The pressure is on.
At least that’s the Seahawks plan Sunday.
Seattle is on the road, which has posed a significant problem for the team these past four years, but the Seahawks are playing in St. Louis, the one place other than Qwest Field where they have consistently won. Not only that, but they’re facing a rookie quarterback: Sam Bradford, the No. 1 overall choice in the draft last April.
While Seattle doesn’t plan to throw the kitchen sink at Bradford, there will be an array of other heavy implements deployed in his direction by the Seahawks defense.
“We don’t want to let any quarterback off the hook in terms of pressure,” coach Pete Carroll said.
But that is exactly what tends to happen when Seattle goes on the road. Since the 2007 season began, Seattle has totaled almost twice as many sacks at home (79) compared to the road (43).
In the first two home games this season, the Seahawks have hit the opposing passer 20 times. In their game at Denver in Week 2, they hit Kyle Orton just once.
So, is the difference in Seattle’s pass rush as simple as the setting? Do the Seahawks sputter when their opponents aren’t drowning amid the decibels of Qwest Field?
“It shouldn’t have had anything to do with that at all,” Carroll said.
All that talk about crowd noise? Well, it’s just that, noise.
Defensive end Chris Clemons, who leads the Seahawks with three sacks in three games, said that while you might hear a difference on the field, you shouldn’t see it in the results for the defense.
“I don’t see any difference in playing away or at home,” Clemons said. “The only difference is really for the offense, for the most part. Defense, we go with the same style, the same attack.”
But in Denver two weeks ago, that plan was dialed back.
“That was probably on me,” said Gus Bradley, Seattle’s defensive coordinator.
The Seahawks focused on dropping defenders into coverage on many third-down plays against the Broncos, sometimes rushing as few as three players.
“It took away a little of the aggressiveness away from us,” Bradley said.
It also took away almost all of the pass pressure. Seattle’s only sack of Orton was credited to Raheem Brock, but really could have been credited to gravity because Orton pretty much fell down on the play.
Of course, Orton deserves some credit, too. He’s a veteran who has gotten by on the strength of his decision-making, not his arm. He got rid of the ball quickly.
The Seahawks will be facing a rookie in St. Louis. Not just any rookie. Bradford has been more impressive than anyone expected given the team around him. He attempted 55 passes in the season opener, most of any rookie in his debut, and he has four touchdown passes.
“Stature-wise he looks great in the pocket,” Carroll said. “He’s rolled right and left … so there’s nothing that he can’t do and they have got to be just as pleased as they can be about that.”
Running back Steven Jackson left the game last week with a groin injury and has not practiced for St. Louis this week. That leaves Bradford in the cross-hairs of Seattle’s defensive game plan.
Now, it’s up to Seattle to disrupt that rhythm in one of the few places where Seattle has consistently won on the road.
The Seahawks are 6-19 away from home since the 2007 season began, and half of those road victories have come in St. Louis, where Seattle has not lost since 2004.
This will be a different challenge, though. One that asks the Seahawks to do something they could not in Week 2 at Denver.
“Hopefully we’ll get off to a really good game on the road here,” Carroll said, “and get us moving where we know how to take our game and our team to the road.”
The pressure is on Seattle’s defense to make that happen.