When: Sunday, 1:05 p.m. PT, Rogers Centre, Toronto
Records: Seahawks 8-5 after last week’s 58-0 win over the Cardinals at CenturyLink Field; Bills 5-8 after last week’s 15-12 loss to the Rams at Ralph Wilson Stadium
TV: Fox (KCPQ/13 in the greater Seattle area), with Dick Stockton, John Lynch and Jennifer Hale
Radio: 710 ESPN and KIRO 97.3 FM, with Steve Raible, Warren Moon and Jen Mueller
Rest of the West: 49ers (9-3-1) at Patriots; Vikings at Rams (6-6-1); Lions at Cardinals (4-9)
The Bills’ defense vs. Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch: It was the Bills who traded Lynch to the Seahawks in 2010. It is the Bills who will have to contend with the Beast Mode back on Sunday. The Bills were allowing an average of 163.7 rushing yards through their first nine games, but have macheted that to an average of 68.8 yards over the past four games. But that was against the Dolphins, Colts, Jaguars and Rams. None of those teams have a back as productive as Lynch has been this season, when he already has run for a career-high 1,266 yards; or since Week 9 last season, a 22-game span when he has run for a league-high 2,207 yards and scored 18 rushing touchdowns. His efforts against the Cardinals last week were stunning, especially considering that Lynch got his 128 yards and three TDs on only 11 carries. Then there’s that little former-team factor.
One to watch
The fourth quarter: The Seahawks have pulled out victories over the Packers (9-4) and Patriots (10-3) with fourth-quarter touchdowns, used a fourth-quarter TD against the Bears to eventually win in overtime and lost to the Lions and Dolphins after taking fourth-quarter leads only to have the defense allow game-winning TD drives. Not surprisingly, the Seahawks have score more points in the fourth (82) than any quarter other than the second (88). The Bills, meanwhile, have allowed 119 points in the fourth quarter – which is the fifth-highest total in the league behind the Lions (131), Eagles (124), Jaguars (124) and Redskins (123). They’ve lost games in the fourth quarter to the Rams, Titans, Patriots and Dolphins, and in an earlier loss to the Patriots they yielded 31 fourth-quarter points after the score was tied entering the final quarter.
Fun to watch
The Seahawks coverage units vs. Bills punt and kickoff returner Leodis McKelvin: Heath Farwell, come on down. Chris Maragos and Michael Robinson, you too. Containing McKelvin, who leads the league with an 18.7-yard average returning punts and is the only player in the league to rank among the Top 5 in punt- and kickoff-return average, will be an all hands-on-deck chore. It also will include punter Jon Ryan and kicker Steven Hauschka doing their things to give McKelvin as few chances to break a long one as possible. Impossible? McKelvin, after all, already has returned punts 88 and 79 yards for scores. The Seahawks’ potential trump card is that they are one of only three teams in the league that has not allowed a return of more than 40 yards in either category.
One tough task
Seahawks tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini vs. Bills defensive end Mario Williams: With the Bills’ defense stacked to stop Lynch, rookie QB Russell Wilson will need to continue making plays in the passing game. For that to continue, Okung and Giacomini will need to contain the player the Bills brought in during the offseason to bolster their defense, and especially the pass rush. After a slow start, Williams has five sacks in the past four games to give him 10.5 for the season and 42.5 for his career. The difference? The surgery Williams had on his left wrist during the Bills’ bye week. In the six games since the procedure, Williams has 21 tackles, seven sacks, seven QB hits, two passes defensed, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
In the second half of the season, the Bills’ defense is allowing a league-low 3.1-yard per carry average. … Bills running back C.J. Spiller needs 56 rushing yards to reach 1,000 for the first time in his career, and is averaging a league-best 6.6 yards. … In three games against AFC teams, Wilson has completed 67 percent of his passes (49 of 73) for 705 yards, with seven touchdown passes and no interceptions, for a 130.2 passer rating. … While McKelvin ranks fifth in the league in kickoff-return average (28.3), the Seahawks’ Leon Washington ranks second (31.2). … Ryan is seventh in the league in net average (41.7) and fifth in punts inside the 20 (27). … Golden Tate and Sidney Rice lead the Seahawks with seven touchdown receptions. Tate has four in the past five games, Rice five in the past six games. … After forcing eight turnovers last week, the Seahawks are plus-8 in turnover differential. … Rookie middle linebacker Bobby Wagner leads the Seahawks with 108 tackles and linebacker Nick Barnett leads the Bills with 98.
A recap of the activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for 12-12-12:
The Power of 12. Matt Flynn wasn’t really plugged into the energy generated by the 12th Man crowd at CenturyLink Field on game days when he signed with the Seahawks as a free agent in March.
Now, he is – especially after the backup QB saw his first action of the regular season in a 58-0 victory over the Cardinals on Sunday, when he completed 5 of 9 passes for 68 yards and directed a six-play, 62-yard drive to the final touchdown.
“Obviously it’s a huge advantage for us, noise-wise,” Flynn said today, when he and teammates shifted their focus to this week’s game against the Bills in Toronto. “And they’re smart fans. They know when to get loud and when to be quiet.
“I didn’t really know much about the Seahawks when I came up here. But they’ve opened my eyes and made me a fan of them.”
Cornerback Richard Sherman is sure the Seahawks have the best fans in the league, and says they’re deserving of any and all tributes that come their way on the numerical significant day.
“I’ve seen fans with tattoos of player’s faces,” he said. “They’re so passionate about the Seahawks around here it’s incredible. So I think it’s an incredible tribute to them. I would be happy to do anything we can to give back to the fans because they give a lot to us.”
C.J. Spiller. Not surprisingly, the Bills’ suddenly fulltime feature back is no stranger to Pete Carroll. The Seahawks coach tried to recruit Spiller while coaching at USC when he came out of Union County High School in Lake Butler, Fla. Spiller opted for Clemson, but Carroll definitely remembers him.
“I have tremendous respect for C.J. Spiller,” Carroll said. “I saw him as one of the great players we ever came across. And boy, he has really torn it up. They build the offense around him and he’ll get even more activity now. That means you have a chance for them to score on every play, run or pass.
“So it’s a big deal for our defense to get ready for that.”
The Seahawks will see a lot more of Spiller on Sunday because Fred Jackson is out with a sprained right knee. The two had been splitting time, but Spiller and his league-leading 6.6-yard per carry average are now front and center.
“We want to make sure that we respect the heck out of that, because we know that he’s such a great player,” Carroll said.
The official report, as issued by the team:
Did not practice
DE Red Bryant (foot)
SS Kam Chancellor (groin)
WR Sidney Rice (foot)
CB Marcus Trufant (hamstring)
Limited in practice
RB Marshawn Lynch (back)
CB Walter Thurmond (hamstring)
Rice was in a walking boot today after waking up Monday with a bruised foot. “He improved quite a bit from game day,” Carroll said. “But he’s got a pretty sore foot.” Carroll added that tests of Rice’s foot found nothing that should keep him from playing against the Bills.
Trufant has missed the past two games and Carroll said he’s still in process of returning from his injury.
Chancellor and Bryant sat out to rest injuries that have limited them in practice in previous weeks. Jeron Johnson and Jason Jones filled in for them. With Thurmond limited, Jeremy Lane and Byron Maxwell worked at cornerback.
For the Bills:
Did not practice
LB Nick Barnett (knee)
S Jairus Byrd (shin)
DE Marcell Dareus (shoulder)
RB Fred Jackson (knee)
DT Spencer Johnson (knee)
CB Leodis McKelvin (groin)
DT Kyle Williams (ankle)
C Eric Wood (knee)
Limited in practice
DE Mark Anderson (knee)
CB Ron Brooks (hip)
TE Scott Chandler (groin)
OG Andy Levitre (knee)
CB Justin Rogers (foot)
TE Lee Smith (knee)
OG Kraig Urbik (knee)
LB Chris White (thumb)
WR Donald Jones (calf)
S Da’Norris Searcy (hand)
RB C.J. Spiller (shoulder)
CB Aaron Williams (knee)
DE Mario Williams (wrist)
NO MORE PADS
The players practiced without pads today and will for the rest of the season because the team has utilized the allotted number of padded practices allowed under the CBA that ended the 136-day lockout in 2010.
“This is the first ‘Competition Wednesday’ that we cherish so much that we aren’t in pads,” Carroll said. “I talked at length with the guys about that so we still gear and get our tempo and our speed and all the things we need to get done and still compete.
“This is a bit of a transition, so it’s a huge day. There’s a change coming up, so I’m concerned about it and want to get this thing started right.”
CLOSE, BUT …
Lynch and Sherman were nominees for NFC Offensive and Defensive Players of the Week, but the selections were Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and Panthers rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly.
Peterson rushed for 154 yards and two touchdowns in the Vikings’ win over the Bears, while Lynch had 128 yards and three TDs – on 11 carries – in the Seahawks win over the Cardinals. Kuechly had a career-high 16 tackles in the Panthers’ upset of the Falcons, while Sherman returned one of his two interceptions for a touchdown and also recovered a fumble against the Cardinals.
The Seahawks have had four players selected this season: quarterback Russell Wilson (last week), defensive end Chris Clemons (Week 4), Sherman (Week 10) and kick returner Leon Washington (Week 12).
WHICH SEAHAWKS DESERVE YOUR PRO BOWL VOTE?
Fan balloting for the Pro Bowl ends on Monday, so you’ve only got a few days left to rock the vote for the worthy Seahawks.
Lynch is second (431,114) among the NFC running backs to Peterson (668,942), but there are others who need your help – including center Max Unger, nose tackle Brandon Mebane, free safety Earl Thomas, Chancellor, Sherman, punter Jon Ryan and special teams standout Heath Farwell.
You can cast your vote here.
Fan balloting counts one third toward selection of the NFC squad, with the coaches and players scheduled to cast their votes Dec. 20-21.
STAT DU JOUR
Staying with this 12-thing, the 12th Man helped prod three false-start penalties out of the Cardinals on Sunday, raising the league-leading total at CenturyLink Field to 119 since the start of the 2005 season. For those not in the stadium to see the scoreboard graphic that ticks off the false starts as they occur, here’s a look at the league leaders in that category during that span:
Stadium (team) False starts
CenturyLink Field (Seahawks) 119
Metrodome (Vikings) 115
Ford Field (Lions) 107
Edward Jones Dome (Rams) 102
“Competition Wednesday” gives way to “Turnover Thursday” as the players continue to practice for their final road game of the regular season. With the game in Toronto, the team will travel on Friday following a midday practice and hold its Saturday walkthrough in Toronto.
YOU DON’T SAY
“He’s just totally out of character. I don’t know where that’s coming from. But, keep running.” – fullback Michael Robinson on the pile-moving Lynch bouncing outside to score on a 33-yard run and then hurdling a couple of fallen players on a 20-yard TD run against the Cardinals
A recap of the activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Dec. 11:
Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane. The backup cornerbacks certainly have looked the part since joining the Seahawks in the draft the past two years.
Maxwell, a sixth-round pick in 2011, has the size (6 feet 1, 207 pounds), length and athletic ability that coach Pete Carroll and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley covet in a corner. So does the 6-foot, 190-pound Lane, who was a sixth-round pick this year.
But how would they play the part? We finally got a look at both in Sunday’s game against the Cardinals, as Lane took over as the nickel back and he and Maxwell then manned the corners for the conclusion of the 58-0 romp. Each made a tackle, while Maxwell also broke up a pass.
“I was really pleased with the play of those guys,” Carroll said. “I think I was as fired up about that as anything, as far as the challenge of new guys jumping in and all of that.”
And that definitely is saying a lot because there was so much to be fired up about on Sunday.
“Jeremy Lane and Byron Maxwell did really well,” Carroll said. “They both looked disciplined. They played confident. Technique-wise, they played the way we had hoped they would play. They both looked just about the same and, for their first outing, they really handled it well.
“There were very few plays that they didn’t get graded on the positive side.”
And that will remain a plus this week, when the Seahawks travel to Toronto to play the Bills. Walter Thurmond, who stepped in at nickel back for Marcus Trufant two weeks ago, is now at right corner because Brandon Browner is serving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing substances.
“Walter Thurmond played really well,” Carroll said of his efforts against the Cardinals.
That’s what put Lane on the field as the nickel back for Thurmond. Whether Trufant is able to return this week remains to be seen. But the coaches have seen enough from Lane, and Maxwell, and Thurmond, that they’re comfortable turning things over to the young corners.
“I think that’s a really good statement about what (defensive backs coach) Kris Richard and (passing game coordinator) Rocky Seto are doing with these guys,” Carroll said. “It really is good stuff.”
STATS ’N STUFF
The Seahawks rank No. 3 in total defense, allowing an average of 301.7 yards per game. They’re No. 4 in passing defense (196.3), No. 4 in rushing offense (152.3) and No. 10 in rushing defense (105.4). The offense ranks No. 21 overall (341.2) and the passing offense is No. 29 (188.9).
After Sunday’s eight-turnover avalanche against the Cardinals, the Seahawks are plus-8 in turnover differential, which ties for eighth in the league. Only seven teams have fewer giveaways than the Seahawks (17; nine interceptions, eight fumbles).
Marshawn Lynch remains second in the NFL in rushing (a career-high 1,266 yards) to the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson (1,600). Only four players in the league have more than Lynch’s nine rushing touchdowns – the Texans’ Arian Foster (14), Bucs’ Doug Martin (10), Patriots’ Stevan Ridley (10) and Peterson (10). Lynch also is sixth in total yards (1,415) and tied for ninth in first downs (64).
Rookie QB Russell Wilson is seventh in the league in passer rating (94.9), and the Redskins’ Robert Griffin III is the only rookie with a higher rating (a league-leading 104.2). Wilson also is sixth in fourth-quarter passer rating (97.9), which tops all rookies.
Leon Washington is second in the NFL in kickoff return average (31.2), while Jon Ryan is seventh in net punting average (41.7) and tied for sixth for punts inside the 20 (27).
Richard Sherman is tied for third in interceptions (six).
STAT DU JOUR
Lynch’s efforts against the Cardinals were impressive: three rushing touchdowns, tying his career high; a franchise-record 11.6-yard rushing average; his seventh 100-yard rushing effort of the season (124); and surpassing his single-season career best in rushing yards (1,266), with three games to play.
What put it even more over the top was that Lynch accomplished all this on 11 carries. Here’s a look at what he did to get his 128 yards, and when he did it:
Situation Yards Result
First-and-10 2 Seahawks punted on first possession
Second-and-12 1 Seahawks converted on third-and-11
Second-and-6 10 First down in first TD drive
First-ansd-10 2 Seahawks converted on second-and-8
First-and-10 15 Seahawks lost the yards on penalty
First-and-10 20 Touchdown run No. 1
First-and-goal 4 Touchdown run No. 2
First-and-10 15 Seahawks eventually punted
Second-and-5 18 First down at Seahawks’ 37
First-and-10 8 Came on next play after 18-yarder
Third-and-4 33 Touchdown No. 3
“I think the thing that comes to mind is consistency,” Carroll said Monday when asked about the season Lynch is having. “He’s been very consistent with his output and his effort and his style. Everything has been there every single game.”
The players return from having two “off” days to begin practicing for Sunday’s game against the Bills.
YOU DON’T SAY
“The final score in Seattle got most of the attention. There was plenty of credit to go around in Seattle. (Anthony) McCoy’s first 100-yard receiving game could be a good sign for the Seahawks. McCoy made an important catch to help beat Chicago on the road last week. His 67-yard reception against the Cardinals set up Marshawn Lynch’s touchdown run for a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter. Arizona hadn’t scored more than 17 points in seven of its previous eight games.” – Mike Sando including the Seahawks’ tight end among his weekly “Risers” on his NFC West blog at ESPN.com
When: Sunday, 1:25 p.m., CenturyLink Field
Records: Seahawks 7-5 and second in NFC West after Sunday’s win over the Bears in Chicago; Cardinals 4-8 and last in NFC West after Sunday’s loss to the Jets in the Meadowlands
TV: Fox (KCPQ/13), with Chris Myers, Tim Ryan and Jaime Maggio
Radio: 710 ESPN and KIRO Radio 97.3, with Steve Raible, Warren Moon and Jen Mueller
Rest of the West: Rams (5-6-1) at Bills; Dolphins at 49ers (8-3-1)
The Cardinals’ No. 7-ranked defense vs. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson: The Cardinals will quickly discover that this rookie QB isn’t the same rookie QB they faced in the season opener. Wilson not only has 11 more games on his resume, he has played progressively better and therefore the coaches have allowed him to do more. In last week’s overtime upset of the Bears in Chicago, Wilson didn’t beat them only with his arm (23 of 37, 293 yards, two TD passes); he also beat them with his legs (71 rushing yards). Then there’s the factor that is Russell Wilson playing at CenturyLink Field, where the Seahawks are 5-0 and he has a passer rating of 122.0 and has completed 69 of 111 passes for 935 yards with 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions. The Cardinals will blitz him, because that’s what they do. So Wilson will need to show them what he can do.
One to watch
Seahawks CBs Walter Thurmond and Richard Sherman vs. Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald: To say the Cardinals’ offensive is struggling doesn’t even scratch the surface of the problems they’ve had during their eight-man losing streak. But covering Fitzgerald remains Priority One, regardless of who’s throwing him the ball. The 6-3 Sherman gives the Seahawks someone with the needed size to matchup against the 6-4 Fitzgerald. Thurmond steps in for Brandon Browner, who was suspended four games by the league on Wednesday. Thurmond hasn’t played much since fracturing his fibula in Week 7 last season, but he has the skills to be a starter and now gets his chance against a quality opponent.
Fun to watch
The Cardinals’ better-than-the-team’s-record-would-indicate defense vs. Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch: All the hubbub being generated by Wilson, the NFC Offensive Player of the Week, is overshadowing the obvious – it’s Lynch’s relentless efforts running the ball that setup the play-action passing game and also makes the zone-read runs by Wilson so effective because the defense is so determined to stop Lynch. After ripping off a string of four consecutive 100-yard rushing performances, Lynch has had 46 and 87 the past two weeks – and he had only 85 in the season-opening loss to the Cardinals. What’s that ticking noise? It’s Lynch, ready to explode.
One tough task
Cardinals QB John Skelton vs. the situation: Skelton is back in as the starter – begrudgingly – because Kevin Kolb isn’t ready to return from his rib injury and rookie QB Ryan Lindley had a rock-bottom outing in last week’s 7-6 loss to the Jets. Skelton started the season opener against the Seahawks, but didn’t finish because of an ankle injury he got while being hit by Seahawks tackle Clinton McDonald. Now, he’s back in – in the noise factory that is CenturyLink Field, against a Seahawks’ pass rush that is determined to have a bigger impact after collecting only two sacks in the past two games and directing an offense that ranks last in the NFL.
The Cardinals have won the past two meetings – both in Arizona – and lead the series 15-12. But the Seahawks have won the past two games played in Seattle. … In 17 games against the Seahawks, Fitzgerald has 106 receptions for 1,434 yards – more than against any other team in each category – and 10 touchdowns. … Cardinals DE Calais Campbell had 2.5 sacks in last season’s game in Seattle and has five in his past three games against the Seahawks. … Seahawks punter Jon Ryan is fifth in the league in net average (41.9) and punts inside the 20 (25). … Lynch is second in the NFL in rushing yards (1,138) and fourth in total yards (1,287). … The Seahawks’ Leon Washington is third in the league in kickoff return average (31.9). … Opponents are 18 of 18 on field goals against the Seahawks. … Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner leads the Seahawks with 100 tackles, while linebacker Daryl Washington leads the Cardinals with 109.
With the players off and the coaches compiling the game plan for Sunday’s rematch with the Cardinals at CenturyLink Field, we’ll use this space today to pass out some honors as the Seahawks have reached the three-quarter point of the season at 7-5:
Marshawn Lynch. If this was for the third quarter of the season, it would be rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, who led the Seahawks to a 3-1 record with efficient, productive and constantly improving play. But this is for all 12 games, so Lynch remains the man. He is second in the NFL in rushing with 1,138 yards – 308 behind the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson – and fourth in total yards with 1,287. Again, it’s not just the yards that Lynch gains, it’s how he gains them. He almost never goes down at first contact and almost always gains yards even when they don’t appear to be there. One of the big reasons why the zone-read plays have been working so well for Wilson is that faking the ball to Lynch caused the defense to shift in that direction, leaving the gaps that Wilson is exploiting.
BEST OFFENSIVE PLAYER
Russell Wilson. Here’s where we can point out just what Wilson has done in the past four games. In victories over the Vikings, Jets and Bears and a loss to the Dolphins, the rookie QB has fashioned a 120.4 passer rating by completing 67 percent of this passes (72 of 107) for 878 yards, with nine touchdowns and no interceptions. Andrew who? RGIII what? During this stretch, Wilson also became the first rookie to compile a passer rating of 125-plus in three consecutive games and also complete 16 consecutive passes; and Sunday against the Bears he rushed for more yards in a single game (71) than any QB in franchise history.
BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER
Brandon Mebane. The defense had its ups and downs in the third quarter of the season. Not Mebane. The team’s nose tackle remained the most consistent player on the Seahawks’ No. 4-ranked defense. He is fourth on the team with 48 tackles, tops among the D-linemen, and also tied for third with three sacks. But what really stands out are the things that Mebane does to help others make plays. As fellow D-tackle Alan Branch said, “On the field, I’ve never seen a player like him. If he doesn’t go to the Pro Bowl, I’ll be surprised.” The last Seahawks’ defensive tackle to go to the Pro Bowl? It was Hall of Famer John Randle in 2001.
BEST SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER
Jon Ryan. Yes, the ball is back on Ryan’s court – and likely will be downed near the goal line. He was the pick after the first four games, only to give way to Heath Farwell at midseason. But it’s back to Ryan, because of his consistency – which continues to be at a consistently high level. Ryan is 12th in the league in punting average (46.9), but fifth in net average (41.9) and punts inside the 20-yard line (25). In the past two games, nine of his 12 punts have been downed inside the 20.
Defense: Bobby Wagner. He had 11 tackles against the Bears, giving him triple digits for the season (101). Wagner has had double-digit tackles four times, with a high of 14; and been the team’s leading tackler in the past five games and seven of the past nine. Oh, and he also has three sacks and an interception. When they start talking about NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, it’s time to start including Wagner in the conversation.
Offense: Wilson. It’s not just that he’s won seven games, it’s the other quarterbacks he has beaten in doing it: Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Jay Cutler, Tony Romo and Cam Newton. It’s also that he has thrown 19 touchdown passes, to lead all NFL rookies; and not thrown an interception in the past four games. But it’s also the command he has taken of the offense and the ability he has shown to win games in tight situations.
TREND THAT NEEDS TO CONTINUE
Long scoring drives. Against the Bears, it was 97-, 94- and 80-yarders for touchdowns. Against the Dolphins, it was a pair of 80-yarders for touchdowns. Against the Jets, they had an 84-yarder for a touchdown. Against the Vikings, it was 80-, 78- and 72-yarders for touchdowns. This after the Seahawks produced nine TD drives of 70-plus yards in their first eight games.
TREND THAT NEEDS TO STOP
Third-and-long conversions by the opposition. The Bears converted on third-and-12 and third-and-10, while penalties allowed them to convert on third-and-10 and third-and-7. The Dolphins converted on third-and-8 and third-and-7. It continues to be confounding that a defense that plays so well on first and second downs can give up so many drive-sustaining plays on third downs.
TREND THAT NEEDS TO IMPROVE
The pass rush. In the past two games, the Seahawks have two sacks – despite the Bears and Dolphins dealing with offensive line issues. Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin, who lead the team with eight and seven sacks, have 3.5 in the past six games. With the Cardinals, 49ers and Rams coming to CenturyLink Field and the Seahawks going to Toronto to play the Bills in the next four weeks, the Seahawks must find a way to generate more pressure on the opposing passer.
“He is amazing. He keeps believing. He believes in himself. He believes in this team. He believes in his preparation. And he prepares like no other. The kid gives us a chance every week.” – fullback Michael Robinson on Wilson after Sunday’s upset of the Bears in Chicago
CHICAGO – A recap of the Seahawks’ 23-17 overtime victory against the Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday:
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Russell Wilson. How to describe what the Seahawks’ rookie quarterback did against the Bears’ No. 3-ranked defense. Coach Pete Carroll used the work “exquisite,” and that definitely works.
Wilson completed 23 of 37 passes for 293 yards and also ran for 71 yards. But it wasn’t so much what he did as when he did it. Wilson directed a 12-play, 97-yard touchdown drive that was capped by his 14-yard TD pass to Golden Tate with 24 seconds left in regulation. He then led a 12-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in overtime that ended with his 13-yard TD pass to Sidney Rice.
Wow, and double-wow. The passing yards were a season-best for Wilson, as were the rushing yards, and the 97-yard drive was the Seahawks’ longest of the year.
As good as Wilson had been in the past three games, he just seems to be getting better – and making his biggest plays at the most opportune times.
“Russell definitely doesn’t play like a rookie,” Rice said. “A lot of the wins that we’ve got are because of Russell. He’s able to get out of the pocket, scramble to make things happen. We’re glad to have him on the team.”
Added Tate, “Russell does everything perfect. I almost think he’s a perfect person, I really do.”
Wilson wasn’t exactly perfect on this day, but what he did on those last two touchdown drives was exactly what his team needed.
PLAYS OF THE GAME
Offense: The game-winning TD pass from Wilson to Rice, of course. It was a pass play the Seahawks setup with their effective use of the read-option running plays, as Rice duped cornerback Charles Tillman into thinking he was a blocker on the play.
“I came off the ball and made Tillman stop his feet, like I was going to block him,” Rice said. “As soon as he looked inside, I just beat him across the field, threw my hand up in front of me, Russ saw me, touchdown.”
But not without a little pain, and drama. Just as Rice was crossing the goal line, he took a shot to the head from safety Major Wright and lost the ball. The play was reviewed before the Seahawks had their game-winner.
Defense: The Bears were leading 7-0 and had driven from their 12-yard line to the Seahawks’ 15 early in the second quarter. On fourth-and-1, running back Michael Bush leaped over the middle of the line. But instead of getting the needed yard, he ran into middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and was stopped for no gain.
Special teams: Jon Ryan and Jeremy Lane were at it again. On the series following Wagner’s big fourth-down stop, the Seahawks were stopped. But Ryan lofted a 44-yard punt that Lane caught at the Bears’ 5-yard line.
Left guard James Carpenter reinjured the surgically repaired knee that forced him to miss the final seven games of his rookie season in the first half and did not return. He was replaced by John Moffitt, who helped the Seahawks rush for 176 yards.
“Something happened in his knee,” Carroll said. “So we protected him.”
The Seahawks also played without veteran linebacker Leroy Hill and veteran nickel back Marcus Trufant. Both were among the players named inactive, Hill because of the ankle he sprained in last week’s game against the Dolphins and Trufant because a hamstring began bothering him at the end of Thursday’s practice.
Malcolm Smith started for Hill and had two tackles. Walter Thurmond stepped in for Trufant, in his first action of the season after being activated off the physically-unable-to-perform list last month.
With 87 rushing yards, Marshawn Lynch had more yards against the Bears on Sunday than in his games at Soldier Field the past two seasons combined (85). He also scored his fourth touchdown in those three games, all Seahawk victories.
Rice (six for 99) and Tate (five for 96) just missed giving the Seahawks their first game with two 100-yard receivers since Rice (seven for 102) and Ben Obomanu (four for 107) did it against the Bengals last October.
Despite facing the Bears’ No. 3-ranked defense, the Seahawks compiled a season-high 459 yards. They also had 176 rushing yards, their fourth-highest total of the season; and 25 first downs, their second-highest total. Their three TD drives covered 94, 97 and 80 yards.
Wagner had a game-high 11 tackles, including the Seahawks’ only sack.
For the second consecutive game, Ryan’s average and net average on five punts were the same (39.6 yards). He also had three inside the 20-yard line.
With their seventh victory in their 12th game, the Seahawks have matched their win total from each of Carroll’s first two seasons.
The Bears’ Brandon Marshall had 10 catches for 165 yards, making him the fourth receiver to surpass 100 receiving yards against the Seahawks this season.
YOU DON’T SAY
“The last drive in regulation, the 97-yarder in 12 plays, was just exquisite execution by the quarterback.” – coach Pete Carroll
A recap of the activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Nov. 27:
Da Bears. In not quite 2¾ seasons under coach Pete Carroll, the Seahawks are 6-16 on the road. During this same span, the Chicago Bears are 16-7 at home. But two of the Seahawks’ road wins have come at Soldier Field – 38-14 in Week 15 last year and 23-20 in Week 6 in 2010.
Has there been a common thread in the Seahawks claiming a third of their wins on the road at one location?
“I hope so. I hope so,” Carroll said with a laugh. “We do know the setting. … We’ve found some success. We know how to travel there. We know what it takes and all that. We’ll try to bank of that the best we can and make the most of it.”
That’s exactly what the Seahawks did during their wins in the Windy City the past two seasons.
Last year, the Bears played without the injured duo of quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Matt Forte. Caleb Hanie and Josh McCown combined to complete 11 of 23 passes for 123 yards, but the Bears rushed for 132 yards and a 4.3-yard average with Kahlil Bell (15 for 65) and Hanie (5 for 34) picking up the slack for Forte.
The Bears defense held Marshawn Lynch to 42 yards on 20 carries, but the Seahawks’ Beast Mode back managed to get into the end zone twice. The defense also scored twice, as end Red Bryant (20 yards) and cornerback Brandon Browner (43) returned interceptions for touchdowns.
In 2010, Cutler and Forte played, but Cutler was tackled in the end zone for a safety and Forte was held to 11 yards on eight carries. Lynch, in his first game with the Seahawks after being obtained in a bye-week trade with the Bills, scored a TD. So did two players who no longer are with the team – running back Justin Forsett and wide receiver Deon Butler. Two other since-departed players also made big contributions, as Mike Williams caught 10 passes for 123 yards and Matt Hasselbeck was 25 of 40 for 242 yards.
This week, the Seahawks need a repeat performance from their current players to register another upset and atone for Sunday’s fall-from-ahead loss to the Dolphins in Miami, which dropped their road record to 1-5.
BATES BACK, PORTIS RELEASED
Wide receiver Phil Bates has been re-signed to the practice squad. Bates, a rookie free agent, was with the team during training camp but released on the roster cut to 75 players. He was signed to the practice squad on Oct. 31 and then released on Nov. 14.
To clear a spot, quarterback Josh Portis was released. Portis was on the 53-man roster last season. This year, he was released on the roster cut to 53 players and signed to the practice squad the next day.
STATS ’N STUFF
Lynch has slipped to third in the league in rushing (1,051 yards) after being held to 46 yards by the Dolphins. The Vikings’ Adrian Peterson still leads the NFL (1,236), while the Texans’ Arian Foster (1,064) leapfrogged Lynch. Peterson ran for 108 yards against the Bears on Sunday.
Lynch also is fifth in the league in total yards (1,189).
Jon Ryan is ninth in the league in punting average (47.7), but fifth in net average (42.1). He also tied a club record against the Dolphins by having six punts downed inside the 20-yard line. That gives him 22 for the season, which ranks fifth in the league.
With his 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Dolphins, Leon Washington increased his average to 31.9 yards, which ranks third in the league.
Rookie middle linebacker Bobby Wagner continued to lead the team in tackles with 90.
As a team, the Seahawks rank fifth in the league in total defense (12th against the run, third against the pass) and 27th in total offense (eighth rushing, 31st passing).
STAT DU JOUR
How efficient and effective has rookie QB Russell Wilson been over the past seven games? Only two quarterbacks in the league have a better QBR, the rating system used at ESPN.com, and their names are Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Here’s a look at the Top 10 since Week 5:
Player, team QBR
Tom Brady, Patriots 84.7
Peyton Manning, Broncos 81.0
Russell Wilson, Seahawks 79.1
Drew Brees, Saints 76.9
Josh Freeman, Bucs 74.9
Robert Griffin III, Redskins 74.7
Matt Ryan, Falcons 73.2
Aaron Rodgers, Packers 72.7
Andrew Luck, Colts 72.3
Eli Manning, Giants 71.3
The players return from their “off” day to begin practicing for Sunday’s game on “Competition Wednesday.” Because the game is in Chicago, the team will leave on Friday for the second consecutive week and hold its Saturday walkthrough at a local high school.
YOU DON’T SAY
“Knee-jerk reaction: ‘Good teams don’t go 1-5 on the road. The Seahawks are a fraud. They’ll never make a dent in the playoffs as a wild-card team at this rate.’ Reality or not? ‘What did you expect, a 12-4 season? Seattle is building around one of the most impressive rookie QBs in the NFL. Simply reaching the playoffs should be enough.” – NFC West blogger Mike Sando in the weekly “Knee-jerk reaction” feature at ESPN.com
A recap of the activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Nov. 26:
Russell Wilson. The Seahawks’ rookie quarterback has been on a “continued ascent,” as coach Pete Carroll said today during his day-after Q&A session with the media.
That’s one way to put it, because what Wilson has done in the past three games is historic stuff.
In Sunday’s 24-21 loss to the Dolphins in Miami, Wilson became the first rookie in the 93-year history of the NFL to complete 16 consecutive passes – which also is one shy of the Seahawks’ franchise record that was set by Hall of Fame QB Warren Moon in 1998.
The historic feat that Wilson turned with his arm also led to another first-for-a-rookie achievement, which the league announced today. With his 125.9 passer rating against the Dolphins, he also has a three-game streak where his rating has been at least 125. Wilson had a 131.0 rating in the pre-bye week win over the Jets and was at 127.3 the week before against the Vikings – both victories in games played at CenturyLink Field.
Put those three games together and Wilson’s numbers inch closer to top-of-the-chart status, not for a rookie QB but any QB: 128.6 rating, 70 percent completions (49 of 70), 585 yards, seven touchdown passes, no interceptions.
The Packers’ Aaron Rodgers leads the league in passer rating (105.6), while the 49ers’ Alex Smith leads in completion percentage (.700).
As pleased as Carroll is with the progress of his first-year passer, he is not startled by Wilson’s development.
“Russell has really, really continued to improve,” Carroll said. “It’s not really a surprise when you look at how he goes about it, and who he is, and how talented a football player he is.
“I thought his talent really showed in (Sunday’s) game. I thought he was really adept at finding space to make his plays, and dumping the ball off really effectively, as well.”
Here’s a closer look at Wilson’s “sweet 16” against the Dolphins:
It started on the Seahawks’ first possession of the second quarter, after he threw incomplete to Golden Tate. Then it was Wilson to Sidney Rice for 26 yards on third-and-12; Wilson to Rice for 11 yards; and Wilson to tight end Zach Miller for 4 yards on third-and-3. That’s three in a row.
On their next possession in the quarter, it was Wilson to rookie running back Robert Turbin for 20 yards on third-and-3; Wilson to running back Marshawn Lynch for 7 yards on third-and-1; Wilson to Tate for 32 yards; and Wilson to tight end Anthony McCoy for 3 yards and a touchdown. That’s seven in a row.
On the Seahawks’ first possession in the third quarter, Wilson was 7 of 7 during the 12-play, 80-yard drive that ended with his 4-yard TD pass to fullback Michael Robinson: Wilson to Rice for 12 yards; Wilson to Miller for 4 yards; Wilson to rookie wide receiver Jermaine Kearse for 8 yards on third-and-3; Wilson to Doug Baldwin for 14 yards; Wilson to Turbin for 18 yards; Wilson to tight end Evan Moore for 6 yards on third-and-1; Wilson to Robinson for the score. That’s 14 in a row.
Wilson then hit his first two passes of the fourth quarter – a 14-yarder to Tate and an 8-yarder to Miller – for No. 15 and No. 16.
His 16 completions went to 10 different receivers, with Rice (three), Miller (three), Tate (two) and Turbin (two) catching more than one.
“I think he’s got more room to improve,” Carroll said. “And I think he is a prime example of why a guy improves, because of the way he applies himself. He does it to the absolute nth degree. We’re seeing it right before our eyes. Pretty cool.”
THE POINT OF NO RETURNS
Heath Farwell and his mates on the kickoff and punt coverage units went without a tackle against the Dolphins because the Seahawks did not allow a return. Six of Jon Ryan’s seven punts were inside the 20-yard line, as four were fair caught, two went out of bounds and the other was downed; while each of Steven Hauschka’s four kickoffs were touchbacks.
“That’s one of the first games I’ve been in where they had zero return yards, and we didn’t have any tackles,” special teams coordinator Brian Schneider said. “Our guys love to fight for tackles. That’s a big deal to them in the locker room, like who’s going to get them. And there just weren’t any, because Jon did such a great job punting and Steven was crushing the ball.”
As a result, the Dolphins had 11 possessions and the last 10 started at (four) or inside (six) the 20-yard line.
“We’ll take that anytime,” Schneider said.
Linebacker Leroy Hill (ankle) and left guard James Carpenter (knee) left Sunday’s game against the Dolphins, but each was able to return. Carroll said today that he’ll know more on Wednesday about their availability to practice.
STAT DU JOUR
Leon Washington returned his eighth kickoff for a touchdown against the Dolphins on Sunday, tying the NFL record that was set by the Browns’ Josh Cribbs. Here’s a look at Washington’s scoring returns – the first four with the Seahawks, the other four with the Jets:
Opponent (year) Yards Outcome
Dolphins (2012) 98 L, 24-21
49ers (2010) 92 L, 40-21
Chargers (2010) 101, 99 W, 27-20
Patriots (2008) 92 W, 34-31
Dolphins (2007) 98 W, 31-28
Giants (2007) 98 L, 35-24
Redskins (2007) 86 L, 23-20 OT
The players have their “off” day on Tuesday and will return on “Competition Wednesday” to begin practicing for Sunday’s game against the Bears in Chicago.
Strong safety Kam Chancellor will sign autographs from 6-7 p.m. on Tuesday at the CenturyLink Field Pro Shop.
YOU DON’T SAY
“This is running into the quarterback, not roughing the quarterback … (Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas) was trying to avoid it. He didn’t even hit him (Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill) hard, barely touched him.” – Tony Dungy, the former Colts and Buccaneers coach and now NBC analyst, on the fourth-quarter penalty that negated an end-zone interception by rookie middle linebacker Bobby Wagner
A recap of the activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Nov. 19:
The day after having the bye week off. The Seahawks held their first full practice since Nov. 9, a “Bonus Monday” session where they began focusing on Sunday’s game against the Dolphins in Miami.
They were refreshed, rested and energized. And it showed.
“It was fun to be back,” coach Pete Carroll said. “These guys, I think, really appreciated the break. They’re fired up about our prospects of doing something good here. They came back with a lot of energy and they feel really good, like you would expect.
“You could tell. You could tell just by the way they ran around today that they had a lot of spring in their step.”
The Seahawks now need to use the rest from the bye week, coupled with the momentum gained from winning their past two games, as a springboard toward “doing something good here,” as Carroll put it.
And that was the emphasis in his message to the players as they gathered for a team meeting at noon.
“We need to take advantage of the beak by coming back and practicing really well this week and getting all the little things done,” Carroll said. “One of the things that can get lost is that you have all your discipline and you have all of the timing down, just because you might feel like you do.
“I don’t want to take that for granted. So the discipline that we execute this week, starting on Wednesday – it started today – is crucial. We’ve got to go out and play really good football and we want to continue to do that. Which means the timing. That means the line of scrimmage. That means penalties. That means taking care of the football. All of those things are really what’s at hand right now.”
There was that thought in the locker room after the pre-bye win over the Jets that the Seahawks were on a roll and the week off might interrupt the momentum. But to a player, they agreed today that the break and the rest that came with it were needed and beneficial.
“It can throw you off. You can get thrown out of whack because you’re in those routines, and though they’re routines hopefully they’re good routines and habits,” Carroll said. “So I’m not taking it for granted that we’ve just got it nailed and we’re back in full steam again.
“I want to make sure that this is a very strict week and very disciplined week to make sure that we recapture the timing and the things we’ve been doing.”
Left guard James Carpenter was the only player who did not participate in today’s practice, which was held in the indoor practice facility for obvious reasons. Carpenter still has more tests to take, Carroll said, before he can he cleared to return to practice.
“We’ll find out Wednesday if he’s cleared to go,” Carroll said.
Strongside linebacker K.J. Wright was back after missing the pre-bye game against the Jets as well as most of the game against the Vikings the week before because of a concussion.
“We’re very fortunate right now,” Carroll said. “We’re very fortunate to be this healthy at this point. Hopefully we’ll make the most of it.”
STATS ’N STUFF
The Seahawks didn’t play over the weekend, but some things didn’t change.
Marshawn Lynch remains No. 2 in the league in rushing with 1,005 yards – 123 behind Adrian Peterson of the Vikings, who also had their bye. Buccaneers’ rookie Doug Martin did close the gap and now is just 5 yards behind Lynch. Peterson (1,283) and Lynch (1,142) slipped to second and third in total yards behind Martin (1,319).
Russell Wilson also remained No. 12 in the league is passer rating (90.5), and is No. 6 in fourth-quarter passer rating (96.2).
Jon Ryan is No. 4 in punting average (49.0) and third in net average (42.5), while Leon Washington is tied for seventh in kickoff return average (28.3).
Richard Sherman is tied for fourth in interceptions (four), while Bruce Irvin continues to lead all rookies in sacks (seven).
The Seahawks actually improved one spot in total defense to No. 3, allowing an average of 296.8 yards. They are No. 2 against the pass and No. 12 against the run. They also are No. 6 in rushing offense, but No. 26 overall because they’re last in passing offense.
STAT DU JOUR
This one comes from NFC West blogger Mike Sando at ESPN.com and it’s even a day old, but it also definitely is worth repeating: Wilson is the only non-offensive lineman in the NFC West to play every offensive snap for his team this season.
The players will have their usual off day on Tuesday before returning on Wednesday to continue preparing for Sunday’s game against the Dolphins.
Looking even farther down the week, the Sunday forecast in Miami is calling for a high of 76 degrees with zero percent chance of precipitation.
YOU DON’T SAY
“In a copy-cat league where personnel decisions and play-calling never gets very far out of the box, (GM John) Schneider and Carroll buck traditional, safe decision-making and do what they believe in. If you have no other reason to root for the Seahawks, there’s a good place to start.” – former Seahawks linebacker and now 710 ESPN analyst Dave Wyman in this piece posted
The first round of fan balloting for the Pro Bowl has been announced, and the Seahawks need your help.
Running back Marshawn Lynch and punter Jon Ryan rank second at their positions, behind the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson and Packers’ Tim Masthay. Peterson is fifth among all players and second to the Texans’ Arian Foster at running back with 298,323 votes.
Five of the Top 10 vote-getters are quarterbacks – No. 1 Peyton Manning, No. 2 Tom Brady, No. 4 Aaron Rodgers, No. 9 Matt Ryan and No. 10 Drew Brees.
Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor is No. 3 at his position. Defensive end Chris Clemons and free safety Earl Thomas are fourth at their respective spots, while center Max Unger and kick returner Leon Washington are fifth.
Nose tackle Brandon Mebane, cornerback Richard Sherman and special teams standout Heath Farwell aren’t even among the Top 5 at their positions.
Fan balloting runs through Monday, Dec. 17, and counts one-third toward the selection of the NFC and AFC squads the will play in the NFL all-star game on Jan. 27. The coaches and players in the league will cast their votes in December, and each will count one-third.
You can help the Seahawks’ players improve their current standing by voting here.