Countdown to kickoff
Greetings from a chilly, but still dry, CenturyLink Field, where the Seahawks are actually expected to win this afternoon when they host the New York Jets.
Yes, the Seahawks are 4-0 at home this season. But few gave them much a chance in the first four games they’ve played at CenturyLink Field.
The Cowboys on Sept. 16? Rookie QB Russell Wilson in his second NFL regular-season start against Tony Romo? No way. Way. Seahawks, 27-7.
The Packers on Sept. 24, on “Monday Night Football,” no less. Reigning league MVP Aaron Rodgers and a team that went 15-1 last season. Way no way. Wilson led the way. Seahawks, 14-12.
The Patriots on Oct. 14? Tom Brady. Bill Belichick. Again, no way. Again, Wilson leads the way, by throwing two of his three touchdown passes in the final 7½ minutes. Seahawks, 24-23.
Last week against the Vikings? A five-win team that featured the NFL’s leading rusher in Adrian Peterson? Get out of the way. Well, Peterson ran for 182 yards, but Wilson threw three more TD passes. Seahawks, 30-20.
Now come the Jets, a team that was expected to – and expecting to – do a lot more than it has in starting 3-5.
And that’s the Seahawks’ challenge today: Win a game they’re expected to.
Heading into their bye week, and looking at road games against the Dolphins and Bears on the other side, this is an opportunity the Seahawks cannot afford to squander. And the best way to avoid doing that is to continue doing all the things that have worked so well for them in recent weeks – and their previous home games.
Let’s start with running the ball. Marshawn Lynch is on pace for a career-best total in rushing yards, and the Jets have had problems stopping the run – allowing averages of 141.4 yards per game and 4.4 yards per carry. Yes, they’ll stack their defense to stop Lynch, who is averaging 98 yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry. But the Seahawks and their Beast Mode back can’t let that stop them. They need to pound away at the Jets to wear them down and eventually frustrate them, and also setup the play-action passing game for Wilson. The game seems to be slowing down for the rookie QB, who has been efficient the past two weeks – and productive in his previous four games at CenturyLink Field.
On defense, the Seahawks need to regain their swagger. In the past two weeks, they have been passed silly by the Lions’ Matthew Stafford in a four-point loss at Detroit and embarrassed by Peterson, who ran through, around and even over them last week. The Jets’ Shonn Greene is no Peterson and QB Mark Sanchez is no Stafford – or Brady, or Rodgers. So the Seahawks’ need to revert to the blueprint – and mindset – that serves them so well, when executed: Stop the run, and that starts with everyone doing what he’s supposed to do and not trying to do too much; put Sanchez into situations where he has to throw to move the ball; pressure him into mistakes, if not turnovers.
On special teams, the Seahawks’ coverage units won’t have to worry about Joe McKnight and his 29.3-yard average on kickoff returns. He’s out with an ankle injury. But former Jet Leon Washington needs one more kickoff return to tie the NFL career record of eight. Washington hasn’t had a scoring return since 2010, his first season with the Seahawks. But anything he can give the Seahawks today will point them in the right direction.
None of this will be as easy as it sounds, of course, but the Seahawks need to find ways to make it appear that way. If they can, they’ll be 6-4 heading into their bye, and very aware that three of their final four games will be at CenturyLink Field – against the other three teams in the NFC West, who they lost to by four (Cardinals), two (Rams) and seven (49ers) on the road in their first seven games.
Enjoy the game, with kickoff set for 1:05 p.m. on CBS (channel 7 in the greater Seattle area) and radio coverage on 710 AM ESPN and KIRO Radio 97.3.
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