The Denver Broncos (2-0) and Seattle Seahawks (1-1) are facing each other in the first year-after Super Bowl regular season rematch in nearly 20 years (crazy, right)? Danny Kelly of Field Gulls took the time to answer a few questions heading into this once-in-a-blue-moon matchup that should be a really, really good game. At least we friggin' hope it will be. Huge thanks to Danny for taking the time.
1. Who is better? Russell Wilson or Andrew Luck? (I left this question intentionally simple; interpret as you please).
Hah, I'll put it this way, as a fan, I'm very happy that Russell Wilson is the Seahawks' franchise quarterback. Frankly, I don't get a ton of time to carefully study Andrew Luck's game, or, at least not as closely as I have with Wilson, so it's a tough comparison to make.
I know that Luck has a lot of talent and has done some very impressive things in his couple seasons in Indianapolis (including a great game last year when the Colts beat the Seahawks). But, as for who's better? I'm guessing most people would say Luck without hesitation, but Russell has done some seriously great things in his two seasons here as well. Most important, he is an excellent fit for what the Seahawks want to do on offense - he's highly mobile, highly disciplined, throws an excellent deep ball, throws on the move incredibly well, has escapability, has an even keeled demeanor, limits turnovers, and makes a few "wow" plays every game (well, in a lot of games).
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Pete Carroll's whole system is centered around pairing a strong run game with a deep-passing, mobile quarterback. They've married these core concepts together with the read-option and ‘college-style' offense and it's become quite efficient. He isn't asked to pass the ball a lot, relatively, but when the Hawks are behind and he needs to start slinging it, he's done very well overall.
2. What happened in Week 2 with Richard Sherman? Was he "exposed"?
According to the stats that I've seen, the final tally for throws toward Sherman's area was five catches for 64 yards. I would say "exposed" is a pretty sensationalist term for that moderate production, but I think the media caught Keenan Allen (who was the one that said it, I think) in a heated moment after a huge game. Sherman gave up zero touchdowns, zero explosive plays, had zero penalties, and missed zero tackles, so while it certainly wasn't his best game as a Seahawk, and while he definitely was beat a few times in coverage, saying he got exposed or abused or anything like that is silly.
Now, the question will be whether he can bounce back or not and silence some of those critics. I'm guessing that Peyton won't hesitate to throw to the right (unlike Aaron Rodgers), so Sherman should have a few shots at redemption.
The big thing for Seattle's defense and their scheme is to never get beat deep, so that should be Sherman's main goal. With all the heat coming down on him this week, I'd bet the Broncos try a few double moves on him to see if he'll get overly aggressive and bite on some fakes.
3. You look at the Broncos defense. What do you try to attack?
The Broncos have an incredibly balanced and talent-rich defense. I don't even really know where to start. My first inclination is that they will need to again attack the edges with Percy Harvin, like we saw in the Super Bowl, and then run the ball with Lynch on read-option style looks. I'm guessing Seattle will use some moving pockets and bootleg misdirection to try and mitigate Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware rushing the passer, and design some quick throws to try and take those two guys out of it.
Overall, though, I'm most concerned with the Broncos pass rush right now, and the best way to beat the pass rush and/or blitz is to run the ball effectively. So, unlike the Super Bowl, I'll be anticipating/hoping that the Seahawks get some yards on the ground.
4. What do you attribute to the Seahawks' struggles getting off the field on third downs?
The main thing that led to a lot of failed stops on third downs were poor pursuit angles and tackling by Seattle's linebackers and safeties groups. This was an anomaly as far as the Seahawks defense goes, so I'm sure it will be a huge focus for this week. San Diego did a great job in this game of getting their running backs and receivers involved on dumpoffs and screens and they were extremely effective, and as Seattle looked to take away the deep pass (as they normally do), the dumpoffs and check downs that Seattle normally pursues quickly and tackles ferociously were suddenly poor angles and missed tackles. The heat compounded things, as did the amount of time the defense was on the field.
The Hawks got the looks they wanted in that Rivers repeatedly checked down and dumped off, but they did not execute the rest of the plan once that happened.
Additionally, while Seattle's pass rush was able to get some strong pressure on Rivers, the dude just made some incredible throws under duress and in a muddied pocket. Hats were off to Rivers this week in Seattle, because he played a crazy awesome game and was a huge part of helping San Diego beat Seattle fair and square.
5. I believe the Seahawks made some changes on their offensive line. How are those panning out?
The only major change this year is at right tackle, and rookie Justin Britt (chosen in the 2nd round) is manning that spot. Going back to my main concern being the Broncos' pass rush, this is a matchup that I'm guessing Jack Del Rio will look to attack with either Miller or Ware (or others). Britt's had his ups and downs, as you'd expect of a rookie, so he's the guy to watch.
Additionally, left tackle Russell Okung, who came off of a foot surgery this offseason, has struggled in pass pro pretty badly thus far. Dwight Freeney pretty much dominated him last week and Okung didn't really seem to have an answer for him, so really I'm a little concerned about both Seattle tackles in this one.