Stopping Kansas City’s No. 1-ranked running game is Priority One for the Seattle Seahawks’ defense on Sunday, but the task also contains an added incentive for nose tackle Junior Siavii.
When the conversation turns to the Chiefs, Junior Siavii looks up from tying his shoes and cracks the slyest of grins.
Sunday’s game against the AFC West leaders at Qwest Field is significant to the Seahawks on several fronts. It’s a chance to get back above .500. It’s an opportunity to atone for the 41-7 loss to the New Giants the last time they played at home – their only loss at home this season. It’s a way to insure remaining in sole possession of first place in the NFC West.
But for Siavii, who will make his fourth start at nose tackle for an injured Colin Cole, there’s even more to it.
“This team, it’s my first team in the NFL,” he said while sitting at his cubicle in the locker room.
Siavii entered the league in 2004 as a second-round draft choice of the Chiefs. He played in 26 games in two seasons before a knee injury forced him to sit out three seasons.
If the Seahawks are going to win this game, it will start with stopping the No. 1-ranked rushing offense in the NFL – as the Chiefs are averaging 164.7 rushing yards, and doing it with the 1-2 punch of Jamaal Charles (848 yards, 6.1-yard average) and Thomas Jones (644 yards, 4.1 average).
For that to happen, Siavii will have to play his best against the two former teammates he most remembers – Pro Bowl center Casey Wiegmann and four-time Pro Bowl left guard Brian Waters.
“They were both there when I came in,” Siavii said. “They’re good people, and good players, too. Great players. So we’ll see.”
What the Seahawks’ run defense has shown in recent weeks in not what Siavii or any other members of the defense want to see. The Seahawks have allowed an averaged 140.4 rushing yards in the past five games, nearly double what they allowed in the first five games (70.4) when they ranked second in the league.
The slide from No. 2 to No. 13 has coincided with losing end Red Bryant for the season, Cole for the past three games and playing without tackle Brandon Mebane for four weeks. That’s almost 1,000 pounds of disruptive and stout run-stuffing presence that has been difficult to replace. And the task has fallen to Siavii and the Kentwan Balmer, who started three games for Mebane and then moved outside to replace Bryant the past three games.
There are almost as many theories about what has happened to the run defense as the yards yielded by the unit, but Siavii has his own idea.
“They’re the No. 1 team in rushing,” he said. “The defense has to step it up and shut them down to prove a point, and to kind of shut up a lot of people.
“All we’ve got to do is play. That’s it.”
For Siavii and Balmer, a couple of 315-pounders, that comes with playing as starters for the first time in their careers. Siavii, who played for the Dallas Cowboys last season, made his first NFL start three weeks ago. Balmer, who was obtained in an August trade after playing two seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, made his first NFL start in the Week 6 win over the Bears in Chicago.
Going from backup to starter is still playing football, but it’s not quite the same.
“First of all, you don’t want to let the guys down,” Balmer said. “That’s the most important thing. Going from a backup position to now being in a starting role, I don’t want there to be any drop off.
“But I definitely appreciate the opportunity, too. So it’s like a double-edged sword. All you can do is try to take advantage of it.”
Siavii says it’s less about making the adjustment and more about doing what it is needed.
“You’ve just go to seize it,” he said. “You’ve just go to seize the moment of opportunity that’s given to you.”
Sunday, that will start with squeezing the running lanes available to Charles and Jones, and getting them on the ground when the opportunity presents itself.
“When it happens, you don’t want an opportunity like this one – with Cole being hurt,” Siavii said. “But at the same time, it’s a position I’ve been put in where I have to step up and own up to what I’m here for and do the job that I’m here to do.”
So, there must be something for these two – and the entire defense – to prove this week.
“I don’t think we have anything to prove,” Siavii said. “I think we just need to go out there and play football. Play the defense, and that’s it. Play the way we’re used to playing, and the way we need to play.
“That will answer a lot of questions.”