Bandit stealing the spotlight

The Seahawks’ innovative use of a seven-defensive back ‘big dime’ package the past two weeks has helped them slam the door on third downs.

As wrinkles goes, the Seahawks’ move to their Bandit defense has been pretty smooth.

You’ve seen the personnel grouping more and more the past two weeks, as coordinator Gus Bradley has flooded the field with defensive backs in obvious passing situations. In last week’s win over the Arizona Cardinals, the Seahawks used their Bandit (17 plays) – or big dime – more than their nickel and regular dime alignments combined (eight). A lot more.

“On third-down situations, it’s a creative way to get pass rush,” Bradley said. “And a lot of it was just to get other guys on the field, too.

“It’s been good for us. It’s been real effective for us. We know we can’t strictly do that, but as a changeup it’s been good.”

Whether the Seahawks continue this trend in Sunday’s game against the Raiders in Oakland depends, of course, on down, distance and the scoreboard.

The Seahawks were able to deploy seven defensive backs, three linemen and the ever-present Lofa Tatupu so much the past two weeks because they took early leads – 16-0 against the Cardinals last week and 14-7 the previous week against the Chicago Bears. It also has been a workable package because the base defense has played well on first and second downs to put the opposition in third-and-long situations.

“What makes it successful is we’re stopping the run early, and that’s a big credit to our line,” strong safety and leading tackler Lawyer Milloy said. “Over the past few weeks that Bandit package has been used a lot more because of that situation.”

As a result, the Seahawks allowed the Bears and Cardinals to convert only two of 24 third-down situations – two of the top performances in franchise history.

“It confuses a lot of offenses, and I definitely think it confuses the O-line,” cornerback Roy Lewis said. “They don’t know where the pressure is coming from.”

That’s been exactly the point: The secret to the Seahawks’ success hasn’t so much been the number of defensive backs on the field, but the versatility of those players.

Milloy steps up to fill a linebacker role, along with Tatupu. That allows 6-foot-3, 232-pound rookie Kam Chancellor to move in at strong safety, with fellow rookie Earl Thomas at free safety. The corners are Marcus Trufant and either Kelly Jennings or rookie Walter Thurmond, with Lewis and Jordan Babineaux covering the slot receivers. The line features Craig Terrill at nose tackle with Chris Clemons and Raheem Brock as the ends.

“You want to do things like that if you have the right personnel,” Milloy said. “That’s another thing about the way this team was built – through competition. Our personnel guys, starting with Pete (Carroll) and Schneids (GM John Schneider), they went out and got the kind of guys that they’re interchangeable.

“That’s the scary part. When you have seven DBs out there who are interchangeable, it makes it really tough for a team to know where you’re coming from.”

The innovative package adds to the roles of the Triple-T trio of Tatupu, Trufant and Thomas, who played all 55 snaps against the Cardinals; and Milloy, who was on the field for 54. But it also gets extra time for Chancellor and Terrill.

“I think it’s tough for offensive lines to maybe pick out who’s dropping into coverage and who’s coming,” said Terrill, who had a career-high three sacks the last time the Seahawks played the Raiders in 2006.

“Obviously there are three men up front. But then you’ve got a mixture of Lawyer and Lofa and the other guys out there who can come from any direction. We can rush three, and flood the field with coverage players; or we can rush as many as we like. It’s a good pass defense.”

In addition to those two of 12 (Cardinals) and zero of 12 (Bears) efforts on third downs, the Seahawks have held the three quarterbacks they’ve faced in those games to a 54.3 passer rating.

“There’s so much moving around, and it’s coming from a look that a lot of teams haven’t seen, so it’s working for us,” Trufant said. “That’s what it’s all about, that we can show so many different looks from it.”

One look that Trufant really likes?

“We’ve got more DBs on the field,” he said with a smile. “So it’s always fun.”

Not to mention successful.

“We like it. We love it. We accept it. We embrace it,” Lewis said. “And it’s always good to let DBs do a little pass rushing.”