And the San Diego Chargers took notice.
“They just brought a physicality and a mentality that was unmatched by Denver,” Chargers middle linebacker and defensive co-captain Donald Butler said. “I definitely believe that we can get there, and that we will get there.”
Even though they sacked Manning just once, the Seahawks made Denver’s quarterback uncomfortable by sending just four rushers most of the time, allowing Seattle to play seven defenders in coverage.
Seattle blitzed just five times (rushed more than four rushers) on more than 50 drop-back passes against Manning. Still, the Seahawks forced four turnovers, including a 69-yard interception return for a score by Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith.
Look for San Diego to take a similar approach this season, loading up on pass-rushers so they can play guys in waves, keeping their defensive front fresh through the duration of the season.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Seahawks were No. 3 in the NFL in getting pressure on the quarterback without blitzing, while the Chargers were second-worst in the league.
So while San Diego’s secondary took the brunt of criticism for the team’s struggles defensively last season, the Chargers need to do a better job of getting pressure on the quarterback.
“They’re obviously talented, they’re simple and they’re sound,” Chargers safety Eric Weddle said about Seattle’s defense. “They play fast. If you know what you’re doing, and all 11 guys know what they’re doing, know their responsibility and play as one, it’s really a great thing to watch.
“I respect the heck out of those guys. I’ve talked to a bunch of them, and it’s a great thing to watch. I love seeing great defense. And as a safety in this league and the captain of this defense, that’s what you strive for. You look at that, you see our personnel and the way we play, and that’s what you envision. And hopefully we can get to that level, because if you do, you see what can happen.”
While the Chargers were impressed with how Seattle’s defense performed, San Diego’s defense also can take some confidence in the fact that they also played well against Denver’s high-powered offense last season.
The Chargers held the Broncos to a season-low average of 24 points a contest in two games, including a 27-20 win at Denver in which they held the Broncos to 2-of-9 on third down.
San Diego will get a chance to see firsthand how they stack up against the Seahawks defensively in the upcoming season. The Chargers travel to Seattle for a preseason game during the second week of exhibition play on August 15, and then host the defending Super Bowl champions for the team’s home opener at Qualcomm Stadium on Sept. 14.
Butler knows the Chargers have to be ready to deal with Seattle’s aggressive style of play.
“If our defense is not ready and willing to match their defense’s physicality," he said, "we’re going to be in trouble.”