Associates Coliseum in Oakland, California. The Raiders defeated the Seahawks 20-17. (AP Photo/Kevin Terrell)
Oakland Raiders vs. Seattle Seahawks at Oakland Alameda County Coliseum Sunday, December 5, 1999. Raiders beat Seahawks 30-21. Seattle Seahawks defensive back Jay Bellamy (20) and defensive back Shawn Springs (24) work on pulling down Oakland Raiders running back Tyrone Wheatley (47). (AP Photo/Al Golub)
Oakland Raiders vs. Seattle Seahawks at Oakland Alameda County Coliseum Sunday, October 22, 2000. Raiders beat Seahawks 31-3. Seattle Seahawks running back Rickey Watters (32). (AP Photo/Al Golub)
Shaun Alexander #37 of the Seattle Seahawks runs for yardage during an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders in Oakland, Ca. on September 30, 2001. The Raiders won 38-14. (AP Photo/G. Newman Lowrance)
Oakland Raiders linebacker Eric Barton (50) rushes Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (8) on Sunday, September 30, 2001, in Oakland, California. The Raiders defeated the Seahawks 38-14. (AP Photo/Al Golub)
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (8) throws the ball under pressure from Oakland Raiders' DeLawrence Grant, left, in the fourth quarter Sunday, Sept. 8, 2002, in Oakland, Calif. the Raiders won 31-17. (AP Photo/John Todd)
Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander (37) is congratulated by Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck after Alexander scored a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders in the first quarter of an NFL exhibition football game Thursday, Aug. 31, 2006, at Qwest Field in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Oakland Raiders wide receiver Carlos Francis misses a fourth down pass under pressure from Seattle Seahawks' Kelly Herndon (31) and Lofa Tatupu turning the ball over which led to the Seahawks final score during the fourth quarter of a football game in Seattle, Monday, Nov. 6, 2006. The Seahawks won 16-0. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)
Seattle Seahawks wide rdceiver Golden Tate (81) heads downfield during an NFL game against the Oakland Raiders, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2010 in Oakland. The Raiders won the game 33 to 3. (AP Photo/Greg Trott)
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) is chased by Oakland Raiders' Pat Sims in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman jumps over Oakland Raiders' tight end Mychal Rivera, left, and Seahawks' Earl Thomas after Sherman made an interception in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)