If sounds simple enough: Contain explosive plays and stop the run, then good things will happen.
That’s the bread and butter of the new defensive philosophy implemented by Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.
By focusing on limiting big plays and stopping his opponent’s ground game, Carroll hopes to make team’s offenses one dimensional by forcing them to chunk their way down the field through the air.
“Once you can take care of the easy long plays … and you go back to the running game, then you work at all the stuff in the intermediate areas and try to shore up your coverage and be aggressive and pressure and things like that, knowing that it’s really difficult to run against you,” Carroll said. “It kind of gives you an opportunity to focus your attack counting on (stopping) the running game like that.”
One of the ways Carroll devised a stout run defense is by moving Red Bryant from tackle to end so his team would be better defending the run on the perimeter. So far that switch has paid off, as Seattle has only allowed an average of 57 rushing yards per game, good enough for fourth in the league.
“You always have to do the things that you’re doing consistently well, and don’t go away from it and forget about it,” said Seahawks linebacker David Hawthorne said. “But you’ve also got to focus on things you’re not doing well. I feel like we’ve been stopping the run real well these first couple games. So I feel like if we just put together a complete game and stop the run and the pass, the sky’s the limit.”
Carroll’s defensive philosophy will face a stiff test this week in the San Diego Chargers, led by one of the best quarterbacks in the game in Philip Rivers.
The Chargers come into the contest with the third-ranked offense in the league, and they can get it done on the ground (130 yards per game, No. 6 overall) or through the air (303 yards per game, No. 4).
The Chargers are led on the ground by Ryan Mathews, the rookie from Fresno State who has stepped in for the departed LaDainian Tomlinson, and bruiser Mike Tolbert. Each back has gained more than 100 yards for the season. Mathews injured his ankle last week against Jacksonville but should be ready for Sunday’s game.
With San Diego restricted free-agent receiver Vincent Jackson still holding out, veteran tight end Antonio Gates remains the Chargers’ primary receiver. Gates already has 10 receptions for 133 yards and three touchdowns, the most scores of any tight end in the league.
The Seahawks understand they need to be better on third down this week. After holding San Francisco to 1 of 15 third-down conversions in the season opener, the Seahawks allowed Denver to convert 14 of 20.
Carroll said a shift in focus may have worked against his team.
Seattle chose to rush only three defensive linemen and play more coverage against Denver’s Kyle Orton, and the veteran quarterback patiently picked apart Seattle to the tune of 307 passing yards. So Seattle may try and bring more pressure against Rivers.
Whatever they decide to do against Rivers, Hawthorne says the Seahawks just need to focus on completing their assignments.
“I think we just have to execute,” Hawthorne said. “People were in position, but it just came down to me vs. you on a couple occasions and people just didn’t step up and make the play. So it’s not that we’re doing too much or we weren’t doing the right things, it’s just that when people’s numbers are called, we need to step up and make the play.”