By Chris Cluff
Pete Carroll and Jim Schwartz — coaches of the two teams that will be facing off in Detroit on Sunday — have a couple of things in common.
First, they both have simmering feuds with San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh. And second, both coach physical defenses that have been accused of crossing the line.
On Sunday, all eyes will be on Carroll’s big, bad secondary and Schwartz’s talented and sometimes brutal defensive line.
Both teams have responded to claims that their defensive play is dirty.
After the 49ers beat the Hawks last Thursday, Harbaugh, who has a longstanding spat with Carroll from their college days, told reporters he was going to ask the league to look at the hands-on play of the Seattle secondary.
“We’ll take that up with the officials in New York, and get their view of it,” Harbaugh told Bay Area reporters last weekend. “I think that’s just an important thing to address. I mean, what is this all being defined as? Is it physical play? Is it within the rules? We have to ask that question. We have to know what the interpretation is.”
Most think Harbaugh is using gamesmanship to get league officials to focus on the Seahawks. Carroll thinks it is all a bunch of nonsense.
“I just looked at the film. I heard about the comments and wanted to see what was the point, and I thought it was a very normal game,” Carroll told Seattle reporters Monday. “I thought our guys played really hard and tough, and they did too, and that was it. I don’t know what the reference was about. I just hope it doesn’t go any farther, like to the league. There is no need for it to.”
The Lions and their superstar wide receiver, Calvin Johnson, are about to find out how aggressive the Hawks are. Cornerback Brandon Browner, who at 6-feet-4 is one of the few corners in the league who can see almost eye-to-eye with the Johnson, hinted that the 6-5 receiver known as “Megatron” can expect the same kind of treatment he got Monday from Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman, who is 6-2.
“He poses a big challenge for us, but it’s a challenge we’re looking forward to,” Browner told KJR 950 AM. “He’s one of the receivers we’ve been looking forward to playing all year long, so he’s got my full attention this week.
“I think the Bears did a good job with him,” Browner added. “They matched him up with Charles Tillman, and Charles Tillman is a big guy pretty much like me and Ricky Sherman (6-3), and he played him pretty aggressive.”
Tillman and the Bears held Johnson to a season-low three catches for 34 yards.
“I think the game plan the Bears played against him…was pretty good. He didn’t do too much in the game,” Browner said. “I think Charles Tillman set up a blueprint. He had a very good game.”
Browner said the Seahawks figure to take the same approach.
On the other side, the Lions — particularly Ndamukong Suh — have been known to manhandle quarterbacks. Suh has crossed the line several times over the last couple of years and been fined heftily for it. He pulled a WWE body slam on Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler on Monday that was probably a bit more physical than he needed to be. It was within the rules but still raised more questions about whether he plays too rough.
“I’ve been fined many times,” he told reporters, per the TNT. “I understand where I’ve been wrong in some situations and I’ve had no clue in other situations. I just continue to play the game as hard as I can. I don’t worry about the understanding of other people.
“The game of football is tough. It’s a very aggressive physical game. Things happen. You can’t always be in control.”
ANOTHER RECEIVER DROPS
Seattle’s skill players had a rough time in San Francisco, dropping five passes. Doug Baldwin was not one of the culprits, but he will drop out of the lineup indefinitely with a high ankle sprain.
It’s a tough blow for Baldwin, who missed most of the preseason with a hamstring injury, broke two teeth against Arizona and missed the Green Bay game with a bad shoulder. He was just starting to play like he did last season, when he was the team’s best receiver.
His absence means Charly Martin probably will be active for just the third time this season and could be used along with Golden Tate as the slot receiver.
Carroll said Braylon Edwards is competing with Tate for the starting split end position. Tate dropped two balls against San Francisco, and Edwards has re-emerged the last two games after hardly being used since the opener.
“We know that Braylon is playing well and working hard at it,” Carroll said, per the TNT. “We want to make him available, so the competition is always on. And I expect both of those guys to play.”
Meanwhile, Sidney Rice admitted he was frustrated against the 49ers, especially when Russell Wilson threw to Edwards in triple coverage and had the pass intercepted.
“I was a little upset because you can’t win ballgames turning the ball over to a team like the 49ers — a real solid defense,” Rice said. “You’ve got to protect the ball. And that’s our main focus around here.”
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.