The Seattle Seahawks lost to the then-San Diego Chargers 30-21 in Week 2 of the 2014 season on the road. The Seahawks couldn’t contain the Philip Rivers to Antonio Gates combination that day, with the future Hall-of-Famer Gates catching all three of Rivers’ touchdown passes. Percy Harvin scored on a 51-yard run to give the Seahawks an early lead before Rivers and Gates took over. The Chargers controlled the clock all day, amassing a staggering 42:15 time of possession en route to the victory.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Pete Carroll vs. Gus Bradley
Yes, that Gus Bradley. The former Seahawks defensive coordinator, the same one who brilliantly made Red Bryant a 330-pound defensive end and helped lead the Seahawks to a championship, is now in control of the Chargers’ defense after a failed stint as Jacksonville Jaguars head coach. Bradley really knows the ins-and-outs of Seattle’s defense, which he helped create, and is sure to pass that knowledge along to Los Angeles’ offensive personnel. Stubborn Pete is not likely to change anything or disguise anything the Seahawks do, so the Chargers should be very familiar with Seattle’s defense by game day.
Russell Wilson vs. Derwin James
There is a thought in the NFL draft community that the Seahawks were about to take James when the Chargers nabbed the stud safety with the 17th pick. Seattle was on the clock at 18, and traded that pick to move down to take running back Rashaad Penny. With Kam Chancellor’s status in doubt, James was a perfect fit as a big thumper who plays like a linebacker. And James has been everything the Chargers had hoped for. According to Pro Football Focus, James rates as the seventh-best safety in the league so far this season. James lines up all over the field, and Wilson will need to identify where the rookie is at all times if the Seahawks’ offense hopes to continue its roll.
Belly vs. Belly
D.J. Fluker is a large human. So is former Seahawks fan-favorite Brandon Mebane, author of the Belly Roll sack dance. The two will likely square off numerous times on Sunday, with Fluker manning the right guard spot for Seattle and Mebane at nose tackle for Los Angeles. Fluker has been better than expected since signing a modest free-agent deal with the Seahawks. He sets the tone for the entire line with his ability to blow defenders off the ball. The veteran Mebane has been effective in his three years with the Chargers after nine seasons in Seattle. Picture a sumo-wrestling stalemate when these two go head-to-head.
2.95 — The average number of seconds from snap to throw for Seahawks quarterback Wilson, third-highest in the league among current starters, according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats. This seems to back up what Wilson said after the Lions game, “I’m cooking steaks back there.” The Seahawks’ pass-protection has been immensely improved from the start of the season. The Chargers defense is in the middle of the pack with an adjusted sack rate of 5.7-percent, good for 18th in the league via FootballOutsiders.com. This would seem to bode well for the Seahawks with game-wrecker Joey Bosa ruled out for Sunday’s game. Bosa, who has 23 sacks in his two seasons in the NFL, has missed all season with a foot injury.
DID YOU KNOW?
Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt was the offensive coordinator for Pittsburgh in the Steelers’ 21-10 win over the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL. Whisenhunt is the one credited for dialing up a trick play late in the fourth quarter of the close game to seal the win for Pittsburgh. With the score 14-10, wide receiver Antwaan Randle El took a pitch from running back Willie Parker and heaved a pass to Hines Ward for a 43-yard touchdown to put the game out of reach. If that’s not enough reason to dislike Whisenhunt, he was head coach of the rival Arizona Cardinals for six seasons and is now in control of a Chargers offense that averages 6.9 yards per play, best in the NFL. In another name of note, Chargers left tackle Russell Okung is a former Seahawk and member of the Super Bowl XVIII championship team.
Last Sunday against the Detroit Lions, the Seahawks defense deployed a scheme rarely seen in Seattle, but popular across the league: the Tampa 2. The Tampa 2 is zone defense very similar to a Cover-2, in that both safeties are responsible for a deep third of the field from the numbers to the sideline, with each cornerback responsible for an underneath quarter of the field from roughly the numbers to the sideline. But the key component of the Tampa 2 is what the middle linebacker does. In this defense, the middle linebacker (Bobby Wagner) takes a deep drop right down the middle of the field to cover the middle third. The two remaining linebackers are responsible for the two remaining underneath quarters. Both Lions touchdowns came out of this coverage (safeties Tedric Thompson and Delano Hill were both a step late covering their deep thirds) with head coach Pete Carroll saying the team was a little rusty in deploying the rarely used scheme.
After a couple of morning games, it’s back to afternoon action for the Seahawks. Hearing “Los Angeles Chargers” certainly doesn’t conjure up any particular craving or memory, so it’s best to stick to a gameday staple: nachos. Make them how you like them, but do yourself a favor and grab some fresh-made salsa in the refrigerated aisle at most grocery stores. For a beverage, go with one of a number of different beers from Golden Road Brewing, brewed in Los Angeles, but available locally. The Point the Way IPA is particularly fitting, with this game against the Chargers going a long way toward determining which way the Seahawks season might go.
Chargers 30, Seahawks 27
Yes, the Seahawks are on a roll, but for whatever reason Seattle has always struggled against Rivers since he became QB of the Chargers. The Seahawks are 1-2 all-time against Rivers, and in the lone win allowed him to throw for 455 yards and two touchdowns. CenturyLink Field will be a factor, but with Rivers playing at an MVP level so far this season and his ability to take what the defense gives him, this will be a tough test for the Hawks. Seattle falls in a close one that might look a lot like its earlier loss against the Rams at home.