Hawks need ‘D’ to stand up on the road

Playmakers have come up empty in 3 disappointing defeats away from Seattle

eric.williams@thenewstribune.comNovember 28, 2012 

RENTON — It should be a defensive player’s dream — being on the field with the game winding down and needing one final stop to seal a victory for your team.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll built a defense as the identity of his team.

However, Seattle’s strength — its defense — has not come through three times this season on the road — against Arizona, Detroit and Miami — each time failing to protect leads in the fourth quarter.

The Seahawks are 1-5 on the road this season.

Against the Dolphins on Sunday, the Seahawks led 21-14 after Leon Washington’s 98-yard kick return for a score, but they let rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill lead the Dolphins to 10 points in eight minutes for the victory.

“There’s nothing more we can do to play better on the road, besides playing better,” said Seattle linebacker Leroy Hill, one of the senior statesmen on the defense, after the game. “We have it in our head that our road record is not where we want it to be. Our home record is undefeated, so we know what we can do. But, I don’t know, it’s crazy. We came out flat, and we just didn’t play our ball today.”

Statistically, Seattle still has one of the top defenses in the league. The Seahawks are No. 3 in points allowed per game (16.8), No. 5 in the league in total defense (309.4 yards per game) and No. 12 in rushing defense (108.6 yards per game).

However, when the game is on the line, Seattle’s playmakers on defense — including safety Earl Thomas, cornerback Richard Sherman, linebacker K.J. Wright and defensive ends Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin — have been unable to create game-changing plays to help Seattle solve its road woes.

At 6-5 overall, and with two road games left on the schedule, including at Chicago on Sunday, the Seahawks might need to win at least one of those, along with sweeping three home games, in order to the playoffs.

Even then, the Seahawks likely will be traveling in the postseason as a wild card team, so they need to prove they can win on the road.

Seattle’s defensive struggles at the end of games on the road have not gone unnoticed by Carroll.

“We’re expecting more,” he said. “We’re expecting to win those games when we get a chance and play well enough and do the right things — knock a ball down and make a pick or get the sack that you need.

“You remember how it happened in Carolina with the sack, the fumble, all of those things happened right at the end that changes the football game for you. We know that it’s there, but we need it to show if we’re going to get the wins in these situations, that’s for sure.”

QB PORTIS CUT FROM PRACTICE SQUAD

In somewhat of a surprise move, the Seahawks released quarterback Josh Portis from the practice squad and brought back wide receiver Phi Bates on Tuesday.

The Seahawks signed Portis out of California (Pa.) as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2011.

At 6-foot-3 and 213 pounds, Portis is a rangy athlete who showed promise during preseason play, finishing 10 of 24 for 124 yards and a touchdown pass in two exhibition appearances in 2011 as a rookie. Portis also ran 10 times for 51 yards.

Portis, 25, spent his rookie season on Seattle’s 53-man roster and was active for one game against Cleveland, serving as the backup for Charlie Whitehurst when Tarvaris Jackson could not play because of a pectoral injury.

Portis was released during final roster cutdowns in September before the 2012 season started. He was added to the team’s practice squad and had spent the regular season there before being released Tuesday.

Seattle has only two quarterbacks between the active roster and the practice squad: starter Russell Wilson and backup Matt Flynn.

SEAHAWKS’ NEXT OPPONENT

CHICAGO BEARS

10 a.m. Sunday, Soldier Field, Chicago

Against the Seahawks: Seattle holds a 9-4 edge in the series and has won five of the past seven. However, the Bears eliminated the Seahawks in two of Seattle’s past three playoff appearances, including a 35-24 win on Jan. 16, 2011, in a divisional-round game at Soldier Field. Seattle won the last regular-season meeting, 38-14, on Dec. 18, 2011, in Chicago.

Stats and stuff: Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler has thrown for 2,002 yards, 13 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He has an 81.1 passer rating. … Cutler’s favorite target has been Brandon Marshall, who has 81 receptions for 1,017 yards and eight touchdowns. … Matt Forte leads Chicago in rushing, with 683 yards and three touchdowns. … The Bears have forced a league-high 33 turnovers, including 20 interceptions. Chicago has returned a league-high seven interceptions for touchdowns. … Five Chicago players left last week’s 28-10 win over Minnesota with injuries and did not return. Offensive guard Lance Louis was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury. Former Seattle offensive lineman Chris Spencer suffered a minor knee injury and is not expected to play against the Seahawks. Receiver Devin Hester (concussion), cornerback Charles Tillman (foot) and running back Forte (ankle) also left the game, and their status for Sunday is uncertain. … Former Seahawks tight end Mike Tice is Chicago’s offensive coordinator. Former Seattle offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates is the Bears’ quarterbacks coach. Former Seahawks assistant defensive line coach Mike Phair is Chicago’s defensive line coach, and former Seattle tight ends coach Mike DeBord works in the same capacity for the Bears.

Quotable: “When we stay committed to the run and we block well, we’re going to be successful. When you get pass-happy and divert from the run, it’s hard, especially in November and December.” — Cutler, on his team’s play- calling success Sunday against Minnesota. BEARS’ SCHEDULE

Sept. 9 Bears 41, Colts 21

Sept. 13 Packers 23, Bears 10

Sept. 23 Bears 23, Rams 6

Oct. 1 Bears 34, Cowboys 18

Oct. 7 Bears 41, Jaguars 3

Oct. 14 Bye

Oct. 22 Bears 13, Lions 7

Oct. 28 Bears 23, Panthers 22

Nov. 4 Bears 51, Titans 20

Nov. 11 Texans 13, Bears 6

Nov. 19 Niners 32, Bears 7

Nov. 25 Bears 28, Vikings 10

Sunday Seattle

Dec. 9 at Minnesota

Dec. 16 Green Bay

Dec. 23 at Arizona

Dec. 30 at Detroit

Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 eric.williams@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks eric.williams@thenewstribune.com

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