Here is what to watch Sunday when the Seahawks take on the Chicago Bears at CenturyLink Field.
Here is our weekly look at what to watch as the Seahawks host the Bears Sunday at CenturyLink Field from beat reporters Jayson Jenks and Bob Condotta.
First, from Jenks:
1, How will the defense respond? This isn’t just about the expected return of safety Kam Chancellor. This is about the defense as a whole and the problems that have plagued that group this season. As much as their defense has defined the Seahawks the last two years, what’s always been just as important to me is how they’ve responded as a unit when they haven’t played well. The Seahawks have played poorly defensively before; in fact, it’s happened at times in each of the last two seasons, although maybe not quite to the level of this year. But each time they’ve been able to right themselves and return to form. They’ve had problems with tackling and communication breakdowns and giving up late leads, and all of those have plagued them in the first two games of this season. They’ll get a chance to correct themselves against a Bears team that isn’t very good, but nonetheless, the ability to find answers has been one of the great hallmarks defensively the last few years.
2, How much will they use Russell Wilson’s legs? The Seahawks haven’t exactly been shy about running Wilson in games; he did rush for more than 800 yards a year ago. But there’s always been this great give and take to it: He is often at his best and most dangerous when he is running, but at the same time running him more can put him in danger. The Seahawks clearly turned to Wilson’s legs as an antidote to their offensive problems in the second half against Green Bay last week, and while they don’t want to rely on that solution all the time, it’s possible that they may have to turn to it more. The offensive line hasn’t been able to open up running lanes for Marshawn Lynch through two games, and if that doesn’t get better, the best way to soften up defenses might be with Wilson’s legs similar to the Green Bay game.
3, Will the aesthetics start to look familiar again? By that I mean, will the Seahawks start looking and playing like the team we’ve come to expect over the last few seasons? Will they celebrate big plays with each other with enthusiasm? Will they be energetic on the sideline? Will defensive players get pumped for the offense’s success? Will you see tons of defenders around the ball each time a receiver or running back touches it? These are all things that have mattered to the Seahawks in the last two seasons, and it’s something that former players, coaches and general managers have all talked about: The Seahawks have looked like a team that wanted to play for each other, and that’s impossible to fake. The Seahawks had to find their way back to that point last season, but when they did, it coincided with their best play of the season. They still are searching for themselves right now, which isn’t totally unexpected. I could be off base here, but I think the way it looks is just as important to watch as anything in the stat sheet.
And from Condotta:
1, Will Kam Chancellor make all the difference? Okay, so the Bears are pretty much the perfect spot for Chancellor to make his return and make it appears as if all is right in the Seahawks’ world again. But as Jayson wrote above, it may be as much about how it looks — is there really Boom back in the Seattle secondary? — as the numbers on the page at the end of the game. How the game goes may dictate how much Chancellor plays, and coach Pete Carroll made an interesting comment Friday about using technology to help them figure out how best to handle Chancellor as he returns. “We do a lot of stuff to monitor our guy’s workload, and the accumulation of information is what really gives us good accuracy and ability to predict what’s up,” Carroll said.”Since he’s only been here a week, we don’t have a lot to go on, but we can compare to stuff we’ve had from last year and all that. So that’s what we do. We do a very in depth analysis of our guys and how they’re taking to the work, and we operate with that information and adjust accordingly.”
2, What about the Seahawks’ running game? Marshawn Lynch is officially listed as questionable for Sunday’s game. Players listed as questionable more often than not end up playing and Lynch did practice on Thursday on a limited basis, indicating the calf injury is manageable enough. One thing that can’t be blamed on the Chancellor holdout is the way the Seattle running game has not looked like its old self so far. As Jayson mentioned, the Seahawks have gotten yards out of Russell Wilson.But take out Wilson’s 109 yards on 18 carries and Seattle has 134 on 39 — an average of 3.4 per attempt. That includes Lynch’s 114 on 33, or 3.5 per carry. It was tempting to blame the St. Louis defense after the first week until you saw the Rams get blistered by Washington. And Green Bay ranks 31st in the NFL in run defense at 5.3 after playing the Bears and Seahawks. Chicago’s front four isn’t real heralded but has some decent players and figures to be a tough matchup for Seattle’s still-evolving offensive line. It will be even more intriguing if Lynch is truly limited, with the carries then falling to Fred Jackson and Thomas Rawls.
3, Getting Jimmy Graham more involved. Graham and his usage already figured to become one of the hottest weekly topics involving the Seahawks this season. The Green Bay game and resulting stories have only ratcheted up the attention on all things Graham. Seattle coaches insisted during the week there could have been plenty more opportunities against Green Bay but that they just didn’t happen. Expect the Seahawks to force the issue early and get Graham going against the Bears. While everyone also denied that Graham was frustrated about his role in the off-season, a few catches, and a touchdown or two, would obviously help quiet all the chatter. The Bears have been terrible against the pass so far, ranking last in the NFL in passer rating allowed at 128 and near the bottom in completion percentage allowed at 74.5. That’s come playing against Aaron Rodgers and Carson Palmer. But there should be opportunities for the Seahawks in the passing game Sunday.