1. Cut down on penalties: Nine penalties for 85 yards were a big factor in Seattle’s 19-17 loss at San Francisco last weekend. Two of them killed big plays by the offense that might have resulted in touchdowns. The secondary also was flagged for defensive holding three times.
Seattle is second worst in the NFL in penalties, having been flagged 104 times. Tampa Bay has been penalized 106 times.
The Seahawks have to be more aware of their reputation as a physically tough team that will step over the line at times on what’s allowed and what isn’t. Because of that rep, fair or unfair, opposing coaches and players often talk to officials before the game and tell them to watch the Seahawks closely on potential penalties.
This team will continue to play on the edge and get some penalties, but more awareness of the situation, especially at key moments, can make the difference in close games on the road.
2. Consistency against the run: The Seahawks are 14th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed at 111.5 per game after giving up 163 yards against the 49ers, including the 51-yard run by Frank Gore that set up the winning field goal at the end of the game.
It isn’t so much the number of yards the defense allows on the ground as it is the tendency to give up yards in big chunks at times, because of players missing their gap assignments. Part of the problem also is Seattle’s strength as an aggressive defense that goes all out to rush the passer and takes chances at times to try to force turnovers. That also can lead to missed tackles.
And losing outside linebacker K.J. Wright for four to six weeks (broken foot) doesn’t help. Wright is a tough run-stopper and was third on the team in tackles.
Malcolm Smith, Wright’s replacement, is a talented athlete, but much smaller than Wright and a different style of player. Smith’s strength is his speed, which allows him to run down backs coming around the end.
3. Get Lynch into Beast Mode: Marshawn Lynch has averaged only 57 yards rushing a game and 3.2 yards per carry in the past three games. Everything the Seahawks do offensively revolves around the power-running game and Lynch gashing defenses with his aggressive style of carrying the football.
Running the ball well could be a big factor Sunday if weather conditions are bad. It’s expected to be in the low 30s with strong winds and a chance of precipitation. Lynch is due for a big game, especially with a healthy offensive line for the Seahawks.
4. Throw it deep: Opposing defenses are loading the box to stop Lynch and often bringing eight or nine players to the line of scrimmage. So quarterback Russell Wilson needs to take a few shots downfield to Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin or Jermaine Kearse to either get a big play or at least force the defense to stay back and give Lynch more room to run.
Obviously, this would be more effective if receiver Percy Harvin was on the field, but that’s not an option for now and may not be the rest of the season. Even without Harvin, Seattle’s receivers are talented enough to make things happen on a few deep throws. The back-shoulder sideline pass is one area where Wilson and his receivers excel.