S.F. defense true benchmark for Seahawks' offense
How Seattle performs Sunday against the 49ers will show just how far its offense has progressed this season.
And driving 97 yards in the final minutes of a game in Chicago for the go-ahead score, then following that with an 80-yard touchdown drive in overtime? That, too, is no small feat for an offense that early in the season looked like one of the worst in the NFL.
But if you really want to see just how far the Seattle Seahawks offense and rookie quarterback Russell Wilson have come since the early stages of the season, check out Sunday night's game against the San Francisco 49ers. It's one thing to pile up points against the Cardinals, a team that seemed intent on helping the Seahawks score points in as many unique ways as possible, or to run wild against the Bills, who rank 31st in the league in scoring defense. It's another thing to look good against the 49ers defense.
San Francisco ranks first in the league in scoring defense, having given up one fewer point than the Seahawks over the course of 14 games. When these teams last met, the 49ers not only held Seattle to a season-low six points, they also held the Seahawks to their fewest first downs, pass completions and second-lowest yardage total of the season.
The road loss to San Francisco also was a momentary setback for Wilson, who less than a week earlier had played one of his best games of the season, leading Seattle to a comeback win over New England. It is worth noting, however, that Wilson's numbers against the 49ers would have been significantly better if not for numerous drops that night.
The Seahawks offense has improved steadily since the San Francisco game and Seattle has gone from a team that won with defense, special teams and a running game, to a very balanced team that can score points in bunches as needed. After being held to less than 20 points in five of their first seven games, the Seahawks have scored at least 23 points in each of their past seven. Seattle has also gained more than 450 yards in each of its past three games, something no other NFL team has accomplished this year.
"You guys have seen the stats and seen Russell and seen the offense, so I think we've grown a lot," said receiver Golden Tate, who didn't have a catch in his first meeting with the 49ers. "I think we've matured a lot, and most importantly, Russell has grown a lot and has led this team very well."
Indeed Wilson's growth has been key to that of the entire offense. No longer is the offense being dialed back for the sake of the rookie; he's now one of the biggest reasons the Seahawks are scoring and winning with regularity.
Since passing for just 122 yards and an interception in San Francisco, Wilson has been one of the best quarterbacks in the league during the past two months, completing 118 of 178 passes for 1,467 yards, 13 touchdowns, two interceptions and a 111.3 passer rating. Those aren't game-manager numbers, they're Pro Bowl numbers.
"Our quarterback is getting better week in and week out definitely helps our team," fullback Michael Robinson said. "He's definitely better than he was when we played them October 18. ... He's better now than he was then. He's a guy who tries to get better every day, and as a team we're trying to do the same thing."
But now we'll see just how far Wilson and this offense have come. Seattle's rematch against Arizona was supposed to be the first gauge of the offensive improvement, but the Cardinals' offense and special teams were so inept that the Seahawks didn't have to do much on offense. That almost certainly won't happen against San Francisco. For the Seahawks to win and clinch a playoff spot Sunday, Wilson and his offense will have to show that they can continue their improvement, even against one of the best defenses in football.
"It's going to obviously be a huge test," said center Max Unger. "We all know how good their defense is."
Sherman absent again
Cornerback Richard Sherman missed his second straight practice while away to have the appeal of his four-game suspension heard by the league. The NFL isn't expected to rule on Sherman's appeal before Sunday's game, so he should be available against San Francisco.
"I'm anticipating that we'll have him," Carroll said. "I know nothing else at this point."
Receiver Sidney Rice (knee) and cornerbacks Walter Thurmond (hamstring) and Marcus Trufant (hamstring) all practice on a limited basis after sitting out the previous two days. All three are listed as questionable and will be worked out Sunday before a decision is made on their availability, Carroll said. Carroll did, however, add that Rice thinks he'll be good to go. Defensive tackle Alan Branch, who injured his ankle last weekend, practiced fully for the second straight day and is expected to play Sunday.
Herald Writer John Boyle: email@example.com.
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