Seattle's Sack Attack is Back!

The most direct statistical correlation between what the Seattle Seahawks are able to accomplish on the field and their won-loss record can be found in their ability to pressure the quarterback.

In the six games they have won, the Seahawks have sacked the quarterback 28 times. In the four games they have lost, they have totaled just three sacks.

That they are second in the league in sacks, behind the New York Giants, is one thing. That there is such a glaring disparity in their success when they are able to record sacks is undeniable, something they hope to be able to accomplish against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday. "It means a lot," Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said. "Any time you can get their quarterback thinking a little bit about your pass rush, it is to your advantage."

Julian Peterson leads the team in sacks with eight. Darryl Tapp has 5.5. And Patrick Kerney, after his three-sack performance last week, has 7.5.

Holmgren said pressuring the quarterback makes such a significant difference because the team's secondary, while talented, does not have the tight cover men like Champ Bailey. Instead, the defensive backs work together as a unit and rely on the front seven or eight to take the pressure off them.

"Some teams have the luxury, I think, of just saying, 'OK, we'll play a coverage with eight guys, seven guys, and we'll let these guys go,' " Holmgren said. "And you can still create some pressure with that. I think the New York Giants are a pretty good example of that. I think with their two defensive ends, they can do that without a great amount of blitzing. And teams over the years, you could point to some guys that could do that. I'm not sure we can do that right now. I'm not taking anything away from our guys, they're high-effort guys and they get home sometimes. But we're better, we are better if we can mix and match just a little bit."

Holmgren said the defense is much better if the offense can hold the ball because Seattle's defense is so undersized, relying on speed. If an offense, such as Pittsburgh's, is able to sustain long drives, it allows the offensive linemen to wear down the defensive linemen and take away their effectiveness. A perfect example of the effect of Seattle's pass rush came last week against the Chicago Bears. The Seahawks had no sacks of Rex Grossman in the first half, when the Bears took an early 10-0 lead and the halftime score was tied at 17.

In the second half, however, the Seahawks got five sacks -- one that included a forced fumble by Kerney -- and the Seahawks limited the Bears to two second-half field goals and captured the win.
The Seahawks got seven sacks against the Rams the first time they played, a 33-6 victory. They face an even unhealthier Rams offensive line this week; the unit was forced to sign 36-year-old Todd Steussie this week and likely will start him.

"I think when our guys are healthy, when we've got them all, they are pretty active guys," Holmgren said. "They are not the biggest guys in the world, but they are pretty active. So Kerney and Tapp should be around and maybe help other guys get sacks. Rocky Bernard, when he's healthy, is a good inside pass rusher. And then our linebackers, as a group when we send them, they can pose problems. That's how we have to play the game. Just to line up with four guys and do that, that hasn't worked real well for us."

SERIES HISTORY: 19th meeting. Series tied, 9-9. The Seahawks have won the past five, including a 33-6 victory on Oct. 21.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The last time the teams played, Nate Burleson returned a kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown, his first career kickoff return for a score. It led to him earning NFC Special Teams Player of the Week. He has since returned a punt 94 yards for a score.

--DE Darryl Tapp tied a club record with four sacks the last time the teams met.

--Rams RB Steven Jackson attended Oregon State, and picked the Beavers to upset the Oregon Ducks in this week's Civil War game. Familiar with the Northwest, he also picked Washington to defeat Washington Sate in the Apple Cup.

--Rookie S C.J. Wallace attended Washington while fifth-year CB Marcus Trufant went to Washington State. They have a friendly wager on the rivalry game this week.

--PK Josh Brown had a stellar tackle of Bears return man Devin Hester on Sunday. Mike Holmgren said he was going to tell Brown not to do that any more. On Wednesday, Holmgren still had not spoken with Brown. "He's so excited about the little dance he did after the deal," Holmgren said. "I don't want to burst his bubble quite yet. But I will talk to him this week. He's kind of waiting for me to talk to him. I'm just going to let him enjoy the notoriety and then we'll talk."

--QB Matt Hasselbeck is 87-131 in his last three games, the best three-game stretch of his career.

BY THE NUMBERS: 13 -- Number of times the Seahawks operated from the shotgun last week, 30 percent of their plays.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think he can handle it; he and I have talked about how to do that. He has to stay very focused and he's working real hard on those things. Would you like him to practice? Certainly. He's played enough to be able to play in the game, I think." -- Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren, on Matt Hasselbeck not practicing this week.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
With Shaun Alexander set to miss his third consecutive game, Maurice Morris will again start at running back, where he has compiled 87 yards each of the last two weeks. It also allows coach Mike Holmgren to game plan for the passing game without having to disguise play-calls because Morris is so capable catching passes out of the backfield. WR D.J. Hackett did not practice on Wednesday because he was experiencing swelling his knee but he is expected to start again opposite Deion Branch at flanker. Hackett has two straight 100-yard games.

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--RB Shaun Alexander did not practice Wednesday because of a sprained left knee and is not expected to play Sunday.

--OT Walter Jones did not practice so he could rest his sore shoulder but will play Sunday.

--OG Chris Gray did not practice on Wednesday because of what the club called a "team decision." Gray is expected to play.

--DT Rocky Bernard did not practice so he could rest a sore groin but is expected to play Sunday.

--WR D.J. Hackett did not practice because he had swelling on his knee but should play on Sunday.

--QB Matt Hasselbeck did not practice on Wednesday because of sore ribs but will play on Sunday.

--LB Will Herring had limited participation in Wednesday's practice after suffering a hamstring injury several weeks ago and is questionable for Sunday.

GAME PLAN: The Seahawks once again will employ their pass-first offense against the Rams, but it may be somewhat hindered because QB Matt Hasselbeck is not going to practice all week, perhaps affecting his timing with his receivers. More important, the front seven must stop RB Steven Jackson and get pressure on QB Marc Bulger, who the Seahawks sacked seven times in the first meeting. The Rams' offensive line is in shambles so Seattle must find a way to take advantage of that shortcoming.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Seahawks DE Patrick Kerney, who had a career-high three sacks last week, vs. Rams OL Todd Steussie, who was signed this week. It is unclear where exactly Steussie will play but Kerney plays inside and out and likely will be matched up with the 36-year-old at some point.

Seahawks defensive line vs. Rams RB Steven Jackson, who has averaged 93 yards a game over the last few weeks. If the line can stop Jackson as it did last week against Cedric Benson and Adrian Peterson, it allows them to go full throttle after Marc Bulger.

INJURY IMPACT: Hasselbeck will not practice all week because of sore ribs, which could be significant because he is such an instrumental part of the Seahawks' up-tempo offense and he will not have practiced with his receivers since the last game. Also, it makes him more vulnerable to the pass rush, which certainly will be targeting his right side.


SeahawkFootball.com Top Stories