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Can the Seahawks' defense reestablish itself?

By Danny O'Neil

The Seahawks lost a game, not their swagger.

They were beaten in Indianapolis, but anyone who wondered whether that loss bruised the team's confidence should listen to safety Earl Thomas for a minute or two.

"If we're on the same page as far as communication and we don't give 'em anything, we should win every game we play," Thomas said.

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Seattle's defense made some uncharacteristic mistakes last week, including allowing a 73-yard touchdown pass. (AP)
Humble? Hardly. Hungry? No doubt, and when the Seahawks take the field against Tennessee on Sunday, they will have a chance to answer one overriding question:

What was that last week in Indianapolis?

Because that did not look like the defense that has come to be expected of Seattle. Not the 34 points the Colts scored, most allowed by the Seahawks in any game since October 2011. Not the 73-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, the longest completion surrendered by Seattle in six years. And certainly not the fact that Seattle didn't force one punt over the final three quarters of that come-from-ahead loss.

The outcome wasn't really all that surprising. Not only were the Seahawks on the road against a team that won 11 games last season, they were without three starting offensive linemen and their top tight end.

Yet despite Seattle missing all that beef up front, the team still jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter and wound up with 28 points. That they still lost came down to that defense that gave up the fewest points in the league last year, but last week allowed the Colts to score on five of their last six drives.

This week's game will determine whether that is filed as the kind of uncharacteristic performance that is bound to crop up in a four-month season or whether it was the first symptom of deeper problems.

Even great teams are known to drop a stinker or two in a season. Great teams, however, do not do it twice in a row, and the Seahawks return home to face a Tennessee team that is missing its starting quarterback.

710 ESPN Seattle hosts weigh in on Seattle's Week 6 matchup against Tennessee, finishing the sentence, "The Seahawks will win if ... "
Brock Huard: They outrush the Titans.
Dave Wyman: They commit zero turnovers.
Jim Moore: Marshawn Lynch rushes for more than 100 yards and Golden Tate returns a punt for a touchdown.
Michael Grey: They take the field.
Danny O'Neil: They force two turnovers.
Dave Grosby: They finish with fewer turnovers and penalties than the Titans.
Bob Stelton: They shut down Tennessee's running game and force quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to beat them.
Make no mistake: This defense wants to move on.

"You can't really dwell on it or be mad because it's over with," safety Kam Chancellor said. "It's just a lesson that we learn from, and we want to get better. The mistakes we made, we try to eliminate them and not let them happen again."

The Titans are no pushover. They are 3-2 and have committed a league-low three turnovers. They're also starting a backup quarterback with Ryan Fitzpatrick filling in for Jake Locker, who's out with a strained hip, and running back Chris Johnson isn't the 2,000-yard rushing threat he was a few years back.

Meanwhile, the Seahawks are facing a new situation, coming back the week after a loss. They haven't had to do this in a while. Not in September when Seattle got off to the best start in franchise history, and not last December when the Seahawks won their final five games of the regular season.

But last week's loss – the team's first regular-season defeat since Nov. 25 of last year – certainly has the defense's attention.

"It's definitely something that we can grow from," cornerback Richard Sherman said, "something that we're going to use as motivation to keep us on our toes. You always need games like that to get you on your toes, to get you back on your p's and q's and I think it's going to be a fun game this weekend."

The Seahawks are still missing two starting offensive tackles and tight end Zach Miller is unlikely to play, so Seattle's offense can't be expected to do all the heavy lifting in this game. Especially not when you consider the Titans are known for the aggressiveness of a defense that is fifth in the league with 16 sacks and ranks in the top 10 in both fewest yards and fewest points allowed.

This is a game for the defense to reestablish itself. To show that last week was not an omen or a sign of things to come, but simply an off week against a good opponent.

Seattle is not facing a crisis – at least not yet – but there is one overriding question about this week's game: Will the Seahawks get back to playing the kind of defense that's expected of them?

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