Seattle’s new defenders got off to a solid start
KIRKLAND, Wash. — With six new starters and a rookie safety who plays in nickel packages, there were questions how the Seattle Seahawks would look on defense.
Chike Okeafor and his teammates flattened those concerns in Week 1, along with an offensive lineman or two. Seattle’s defenders had a solid opener in last week’s 21-7 win at New Orleans.
“We played good team defense,” said coach Mike Holmgren, crediting coordinator Ray Rhodes for installing a great plan. “Guys were flying around and we had good energy and speed. We tackled pretty well.”
The Seahawks limited the Saints to 281 yards and held Deuce McAllister to only 57 yards rushing. They forced and recovered two fumbles, intercepted Aaron Brooks on a batted ball and held New Orleans to 3-of-14 on third-down conversions.
In short, Seattle’s defense helped establish the pace of the game.
“Our point of emphasis has been to stop the run,” said Okeafor, a defensive end. “When an offense can run, that eats up the clock. It wears down the defense, wears down your morale.”
That sure didn’t apply to the Seahawks’ defense.
Rookie safety Michael Boulware, who played linebacker at Florida State, broke up two passes and got his first NFL interception. He kept the ball, but was reluctant to call his older brother, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Peter Boulware, fearing it would seem like bragging.
“I got out there a little nervous because I knew they were going to attack me, a rookie at a new position and new to the NFL. The guys on defense rallied around me and gave me encouraging words,” Boulware said.
Boulware also stopped Michael Lewis on a 51-yard kickoff return to open the second half, saving what could have been a game-tying touchdown when Seattle was protecting a 14-7 lead.
“He’s going to get nothing but better,” Holmgren said. “To have him have some success in his first ballgame is good.”
Okeafor had the defensive highlight, though, when he sacked Brooks for a 9-yard loss in the first quarter. The 265-pound Okeafor burst across the line and flattened 340-pound tackle Victor Riley.
“You just do it,” Okeafor said, recalling the play. “I could say, ‘Yeah, I did this or that.’ I just read off what he gave me and the body did it. It was just a one-handed stab.”
At the other end, free agent addition Grant Wistrom batted the third-quarter pass that was picked off by Boulware. The secondary had good downfield coverage, consistently forcing Brooks to scramble.
Terreal Bierria quietly emerged as the starting strong safety after Damien Robinson was lost for the season with a torn labrum. Bierria led Seattle with nine tackles, broke up a pass and forced a fumble by McAllister.
Middle linebacker Orlando Huff recovered that loose ball and Isaiah Kacyvenski stepped in for injured outside linebacker Chad Brown. Most of the concerns were about Bierria, Huff and Kacyvenski.
“Those guys were on the field for the first time for extended periods of time,” Holmgren said. “I couldn’t be more pleased. But if I compliment them too much, they’re going to look at me like something is wrong.”
Still waiting for action is top draft pick Marcus Tubbs, who is nursing a hamstring injury and was inactive last weekend. Holmgren said he could have played, but trainers are being cautious.
“My feeling is we’ll have him ready to go this week,” Holmgren said.
Going into Sunday’s game at Tampa Bay, there will be plenty of work for Seattle’s defense, even if the Buccaneers failed to score an offensive touchdown in an opening 16-10 loss at Washington.
That’s where Rhodes comes in. Any time Holmgren worries about saying too many nice things, he remembers that the defensive coach will find something to correct for each of his players.
“If they’re in the film room with Ray, believe me, there aren’t going to be many smiling faces coming out of there,” Holmgren said, laughing.