RENTON — The lesson came swiftly in the first half against Houston.
To that point in the season, Seattle’s secondary had yet to be pushed. But in the first half against Houston, the Legion of Boom got blitzed. The Texans hung 20 points on Seattle before halftime, and the secondary leaked an unusual number of big plays.
It was a hard reminder heading into Sunday’s game against Indianapolis of what can happen if focus slips, even for a group so talented.
“If we lock in and guys don’t make stuff up, we’re hard to beat,” safety Earl Thomas said. “But when we’re doing other stuff, we look average.”
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So what happened? They were mistakes in detail — trying to do too much during plays, not sticking to assignments — but ones that proved costly.
“When you’re talking about the first half, I can point to two mistakes,” Thomas said. “One was mine on the seam ball for the touchdown.”
He was referring to a play where he broke from the middle of the field to his right, gambling that Houston quarterback Matt Schaub was throwing that direction to Andre Johnson. Instead, Schaub floated a touchdown pass behind linebacker Malcolm Smith the other way.
“And then one was with Sherm,” Thomas said, talking about cornerback Richard Sherman. “We play press coverage and he bailed out of there, thinking he saw something and that it was going to be a fade ball, but instead Andre Johnson cut inside for a big catch.”
Thomas recalled the two plays to highlight a larger theme: The group lacked discipline. Sherman said last week the secondary wanted to hold opponents to 100 passing yards, but this wasn’t that unit.
In the first half against Houston, the Seahawks allowed 17 plays of 10 yards or more. In their first three games combined they allowed 26 such plays.
In fact, the Seahawks gave up only seven plays of more than 10 yards against San Francisco. They gave up nine in the first quarter to Houston. The Texans passed for 226 first-half yards, the second-most passing yards the Seahawks had surrendered in a game this season.
Not all those plays were the secondary’s fault, but in their eyes there’s no worse crime than giving up a big play. As defensive backs coach Kris Richard put it: “That’s our sole focus. That’s one of the axioms of our group.
“All of the explosive plays they were able to get were because we made mistakes. We allowed them to. Let’s have them beat us full strength, doing what we’re supposed to do. Then you tip your hat. But when they’re able to get us because we’re not in the right spot? Shame on us.”
Cornerback Brandon Browner said the Seahawks played more man-to-man after halftime, but the group claims the changes were minimal. It was about playing with basic discipline — what Richard called “day-one stuff.”
Whenever the Texans made a catch in the first half, the receiver or tight end was usually open. In the second half, even their catches were mostly contested.
Seattle shut out Houston after halftime and allowed only eight plays of 10 or more yards in the second half and overtime. It also greatly helped that the Seahawks’ pass rush became far more active after halftime.
“We needed that challenge,” safety Kam Chancellor said. “You need that adversity early in the season so you know how to handle it and take care of it when it happens. That’s what happened that game.”
Jayson Jenks: 206-464-8277 or firstname.lastname@example.org