By Chris Cluff
The Seahawks’ No. 1 defense has handled with relative ease the potent offenses of the Packers and Panthers, but they have their biggest challenge yet with yet another “P” team as the No. 1 offense of the Patriots comes to Seattle this week.
The unit led by Tom Brady has always been a high-scoring group, but they have upped the ante this season — running a fast-paced attack that they seem to have perfected over the last couple of weeks.
“We really have a very difficult challenge here,” coach Pete Carroll told reporters per The News Tribune. “They are doing some really cool things on offense. Tom Brady is as good as you get. So it’s an exciting opportunity for us. I feel a little like Felix Baumgartner (the extreme skydiver) hanging on the edge of the capsule.”
The Patriots apparently have sought to use the same kind of tempo the Oregon Ducks utilize. In their 31-21 win over Denver last weekend, the Pats ran an astounding 90 plays — one every 24 seconds they had the ball — and had 35 first downs. Most of it was on the ground: 251 yards on 54 rushes.
The Seahawks’ defense, which has pretty much shut down every offense it has faced, is confronted with the challenge of dealing with a team that runs a play every 15 to 25 seconds.
“No-huddle offenses so often are talked about,” Carroll said, “but they’ve never been a factor to me until they go into this kind of time span where they snap plays every 15 to 17 seconds. They’ve been ahead of the curve. It’s been really hard on their opponents.”
Carroll said the Hawks, who like to substitute liberally on defense, are planning for limited personnel changes.
“We are allowed to substitute when they substitute, and we are allowed to get our guys on the field. We’ll see what that means,” he said. “It’s not as easy as that sounds. We understand how that works. We are planning accordingly.”
Linebacker K.J. Wright told MyNorthwest.com, “We know they will get two plays called in under 20 to 30 seconds. We have to go out there and make the calls and make sure our subs are ready.”
MILLER TIME, FINALLY
When Zach Miller caught a 27-yard pass against Arizona in the season opener, Seahawk fans everywhere jokingly intoned, “Hey, who’s our new tight end?”
Miller is actually in his second season with Seattle, but the joke referenced the fact that he was barely visible as a pass receiver last year. After producing over 60 catches twice as a Pro Bowl player for Oakland, he caught just 25 for the Hawks in 2011.
But the Hawks have let him loose from his blocking assignments a bit more this season, and he already has a dozen receptions. He came up with a couple of huge plays against Carolina: a 30-yard catch in the third quarter and a 23-yarder in the fourth that helped lead to the field goal that put the Seahawks up 16-10.
“Zach has been doing everything we have asked him,” Carroll said, per Seahawks.com. “And when we’ve gotten the ball to him, he’s done really well. He’s a big target. I just like to see him get the ball. It just helps us so much, and we just need more.”
He’ll get no argument from Seahawk fans.
MORE DOWN LINEMEN
It’s a new week, so it’s time for a new injury on the offensive line, obviously. This time it is center Max Unger, who is dealing with a hip problem. Carroll told reporters Unger should be fine by Sunday, but it is just the latest nick and bang for a unit that is trying hard to establish some continuity.
Last week, the Hawks started the same five from the previous week for the first time all season. They had used four different lineups in the first month. Right guard John Moffitt is still out with a knee injury, but it remains to be seen whether he would return anyway since Paul McQuistan is starting at right guard now that James Carpenter has returned to the lineup at left guard.
If Unger were to miss the game, Lemuel Jeanpierre would step in for his first start.
For more Local Football Bloggers and the latest Seahawks news, see CBS Sports Seattle.
Chris Cluff worked as a sports editor and writer for The Seattle Times for 11 years and has written two books on the Seattle Seahawks. Since leaving the Times, he has written about the Seahawks and Seattle sports for Bleacher Report and the blog he shares with a fellow sportswriter, outsidethepressbox.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com.