By Chris Cluff
“Nice to see you again.”
It seems like the Seattle Seahawks have some sort of notable reunion game just about every week these days, and they have fared quite well in them.
Earlier in the season, Seattle beat the Green Bay Packers, the former team of Matt Flynn, John Schneider, et al. Then they beat the New England Patriots, where Pete Carroll once coached and Deion Branch played after being traded back from Seattle last year. Later, Seattle lost to the Detroit Lions, which had four former Hawks. But then Seattle beat both the Minnesota Vikings (Darrell Bevell, Sidney Rice) and the New York Jets (Carroll, Leon Washington) before the bye.
The game in Miami on Sunday features several connections between the Seahawks and Dolphins: the quarterbacks, Carroll and Reggie Bush, plus former CFL stars-turned-NFL Pro Bowl players Cameron Wake and Brandon Browner.
The most intriguing backstory is the one involving Flynn and Ryan Tannehill. As written earlier this week, Flynn had a chance to sign with Miami instead of Seattle in March, but chose the Hawks and ended up backing up rookie Russell Wilson. The big question for the Hawks: Would they have drafted Tannehill with the 12th pick if the Dolphins had not picked him eighth overall?
“(GM John Schneider) had a real high grade on Ryan,” Carroll told reporters, per The News Tribune. “He was very excited about him because he was such a good athlete. He ran the ball well; he had been a receiver. He has a terrific makeup for the position; he’s a smart kid with a real natural throwing motion. We really thought he was a very, very good prospect.”
But, after Flynn chose Seattle over Miami’s reported lowball offer, the Dolphins took Tannehill. And then the Hawks used a third-round pick on Wilson, who surprisingly beat out Flynn for the starting gig and has generally has outplayed every rookie QB except Robert Griffin III. Wilson certainly has been better than Tannehill, who has endured the typical rookie QB struggles.
Since helping the Dolphins to a 4-3 start, with two of the losses in overtime, Tannehill has struggled. The offense has scored one touchdown in the last 10 quarters, and Tannehill has thrown five interceptions over the last two games.
“It’s really frustrating,” Tannehill told reporters, “especially with some of the success we had earlier in the year.”
Tannehill certainly has not gotten much help. His best receiver is Brian Hartline, who leads the team with 53 catches for 790 yards and one score.
The running game — spearheaded by Bush, Carroll’s former Heisman winner at USC — has fizzled. Bush was solid in the first month, including a monstrous 172-yard rushing day against Oakland in Week Two, but the Dolphins have not surpassed 100 ground yards since September, and Bush has averaged just 3.0 yards per carry over the last six games. Carroll, who beat Bush and the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs two years ago, still had good things to say about the premier player from the USC glory days.
“He looks like a more mature runner now,” Carroll told reporters. “He’s a dynamic football player who can score from anywhere.” He just hasn’t done it recently, and it’s hard to see him doing it against Seattle’s third-ranked defense.
Meanwhile, Marshawn Lynch and the Hawks could be in line for a nice day against a once-stout Miami defense that has suddenly been gashed. After surrendering less than 84 yards on average in the first eight games, the Dolphins have given up 148.5 over the last two against Tennessee and Buffalo.
The Dolphins certainly have a pass rush, though, thanks to Wake and his 9.5 sacks. The Dolphins signed Wake over Browner in 2009, and Browner joined Carroll’s Seahawks the next year. Carroll is mindful of Wake and the Dolphins, whose 27 sacks are one fewer than the Seahawks have.
“They pressure more than anybody we’ve played,” Carroll told reporters, per the TNT. “We need to protect this game. That’s the most important thing.”
If the Hawks can run it as well as they have the last couple of weeks, it will take the pressure off Wilson, and the Hawks might improve to 5-1 in “nice to see you again” games.
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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.