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Seattle tackles defensive issue

Fri., Sept. 5, 2008, midnight

RENTON, Wash. – The forgettable performance, some might say, is best left forgotten.

When the Seattle Seahawks’ run defense allowed Green Bay rookie running back Ryan Grant to punish it for 201 rushing yards and three touchdowns in a January playoff game, the first reaction was to strike it from the record like a painful memory.

For some Seahawks, that’s simply not possible.

“You might call it forgettable, but I won’t forget it,” defensive end Patrick Kerney said this week, recalling the 42-20 loss to the Packers on Jan. 12. “It was a poor performance by our defense. We tackled poorly. That’s what it came down to.”

“It’s last year, and you try to put that stuff behind you,” said defensive tackle Craig Terrill. “But for the guys that were here, it’s embarrassing to have a team run on you like that.”

If Seattle’s last meaningful game wasn’t reason enough for concern, the 102-yard rushing performance by San Diego’s Darren Sproles in a preseason contest 11 days ago sent up a few more red flags. The 5-foot-7 backup squirted through holes all night long, bringing back some painful memories of the Green Bay game.

“That’s the same thing that happened in the San Diego game,” Kerney said of the Chargers’ 18-17 win at Qualcomm Stadium, “and it’s something we have to address.”

Say what you will about Seattle’s solid core of returning players on defense and the veteran presence the Seahawks have on that side of the football. But when it comes to opening-week worries, the run defense is Nos. 1 and 1A on that side of the ball as the Seahawks head into Sunday’s game at Buffalo.

“I think there’s always a question mark on you until you prove that there isn’t,” Terrill said. “It’s about going in, week in and week out, and shutting down the run – whether it’s at home or on the road. Because anytime someone breaks a few on you, then all of a sudden the questions come up.

“The run game is such a consistency thing. You can’t have the ups and downs. You have to play the same.”

Run defense was one of the strengths of the 2007 team during the past regular season, when the Seahawks ranked 12th in the NFL by yielding just 102.8 rushing yards per game. But the Green Bay game – Grant set a franchise record for rushing yards in a playoff contest – was a whole different ballgame.

“You’re only as good as your last performance,” Kerney said.

Seattle’s last meaningful game was bad enough, but the final tune-up by the Seahawks’ No. 1 defense this preseason was just as alarming. With all 11 projected starters playing – middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu was on the field for almost the entire first half before coming out with a bruised knee – the Seattle defense let Sproles ramble for 94 yards in the first half alone. It was a preseason game, but the poor angles and missed tackles seemed all too familiar.

“Sure, that was a major concern,” defensive coordinator John Marshall said Thursday. “We didn’t play well on defense. Every once in a while, they would pop one, and that’s what we’re in the process of taking care of.”

Not that everyone is wringing his hands over the performances. When the two games were brought up to Tatupu this week, the Pro Bowl linebacker said, “No concerns.”

While there are plenty of asterisks to go around – the Packers game was played on a slippery, snow-covered surface, and the Chargers game did not count in the standings – the performances leave obvious room for improvement.


Tatupu continued to ease back into action, seeing limited practice time Thursday. Coach Mike Holmgren said earlier this week that Tatupu is expected to play against the Bills despite a bruised knee. The official injury report comes out today. … Wide receiver Deion Branch also saw limited practice time as he tries to come back from February knee surgery. … Defensive end Baraka Atkins (back) returned to the practice field.


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