Sunday, November 29, 2015

Seattle Seahawks’ Legion of Boom to be tested by Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
November 27, 2015

Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, left, and Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor gang up to stop 49ers running back Shaun Draughn in the first quarter at CenturyLink Field on Nov. (Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times)
Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, left, and Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor gang up to stop 49ers running back Shaun Draughn in the first quarter at CenturyLink Field on Nov. 22, 2015. (Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times)

It’s the time of the season when NFL statistics begin to depict a more accurate picture.

And the one they paint of the long-feared Legion of Boom secondary when the Seahawks win and lose could hardly be more stark.

In the Seahawks’ five losses, four coming against quarterbacks who this year would be considered among the best in the NFL — Arizona’s Carson Palmer, Carolina’s Cam Newton, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton — the Legion of Boom has appeared more vulnerable than ever.

In games against those four and in a loss at St. Louis against the since-benched Nick Foles, the Seahawks allowed opponents to complete 112 of 188 passes (60 percent) for 1,509 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions.

And maybe most telling, opponents in those games averaged 8.0 yards per attempt, which would rank 28th in the NFL.

Meanwhile, in the Seahawks’ five wins — three of which came against backup quarterbacks (San Francisco’s Blaine Gabbert, Chicago’s Jimmy Clausen and Dallas’ Matt Cassel) and another against a quarterback who has since been benched (San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick) — the Seahawks have looked like themselves.

In those games, and in a victory over Detroit and Matthew Stafford, the Seahawks have allowed 91 completions in 136 attempts (67 percent) for 751 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, and a yards-per-attempt average of just 5.5.

Coming to CenturyLink Field on Sunday is another quarterback whose is considered among the NFL’s best — the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger.

“He can see the game as well as anybody that’s played,’’ Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Friday.

Roethlisberger also has one of the better receiving corps in the NFL, led by Antonio Brown, who is second in the league in receptions (79) and yards (1,141) and who this week was called “the best route runner on the planet’’ by

CenturyLink Field, of course, was where opponents’ gaudy passing stats came to die the previous few years.

But the success of several quarterbacks this season has led to the inevitable rumblings of whether the Legion of Boom has lost some of its oomph or if each game was just its own aberration (such as Kam Chancellor not playing in the losses to the Rams and Packers).

It also leads to the question of whether the Legion of Boom needs a big performance in a game such as this to reestablish its credentials.

Chancellor said such big-picture questions aren’t on the minds of anyone in the Seahawks locker room.

“We are going out there to move forward and not thinking about the past right now,’’ Chancellor said. “We’ve got Pittsburgh, and we’re going to do what we do, stay fundamentally sound, and hope to have a better game this game.’’

Still, Carroll sounded his own minor alarm last week when he benched Cary Williams late in the third quarter of a 29-13 victory over the 49ers, replacing him at right cornerback with DeShawn Shead.

Seahawks coaches were vague this week about who will start now, but the nod could go to Shead, who has started just two games — one at safety and the other as a nickelback.

He could find himself tasked with stopping Brown or Martavis Bryant, a second-year player averaging 20 yards per reception.

The Seahawks might also decide to have Richard Sherman shadow Brown, something they have done increasingly this season, including last week when, for the second time against the 49ers, he exclusively covered Torrey Smith.

Pittsburgh’s passing attack has similarities to Arizona’s. The Cardinals, with Palmer at the helm, threw for 334 yards against the Seahawks two weeks ago, the most they had allowed in a regular-season game since Tom Brady threw for 388 in 2012 (a Seahawks win at CenturyLink Field).

Defensive coordinator Kris Richard said the Seahawks’ solution to improve their pass defense vs. the Steelers is simple.

“Stay on top,’’ Richard said, meaning don’t let a receiver get behind a defender. “That’s what we need to do much better.”

The Seahawks also will have some reinforcements in the secondary.

Jeremy Lane is expected to play for the first time since suffering a torn knee ligament and broken wrist in the Super Bowl.

Lane said Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh receivers play with a lot of confidence, and he expects the Seahawks to match that on Sunday.

“I just feel like we match up a little bit different,’’ Lane said.

“We are more physical than most guys they play. That’s what we bring to this team, being physical on defense. So they haven’t really seen that. So we are going to bring it to them.’’

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or On Twitter@bcondotta.

No comments: