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Decline Continues For Seattle Seahawks’ Defense

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By Chris Cluff

Much hand-wringing is occurring over the reportedly pending suspensions of Seattle’s Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman.  Many people think losing the starting cornerbacks for four games would scuttle any chances the Seahawks have of making the playoffs.  The truth is the defense has not been very good for about seven weeks now.

CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 07: Brandon LaFell #11 of the Carolina Panthers makes a leaping first down catch against defender Brandon Browner #39 of the Seattle Seahawks during play at Bank of America Stadium on October 7, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Credit, Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

 

The first chink in the armor of what seemingly had been a plate-mail solid defense was seen early in the season.  After getting eight sacks against Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the first half of the Monday night game in Week Three, Rodgers came out in the second half and picked apart the defense using quick passes.

It’s a strategy several teams used with success. Three weeks later, New England’s Tom Brady threw for 395 yards and two touchdowns. A couple of weeks after that, Matthew Stafford threw for 352 yards and three scores as he rallied Detroit to a late win. Sherman and Browner were both beaten badly in that game.

Of course, the defense’s failures have not been limited purely to the passing game. The unit got run over by San Francisco’s Frank Gore (131 yards on 16 carries) and Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson (182 on 17 rushes).  And then came Miami, which ran for 189 yards using Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas.

Worst of all, the once formidable Seattle defense allowed rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill to march the Dolphins on drives of 80, 82 and 68 yards for 17 fourth-quarter points, including the winning field goal with no time left. It was a near carbon copy of the Detroit loss.

This team was built on a power running game and a stout defense, and those facets were supposed to nurse rookie quarterback Russell Wilson along. But Wilson has been the one consistently bright star over the last four weeks, while the running game has been inconsistent and the defense has stumbled badly at times.  Since a 4-2 start, the Hawks have lost three of the last five, and the defense has been largely to blame in two of them.

Gus Bradley’s zone scheme has been a disaster all season. The front seven has not gotten any consistent pressure. The linebackers have given up big running plays and passing plays. The secondary has been burned for winning drives twice.  Even after all of those failings, the Hawks are still ranked fifth overall in defense. But it sure doesn’t seem like a top-five unit.

If the Hawks let the Dolphins’ rookie QB pick them apart and Miami’s struggling running game chew them up, how are they going to stop Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears this weekend? Or Buffalo in two weeks? Or the 49ers after that?  Coach Pete Carroll needs to get his defense fixed pronto if the Hawks are going to make a push into the playoffs.

The Hawks need to win at least three more games to have a chance at the postseason, but if the defense does not start helping Wilson out, they won’t get those three wins.  A .500 season would be a minor failure for a team whose floor seemed to be nine wins when the season started. And the most surprising thing would be the reason for the failure: the defense.

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.

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.

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