After two straight losses on the road, the Seahawks have dropped to 4-4 and third place in the NFC West. This Sunday's game against Minnesota appears to be the game that could get Seattle back in its winning ways. They return home to CLink for the first time in three weeks, and a win is much needed in or to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Last week's meltdown on defense will need to be avoided if the 'Hawks don't want to fall below .500. It's hard to win many games when your defense allows two touchdowns in back-to-back fourth quarter drives. Allowing 415 yards of total offense doesn't help either.
There are three key matchups that will really dictate the tempo and outcome of this week's game. Let's take a look and see who will have the upper hand come Sunday.
Marcus Trufant vs. Percy Harvin
Slot cornerback Marcus Trufant is coming off one of his best games of the season despite the Seahawks loss. Even though he allowed five receptions on six targets, the 8.6 yards per catch average proved to be tops among Seattle's three starting cornerbacks.
With the ever so dangerous Percy Harvin manning the slot for the Vikings, you can expect to see plenty of Trufant on him. At no point during the season has he been torched deep. He has given up one touchdown, but it came on the fake field goal attempt in St. Louis, so it's hard to totally lay all the blame on him.
The special teams unit in general wasn't prepared for that play one bit. Head coach Pete Carroll had no problem taking blame for not being prepared, yet I suppose someone on the field has to take the fall. So, I beg the question. Will Trufant keeping playing at a high level against his toughest match up yet?
There's no question he has shown the ability to do it, but right now some may argue that Harvin is the most electric player in the league. He already has 60 catches at the halfway point, and leads the NFL in yards after the catch. His 529 yards after the catch is 159 yards more than Wes Welker, who currently holds the No. 2 spot.
However, that is not even his most impressive stat. Harvin also leads all wide receivers with 21 missed tackles forced. The next closest wideout is Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers with nine. Now it's easy to understand why the Vikings offense has any signs of life whatsoever. He carries the wide receiver corps.
This is definitely the biggest matchup in Week 9. If they don't stop No. 12, it could get real ugly real fast.
Chris Clemons vs. Matt Kalil
Defensive end Chris Clemons needs to rebound this weekend. He has been in the tank the last two weeks. Even though he is still the Seahawks' most productive pass-rusher, he has been stonewalled in Weeks 7 and 8. Left tackles Joe Staley and Jeff Backus have gotten the better of him.
Since Week 7, he has only amassed five quarterback pressures. Compare that to Week 6 alone—where he notched seven quarterback pressures—and you can see that he truly is slumping. To make matters worse, his poor pass-rushing ability has been coupled with poor play in run support as well.
Over the past two weeks Pro Football Focus had graded him out at negative 3.7 against the run. In the six games previous, he had managed to accumulate a negative 2.1 grade. Hard to argue against the fact Clemons is slumping right now. His time to get out of the slump may be now—at home against a rookie left tackle.
However, Matt Kalil isn't playing like a rookie. He is currently PFF's 25th best offensive tackle overall and eighth best pass blocking tackle. Incredible considering he is a rookie squaring off against some of the best pass rushers in the game in the NFC.
His biggest test of the season so far was 3-4 outside linebacker Aldon Smith. He held him to zero sacks, zero quarterback hits and three quarterback hurries. Not too bad, given Smith tallied 14 sacks last year as a rookie.
Through eight weeks Kalil has given up one measly sack, two quarterback hits and eight hurries. If Clemons plans on getting back on track this week, he will definitely have an uphill battle against one of the best young left tackles in the game.
Sidney Rice vs. Josh Robinson
With Chris Cook on the shelf with a broken arm, rookie cornerback Josh Robinson will draw his first start of the season. Antoine Winfield generally plays the left side of the field, so it will be up to Robinson to try and contain the former Viking, Sidney Rice.
Rice is completely healthy for the first time all season and it shows. He has been the Seahawks top pass catcher and arguably one of the top players overall on offense. Russell Wilson has targeted him 42 times through the first eight games—Rice has caught three touchdowns on 42 targets and upped his yards per catch to 13.2 yards.
The 13.2 yards per catch isn't the highest of his career, but it is the highest on the Seahawks. He is tied with fellow wide receiver Golden Tate for the lead.
Unfortunately for Robinson, his first start will come against a much taller opponent. Rice measures in at 6'3'' and Robinson stands only 5'10''. Height doesn't mean everything, but his poor performances speak for themselves.
Opposing quarterbacks have been going after him with ease. When Cook left the game Thursday night, Josh Freeman exploited Robinson's weaknesses. Freeman had a quarterback rating of 108.3 by game's end on only three completions when throwing at him. He slid one touchdown by him late in the second quarter.
I don't think Rice will be yelling or complaining for the ball on Sunday. Wilson has shown the ability to find the open receiver and No. 18 should be open plenty. Rookie cornerbacks have the toughest job in the league and it definitely shows.
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