Around the NFC West: Clemons ACL impact

Around the NFC West: Jan. 8, 2013

The Seattle Seahawks outscored their opponents by a 170-43 margin in the four games starting cornerback Brandon Browner missed to suspension this season.

They allowed three passing touchdowns over that span. When Browner returned, the team allowed two quick touchdown passes while falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter of its very next game.

Were the Seahawks better for Browner's absence? Of course not. But football is a team game and sometimes the loss of one individual doesn't change much.

Last season, the Seahawks ended the San Francisco 49ers' streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher. They did this after losing left tackle Russell Okung to a season-ending pectoral injury.

Were the Seahawks better with backup guard Paul McQuistan moving into the starting lineup at left tackle? Of course not. But the principles at work in the Browner situation applied to the Okung situation as well. Games are bigger than one player unless that player is a quarterback or some sort of all-world talent, and assuming the team has done a good job acquiring/coaching its personnel.

We're now left to wonder how badly the Seahawks will miss defensive end Chris Clemons, who suffered a torn ACL during the team's recent 24-14 playoff victory over Washington.

Clemons has posted double-digit sacks over each of the past three seasons. My initial thought upon his injury was that Seattle might struggle enough without him to lose its next playoff game. But the situations with Browner and Okung soon came to mind.

Clemons' replacement in the lineup, Bruce Irvin, was the 15th overall choice in the 2012 draft. The team drafted Irvin to pair with Clemons on passing downs in the short term, and to replace him as a starter in the long term.

The long term begins Sunday in Atlanta, where the Seahawks face the Falcons in a divisional-round game. Irvin will be a player to watch, for sure.