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Defense earns an A

Richard Sherman’s 58-yard interception return for a TD to force overtime against the Texans helped the defense earn an A grade. (Associated Press)
Richard Sherman’s 58-yard interception return for a TD to force overtime against the Texans helped the defense earn an A grade. (Associated Press)

Unbeaten Seahawks receive first-quarter report card

Sunday’s 23-20 overtime win at Houston marked the end of the first quarter of the season for the Seahawks. And judging by the most important stat – wins and losses – it was the most successful first quarter of a season in team history. Never, since the team began play in 1976, had the Seahawks started 4-0.

The end of the first four games, though, also marks a good time to hand out a few quarterly grades and awards for the offense, defense and special teams.

Offense: Any assessment of the offense has to take into account the injury issues to the offensive line, which has had three starting groups in four games.

Last year, the team’s three most important linemen – left tackle Russell Okung, right tackle Breno Giacomini and center Max Unger – combined to start all but one game. This year, they have already missed a combined four starts, with more to come with Okung out at least six more games and Giacomini likely out a few more weeks.

Statistically, Seattle is right on track with where it was a year ago, averaging 352.3 yards – the Seahawks averaged 350.6 last year. Seattle is sixth in the league in points per game at 27.3.

Giving statistical proof to what is often evident watching the games, Pro Football Focus detailed this week that Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson has been under pressure more often than all but one other quarterback in the NFL.

The constant running for his life has played a role in Wilson having up-and-down passing numbers.

The line inconsistency is also a reason Marshawn Lynch is averaging 3.9 yards per carry, down from 5.0 last season.

Grade: B.

MVP: Wilson. Despite the seemingly constant pressure, he has a 95.3 passer rating.

Defense: The defense entered the season being called by many among the best in the NFL, and it has lived up to that. The Seahawks are allowing just 11.8 points per game, second in the NFL behind Kansas City’s 10.3.

Pass rush and run defense have improved. Keying that rise are free agents Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett.

Bennett has been a particular standout, tied for the team lead in sacks with 2.5. Red Bryant, healthy again, and Brandon Mebane have been stellar against the run.

The play of the front has combined with the vaunted secondary to make Seattle the best pass defense in the league – opposing quarterbacks have a combined passer rating of 60.7, lowest in the NFL.

Grade: A.

MVP: Richard Sherman.

Special teams: This area has been an underrated reason for the team’s success.

Kicker Steven Hauschka is 8 of 8, including the 45-yard game-winner last week at Houston.

Coverage and punt returns have been solid.

Grade: A.

MVP: Hauschka.

Quick kicks

Titans QB Jake Locker will miss a “few weeks” with a sprained hip. Ryan Fitzpatrick will start Sunday for the Titans (3-1) against the Chiefs (4-0). … The NFL Players Association wants to determine if the Buccaneers leaked information about quarterback Josh Freeman being in the NFL’s substance abuse program. Freeman said in a statement released by his agent late Monday that he voluntarily entered the substance-abuse program and submitted to random testing more than a year ago after mistakenly taking Ritalin instead of Adderall to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. … The Broncos maintained their grip on the top spot in the AP Pro32 power rankings, pulling in nine of 12 first-place votes to hold off the Seahawks. Note: A complete listing appears in the Scoreboard on page B6.


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