Hawks need run-stuffing ‘D’ to return

eric.williams@thenewstribune.comDecember 20, 2012 

RENTON — The Seattle rushing defense lost its way against San Francisco in Week 7.

Fast forward two months, and the Seahawks still haven’t seen the return of the consistent run-stuffing unit they had at the start of the season.

Heading into that Oct. 18 division matchup with the Niners, the Seahawks had the NFL’s No. 2-ranked run defense, giving up an average of 70 rushing yards a game.

However, the Niners used a mishmash of running plays to flummox the Seahawks, piling up 175 yards on the ground.

Seattle’s nemesis, San Francisco running back Frank Gore, ran for 131 of those yards.

“Their run game is kind of tricky,” Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “They’ll pull the guards right and the fullback will go left, and the ball will follow the guards one play, and the fullback the next play. So you have to make sure you’re on your keys and do a lot of film study.”

Including the first San Francisco game, Seattle has given up at least 132 rushing yards in six of its past eight contests.

Heading into Sunday’s rematch, the Seahawks are No. 10 in the league in run defense, allowing 106.3 yards a game.

“Whams, traps, powers, counters – everything known to man,” joked Seahawks defensive line coach Todd Wash, when asked about the diversity of runs San Francisco used against his defensive front earlier this season.

Facing the 49ers this time around, the Seahawks will have the added element of dealing with an explosive, nimble quarterback in Colin Kaepernick.

The Niners have incorporated some of the offensive concepts of the “pistol” offense Kaepernick ran with much success at Nevada. The result has been 379 rushing yards and five touchdowns in five starts for Kaepernick this season, adding the threat of the option to an already potent run scheme.

However, Seattle linebacker K.J. Wright said he’s more concerned about the traps and toss plays the 49ers effectively run, rather than Kaepernick’s ability to hurt the Seahawks with his feet.

“I think with the option we can handle fine,” Wright said. “We’ve got a defense for it, so the option, I’m not really concerned about it. It’s just the run game with Frank Gore and all of those guys pulling.

“You can’t always fit everything up perfectly. Sometimes you just have to whoop a block and be able to get off and make a tackle.”

Wagner, a rookie who played at Utah State, said he thinks he has an advantage because he played against Kaepernick, a second-year player from Nevada. The linebacker had one of his best games of the season at Carolina against perhaps the best running quarterback in the league, Cam Newton. Wagner had six tackles, including 1.5 sacks and a tackle for a loss.

“I definitely feel like that helps because I’ve seen him a lot in college,” Wagner said. “He’s not the same, obviously, (as) he was in college because he’s a lot more mature. He understands the game a little better. But at the end of the day, he’s going to do what he does. He runs, and he can sling the ball.”

Wash said in the first game against the Niners, the Seahawks focused too much on staying on the line of scrimmage and attacking too hard. San Francisco took advantage of that aggressiveness up front by using traps and counters to quickly get their offensive guards on Seattle’s undersized linebackers, allowing Gore to pop open for big gains.

“A lot of it is we got out of whack just with some fundamental things – not really reading our keys and fitting into our gaps,” Wash said. “So we’re just preaching sticking with our fundamentals this week.”

EXTRA POINTS

Seahawks rookie safety Winston Guy returned to the team this week after serving his four-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing substance policy. Seattle received a roster exemption for Guy, so he does not count toward the 53-man roster this week. The Seahawks have a week to decide what they are going to do with him. … The Seahawks added linebacker Kyle Knox to the practice squad. … Seattle had six players sit out practice Wednesday because of injuries or illness: Receiver Sidney Rice (knee), defensive tackle Alan Branch (ankle), defensive tackle Jason Jones (knee), cornerback Walter Thurmond (hamstring), cornerback Marcus Trufant (hamstring) and running back Leon Washington (illness). Running back Marshawn Lynch (back) was limited. … Notable players absent from San Francisco’s practice included linebacker Clark Haggans (shoulder) and defensive tackle Justin Smith (elbow).

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

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