The Seahawks have focused on getting bigger on the defensive line, and the result has been better results against the run.
To understand Seattle’s defensive success in Chicago, you must go back to the beginning.
The first play from scrimmage when Chicago’s Jay Cutler handed off to Matt Forte, who was tackled at the line of scrimmage for no gain. It was a sign of things to come, an indicator for Chicago’s continuing inability to get its offense up and running.
The Bears rushed the ball seven times in the first quarter. Four of those carries resulted in gains of 2 yards or less, prompting Chicago to abandon any intention of running. The Bears handed the ball off to a running back only once in the second quarter, just twice in the third.
“It sets the biggest tone for the whole game,” defensive tackle Colin Cole said. “Not just the defense. Getting after them early, letting them know that we’re ranked up there on rush defense for a reason. Yeah, it set the tone.”
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That’s the beginning of the explanation for how Seattle went to Chicago and bullied the Bears, and while no one is going to confuse this year’s edition with the Monsters of the Midway, Chicago did rush for 218 yards the week before at Carolina.
The Bears managed just 61 yards against Seattle, 24 of which came on a fourth-and-two run by Chester Taylor in the fourth quarter.
“The defense really played great football,” coach Pete Carroll said. “We stopped their running game with forgiveness on the one run.”
Consider the defense absolved.
Seattle’s rush defense has been two years in the making, the product of a determined effort to get bigger. Cole and Kentwan Balmer were added. Red Bryant, who was big for a defensive tackle his first two seasons with the Seahawks was moved to defensive end, where he is positively huge.
Seattle still plays in a 4-3 defensive formation, but only because Chris Clemons lines up with his hand down. In terms of principles, the defense operates more like a 3-4 with three defensive linemen asked to play stout, hold the point of attack and monitor two gaps to choke off rushing lanes as opposed to focusing on getting upfield. The idea is to keep the linebackers clean, allowing them to sweep up any mess.
The Seahawks’ rushing defense showed improvement last season when Frank Gore and Chris Johnson were the only two opponents to surpass 100 yards rushing in a game against the Seahawks.
The Seahawks allowed 4.2 yards per rush in 2009, which ranked a relatively mediocre No. 13 in the NFL.
Seattle was in the middle of the league in rushing yards allowed per game.
That’s better than should be expected given how frequently the Seahawks trailed. But that was also because Seattle’s pass defense was so porous teams opted to throw the ball.
Seattle is currently allowing 2.9 yards per rush, second-lowest in the league. Only the Pittsburgh Steelers have allowed fewer rushing yards this season. So, while the Seahawks aren’t running away with their division, they’re not allowing teams to run on them.
• Seattle signed LB/DE Chris McCoy to its practice squad, releasing James Wyche to make room on the eight-man unit.
Danny O’Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org