Jets vs. Seahawks: 10 Keys to the Game for Seattle
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The last time the Jets played in Seattle, Mike Holmgren was taking his final bow in his last home game as head coach; Brett Favre was the Jets quarterback, and an undersized passer by the name of Seneca Wallace was at the controls for the 'Hawks back in 2008.
Funny how small the world is sometimes, especially when you consider the fact that, for the second time this season, Carroll will be facing off against a team he once coached.
A lot has changed since Carroll got his first head-coaching gig back in 1994 with the Jets, but he's still got a lot of energy and remains a firm believer in building around a solid defense.
This Sunday's matchup is one that the 'Hawks should be able to win based on that foundation and their power running game. But what other factors should be considered?
Here are 10 keys the Seahawks need to keep in mind for their game against the Jets.
Save the Drama
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Just about every week, players and coaches alike around the NFL are asked to share their thoughts and opinions on their upcoming opponents. However, in recent years, the Jets have taken this to another level with Rex Ryan in charge, as The Seattle Times' Larry Stone described in detail earlier this week.
Love him or hate him, Ryan certainly leaves an impression, and through the course of time, he has surrounded himself with players capable of following suit, which is all well and good when you're winning games.
However, these aren't the same Jets from a few years ago, and instead of jawing with opponents, they're just as likely to be fighting with themselves over the direction of the team.
You know things are bad when Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath is openly criticizing the team's choice in quarterback and, by extension, the front office:
“We can go right to the Tebow thing. I mean, come on,” Namath said. “If you’re bringing him in to play, where’s he been? Are you bringing him (in) to make other people practice longer? Are you bringing him in trying to get media headlines?”
What does this have to do with the Seahawks?
Absolutely nothing, which is exactly what the 'Hawks should say prior to Sunday. Let the Jets deal with their own drama and don't provide them any blackboard fodder to work with.
I can imagine there might be some temptation for the younger Seahawks to start a "conversation" with the Jets, but the best course of action is to keep above the fray and simply play the game.
Establish the Pass Rush
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Come Sunday, the 'Hawks need to focus on what matters to win. And the first order of business is to get the pass rush in working order.
Against Minnesota last week, the front line did a solid job in sacking Christian Ponder four times while letting him only throw for 63 yards on the day. Yet when it came to the front line, only rookies Bruce Irvin and Greg Scruggs managed to log a sack-against on the day.
It might seem like a small detail, but Chris Clemons and Brandon Mebane need to get back in the mix here, especially if Jason Jones is ready to go on Sunday to help out as well.
This once-promising group of players has stepped back a bit in recent weeks, but we know they can do better. And going against the Jets should provide them with a decent chance to reestablish themselves.
Force Sanchez into Making Mistakes
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Let's cut to the chase.
Mark Sanchez is not in the same class of quarterbacks as Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or even Matthew Stafford, yet the Seahawks still need do everything in their power to pressure him to make poor decisions.
If the 'Hawks can get the likes of Bruce Irvin and Chris Clemons in the Jets backfield on a fairly frequent basis this Sunday, it should help considerably, as Sanchez has a rather uncanny ability to make mistakes that have plagued him throughout his career. In his last five games alone, he's thrown five interceptions and fumbled six times.
The 'Hawks should be more than capable of helping push that trend.
Even if Sanchez does manage to throw the ball, it's up to the 'Hawks secondary to pick up where the pass rush left off.
Don't Let Jeremy Kerley Beat You Underneath
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For those of you who think the Seahawks are depleted at wide receiver this season, take a look at the Jets roster.
With Santonio Holmes gone for the year, it would be tempting to completely dismiss the Jets pass-catchers, as the 'Hawks secondary should match up well against this group.
However, second-year man Jeremy Kerley is not somebody the 'Hawks can afford to ignore.
Kerley is having the kind of year Doug Baldwin did last year as an underrated slot receiver that will hurt you if you're not careful. In some ways, it's funny to hear Kerley almost downplay his abilities when interviewed by Sports Illustrated's Dennis Dillon a few weeks ago:
The talent (in the NFL) is so even, you've got to find something that separates you even a little bit, and you have to put major emphasis on that. I'm not really a down-the-field, stretch-you-out type of guy, so I make sure my short-yardage game is what I try to perfect. It's something I work on very hard.
Kerley has worked hard on that and could present some challenges underneath for the 'Hawks.
Beyond Kerley, the only other two pass-catchers worth keeping an eye on are rookie and potential deep-threat Stephen Hill and veteran tight end Dustin Keller.
Both have lost time to injuries this season, but Keller, in recent weeks, has looked good with 14 receptions the past two games.
It will be interesting to see who covers who on Sunday, but the potential absence of K.J. Wright at linebacker could be worth keeping an eye on.
Reestablish the Run Defense
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Can anyone tell me what happened last Sunday against the Vikings?
While I understand that Adrian Peterson is a pretty special player, that doesn't really excuse the fact that the 'Hawks let him run roughshod over them.
Before anyone could find their seats, Peterson was streaking towards the goal line before Brandon Browner caught him at the 1-yard line.
What was once a strength for the Seahawks has suddenly morphed into a potential problem. The team missed tackles and outran itself on certain plays against the Vikings as they ran for 243 yards on the day.
Sunday, Red Bryant and the boys need to reestablish themselves and get back some of the credibility they lost against Peterson and the Vikings.
First order of business is stuffing Jets running back Shonn Greene.
Stuff Shonn Greene
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Shonn Greene...if you're like me and made the mistake of taking him in your fantasy football league, then I'd imagine you too are sporting a sub-.500 record at this point in the season.
Similar to Mark Sanchez, Greene is not an elite player. At the same time, he is the Jets' best running back, and you could almost extend that argument to only running back.
Ideally, the 'Hawks front line should keep Greene in check, and if the offense can spot them a lead, it should then force Mark Sanchez to throw.
Nevertheless, if the Jets somehow manage to establish themselves and grab the lead at some point on Sunday, expect them to feed the ball to Greene to preserve whatever margin they've gained rather than take their chances in having Mark Sanchez throw.
If that should happen, it could spell trouble depending on how much time is left.
Use Marshawn Lynch Wisely
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So far, we've focused exclusively on the defensive side of the football for the Seahawks, and that's because I feel they have the most to prove on Sunday.
I never thought I'd be saying that this season, especially against an opponent as offensively challenged as the Jets. But in recent weeks, we've seen a bit of a shift in balance for the Seahawks. While the defense has regressed in a bit, the offense has quietly made significant strides.
With that said, shouldn't the 'Hawks run the football down the Jets throats?
Associated Press writer Noey Kupchan, in previewing the game, seems to think so:
Lynch could be in for a big day against a Jets defense surrendering 141.4 rushing yards per game to rank 29th in the NFL. The bruising back posted his fifth 100-yard effort of 2012 versus Minnesota with a season-high 124 yards and a TD. His 881 yards on the ground are second in the NFL to Adrian Peterson's 957.
While it's tempting to run "Beast" without mercy against the Jets lackluster run defense, I urge a bit of caution.
Marshawn Lynch is like a car that you don't want to put miles on. Understand that if the 'Hawks need to run Lynch in a tight game, that's fine, but if this game turns into a blowout, I'd like to see rookie Robert Turbin earn his keep for a few series before the final whistle.
Turbin remains a mystery to me. He's shown flashes at times, but he has yet to have the kind of game to turn heads. If the opportunity arises, I think it could be a win-win situation by giving Lynch some much-needed rest and seeing if Turbin is a legit substitute.
Let Russell Wilson Continue to Throw
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Assuming the 'Hawks can run the football on Sunday, does this mean that Russell Wilson will also put up some big numbers?
Perhaps, but perhaps not.
Rex Ryan may be many things, but let's not forget that he is, first and foremost, a defensive coach. Throughout the course of his career, Ryan has developed many a game plan capable of taking out quarterbacks with far more experience than Russell Wilson.
So while the Jets pass rush isn't all that intimidating on paper, the secondary is better than you might think.
Even without All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, the Jets secondary is still quite decent with Antonio Cromartie taking over Revis' No. 1 spot along with LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell both covering off at the safety positions.
Therefore, by default, the weakest link in the secondary would be cornerback Kyle Wilson, and even he has held up well, all things considered.
On Sunday, Wilson might have time to throw the football, depending on what the Jets throw at him. But even if we assume he gets time, he needs to be careful where he puts the football.
Assuming Sidney Rice draws a good amount of attention from Antonio Cromartie, I'd keep a close eye on Golden Tate to see if he can make a difference.
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This might seem a bit silly, but we've reached that point in the season where the aches and pains are starting to catch up with quite a few players.
If the 'Hawks win on Sunday, you hate to see the momentum of a two-game winning streak be put on hold during a bye week. But at the same time, it might be the perfect time for this team to rest a bit before embarking on their critical two-game road trip to Miami and Chicago.
For the most part, I'm looking at the wide receivers as I say this, given how thin the team is at this position (sorry, but I don't believe Doug Baldwin is 100-percent). But it could apply for just about everyone, including key players like K.J. Wright and Jason Jones, who both remain questionable for this weekend.
Let's just try to keep everyone healthy before the final push.
Don't Take the Jets Lightly
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It would seem that I'm talking out of both sides of my mouth when, one minute, I'm hoping the 'Hawks stay healthy before entering their bye week, while the next minute, I'm stating that the Jets should not be easily dismissed.
Fact is I think a lot of us have already penciled in this game as a win, figuring the Jets, from all indications, look like a lost cause, while the 'Hawks are undefeated this season with the 12th man by their side at C-Link.
But once again, I urge caution. This is not a game the 'Hawks can afford to choke away, as the Jets are a team still technically alive with no one giving them a real chance on the road this weekend.
With their backs to the wall, I wouldn't be shocked if the Jets come out strong early on.
The question is how will the 'Hawks respond.
Last week, they rebounded after finding themselves down early to Minnesota. But in order for them to take a step forward this season, they need to come out strong this Sunday. Rather than play to the level of their competition, the Seahawks need to snuff out the Jets from the very beginning with a performance somewhat akin to the one they pieced together against the Cowboys in Week 2.
If not, they could find themselves in a dogfight against a team with very little to lose. And they could put themselves in jeopardy of embarking upon arguably their toughest stretch of the season back at .500 and facing two must-win games on the road following the bye week.