Behind Enemy Lines: Part II

Seattle Seahawks publisher Rob Rang answers five burning questions from Giants lead writer David Aitken look toward tomorrow's matchup.

David Aitken | TheGiantsBeat.com

A lot has been made of Seattle's apparent “Super Bowl hangover”… what do you attribute their recent struggles to? Are the struggles overblown?

Rob Rang |SeahawkFootball.com

As 5-3 and in second place in the contentious NFC West, the Seahawks remain very much in the playoff hunt despite a national perception that they’ve struggled. There is no question that the Seahawks haven’t been the dominant force that swept through the league a year ago but much of this can be attributed to injuries. Seattle has been plagued with injuries at nearly every position, with the majority of their starters along the offensive line and linebacker missing at least one game. This fact – much more than any locker room issues or fallout from the Percy Harvin trade – has been key to Seattle’s less-than-stellar start.

David Aitken | TheGiantsBeat.com

The Giants have been one of the worst teams in the league in preventing big pass plays. How do you expect the Seahawks to exploit this?

Rob Rang |SeahawkFootball.com

If Seattle feels they can protect Russell Wilson against New York’s pass rush, they’ll likely challenge New York deep with rookie wideout Paul Richardson, a speedster who hasn’t yet broken free for his first NFL touchdown. Tight end Luke Willson has the speed to challenge down the seam, as well. Wilson is an accurate deep ball passer but the team lost their most reliable vertical threat from a year ago when Golden Tate signed with the Detroit Lions and the Seahawks generally prefer short and intermediate passing to complement their power running rather than riskier downfield throws.

David Aitken | TheGiantsBeat.com

Seattle boasted the league’s best pass defense last year in essentially any way you wanted to measure it, but have taken a bit of a step back this season(from 1st to 12th according to Football Outsiders). What would you put that down to? Is there a particular weakness here the Giants can go after?

Rob Rang |SeahawkFootball.com

There are two significant factors that explain Seattle’s drop in pass defense this year – a disappointing pass rush and injuries to cornerback Byron Maxwell and strong safety Kam Chancellor.

Starting defensive linemen Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett continue to be Seattle’s best pass rushers, but they’re received little help. Not surprisingly, Seattle’s pass rush has been better at home where the boisterous 12th Man crowd helps their pass rushers get a jump.

Opponents continue to ignore Richard Sherman’s side of the field most of the time and while it took him until last week’s win over the Oakland Raiders to record his first interception of the season, he’s been Seattle’s best player, thus far. Free safety Earl Thomas possesses extraordinary range, which keeps quarterbacks from challenging with deep balls. Seattle has been vulnerable on the other side, however, as youngsters Tharold Simon and Marcus Burley are not as physical or agile as Maxwell.

David Aitken | TheGiantsBeat.com

Russell Wilson presently is actually averaging more yards per rush than passing attempt. Is Wilson really more a threat on the ground at the moment? What has led to Seattle’s passing game being less effective this year?

Rob Rang |SeahawkFootball.com

While Wilson can make every NFL throw, Seattle’s offense is at its best when feeding the Beast, Marshawn Lynch. Opponents know it and often put extra defenders in the box to stop him, creating one-on-one opportunities for Wilson to exploit downfield. Seattle’s receivers haven’t done as good a job of making defenders miss after the catch and Wilson hasn’t had much time to attack on deeper routes due to injuries along the offensive line, including to Pro Bowl Russell Okung (left tackle) and Max Unger (center).

Wilson, himself, deserves some of the blame. He hasn’t been as accurate in 2014, missing on a handful of wide open targets this season, including a few would-be touchdowns. While his passing hasn’t been as crisp, Wilson is very elusive, frequently buying time while keeping his eyes downfield to take advantage of defenders leaving their coverage responsibilities to keep him from scrambling. When defenders remain disciplined in their coverage, Wilson has the acceleration to pick up first downs. While a threat to run on virtually every play, Wilson slides and runs out of bounds as well as any quarterback in the league, rarely taking a direct shot.

David Aitken | TheGiantsBeat.com

Can this Seattle team repeat? How do you gauge their Super Bowl chances?

Rob Rang |SeahawkFootball.com

The Seahawks appear to be getting healthy and with Wilson, Lynch and their ball-hawking defense, they remain one of the NFL’s best teams. That said, the Giants kick off a wicked second-half slate of games that includes road trips to Kansas City, Philadelphia and four games over a five-week span against division rival Arizona and San Francisco. If Seattle were to qualify for the title game again, it would certainly prove the old football adage true that repeating as Super Bowl champions is even more difficult than winning it the first time.


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