Getting Brandon Mebane back in the middle of the line can only help the Seahawks’ suddenly porous run defense as the team prepares for Sunday’s rematch with the Cardinals.
He goes by “Bang-Bang.” Because of the way he plays the game from his defensive tackle position, obviously, but also because his last name is Mebane.
Mebane? Bang-Bang? It must work, as Brandon Mebane explained on Wednesday, when he was back in the middle of the Seahawks’ defensive line after missing the past four games with a strained calf.
“My dad, he was an athlete, too,” Mebane said. “My mom was an athlete. So people used to call them ‘Bang-Bang.’ My brother, he was a baseball player. And they used to call him ‘Bang-Bang.’ So it just trickled down.”
So that would make this Mebane “Bang-Bang” IV?
“Yeah, something like that,” he said with a smile.
A Seahawks defense that once ranked second in the NFL against the run has lost some of his bang since Mebane went out a month ago. Entering Sunday’s ridiculously important rematch with the Cardinals in Arizona, the Seahawks have slipped to 19th in rushing defense after yielding 239 yards to the Raiders in Oakland two weeks ago and 197 yards to the New York Giants at Qwest Field last week.
Is it fair to expect the return of one player to cure the ills that have beset the defense in the past two games? Of course. But when that one player is as large (6 feet 4, listed at 320 pounds) and disruptive as Mebane, it can’t hurt.
“I think it helps enormously,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s one of our front-line guys. He’s very active. He’s been a big figure in what we’ve done and we’ve counted on him. We’ve missed him for four weeks now. So that’s a long haul without a guy that you really love to play with.
“But he’s got fresh legs. He’s going to come out smoking.”
Actually, Mebane returns with a fresh everything – from the physical to the mental, and everything in between.
“Physically, I feel better. I had a lot of stuff going on in my body,” Mebane said. “It helped me mentally, too. It made me smarter as a professional. Just picking up on tendencies and just playing against different teams and being on the sideline watching how to read different keys.”
But he has disliked sitting out as much as his coaches and teammates have hated playing without him.
“This is what I love to do,” Mebane said. “I’ve been wanting to do this since I was in the third or fourth grade. So this is very exciting to me to get back out there and just have that feeling again, and just make plays, and just be there with my teammates.”
Unfortunately, not all his teammates will be with Mebane this week. Red Bryant, a run-stuffing defensive end and Mebane’s best friend on the team, had season-ending knee surgery last week. Nose tackle Colin Cole remains sidelined with a sprained ankle that forced him to also miss the game against the Giants.
With Mebane in the lineup, the Seahawks held their first four opponents below their season averages – the 49ers (49 rushing yards), Broncos (65), Chargers (89) and Rams (88). Without Mebane, those numbers spike on a weekly basis the past three games – 113 by the Cardinals, 239 by the Raiders and 197 by the Giants.
Again, is it putting too much on one player to expect a dramatic return to their previous form?
“People can put whatever they want on me,” Mebane said. “I’ve got to just play my game and we just help each other. We are one when we’re out there. So I don’t feel any pressure on me.”
The pressure has come from other defensive players trying to do too much to compensate for the losses of Mebane, Bryant and Cole. That fact jumped out at Carroll when he reviewed the video of the games against the Raiders and Giants.
“It was close, close, close, and then we try to do a couple too many things to try to make some plays to change the game – which is really an issue that is at hand right now and we made some mistakes in doing that,” Carroll said. “Over-pursuing. Trying to knock the ball out when we really didn’t have a shot and needed to just make a tackle and the runner goes for another bunch (of yards).
“So we have to maintain our mentality of doing things right and sticking with the plan and hanging in there, even if the score isn’t in our favor.”
Again, getting Mebane back in the lineup can’t hurt that quest.
After all, his teammates and coaches do call him “Bang-Bang.” Not just because it’s a family thing, but because of the things Mebane does on the field.