It’s cool and cloudy to begin this Seahawks game day against Cleveland. Seattle forecasters say there is a 20-percent chance of rain during the game with temperatures in the mid-40s.
Here is my game advance story from today’s News Tribune, focusing on former Browns defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin being an unsung reason for the Seahawks’ having the league No. 2 rush defense and holding the last four opponents under 60 yards on the ground. Unsung outside the locker room, that is. Rubin, at $1.35 million for his one-year contract, has been the biggest bargain on the Seahawks’ roster this side of Thomas Rawls.
Rubin said seven seasons in Cleveland toughened him. The Browns only won 34 of 112 games during Rubin’s time with them.
Our live game chat from the press box begins at about 12:15 p.m. here on the Seahawks Insider blog www.thenewstribune.com/sports
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CLEVELAND BROWNS (3-10) at SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (8-5)
Sunday, 1:05 p.m., CenturyLink Field
TV: Channel 13 Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM
Line: Seahawks by 14½.
The series: Seattle leads the series 11-6. Only three of those meetings have come since the Seahawks left the Browns’ AFC for the NFC in 2002. Cleveland’s only trip to CenturyLink Field came on Nov. 30, 2003, a Seahawks win by 34-7. The Browns have won the last two in the series, in 2007 (33-30 in overtime) and 2011 (6-3). That 2011 meeting was the only game Marshawn Lynch missed from when Seattle acquired him in 2010 until this season. He’s going to miss this one, too.
SEATTLE’S KEYS TO VICTORY
Put it all on "Johnny Football": The Seahawks have held of their last four opponents to under 60 yards rushing, as more disciplined play in assigned gaps by the defensive front have turned offenses into one-dimensional messes that Seattle has swarmed. The defensive plan today is to do the same with a heavy, early focus on RB Isaiah Crowell and the Browns’ 30th-ranked run game. That would eventually free speedy defensive ends Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Frank Clark to pressure Johnny Manziel into seeing whether he can do it all himself on the road, in the rain, against the two-time defending NFC champions in his seventh career start.
Find out if this is a new C-Mike: Christine Michael is back. Teammate Doug Baldwin said he can already see a new, more-dedicated mindset and commitment from Seattle’s 2013 second-round draft choice on whom the Seahawks gave up in September by trading him to Dallas. Bryce Brown, also brought back this week after Seattle released him last month, is likely to get the first runs. But Michael will get the chance to gain back some of the trust he lost over two, frustrating seasons and this summer’s training camp. If Marshawn Lynch comes back soon, this may be one of the last chances Michael gets.
Do their jobs: These Seahawks think they are back where they should have been all season, where they’ve been for most of the previous two years: On a championship track. The way Russell Wilson has been throwing, the offensive line has been blocking and the defense has been thrashing rush offenses should not change in this one. The Browns are young and unaccomplished, and this stage should be a daunting one. If the Seahawks take care of business the way they have the last month, they should be 9-5 by Sunday night.
The pick: Seahawks 34-6. Wilson doesn’t need to throw as brilliantly as he has recently. Brown and Michael are plenty for Cleveland’s run-over defensive front. And Seattle keeps its revival roaring towards the postseason.
3 --- Russell Wilson (5-11, 206, fourth season): 16 TDs, 0 INTs, 75% completions last 4 games. Can he possibly keep this up? Will he even have to in this one?
32 --- Christine Michael (5-10, 221, third season): He’s back to help a barren backfield. Will a new number and what teammates say is a new attitude equal better rushing results?
72 — Michael Bennett, DE (6-4, 274, seventh season): 8½ sacks, needs one to set his career high. Will get ample chances with Johnny Manziel dashing outside
2 — Johnny Manziel, QB (6-0, 210, second season): Two of Browns’ three wins have come when he’s started. Teammates – even ex ones such as Seahawks Patrick Lewis, Ahtyba Rubin say they are behind him and love him
82 — Gary Barnidge, TE (6-6, 250, eighth season): Team’s leading receiver and touchdown maker. Tight ends have given Seattle’s defense trouble down the field all season
96 — Xavier Cooper, DT (6-4, 300, rookie season): Rookie from WSU, Wilson High averaging 27 snaps/game. Played about as much as 1st-round pick Danny Shelton from UW last week