Seattle Seahawks

Bobby Wagner’s return sparks Seahawks’ dominant defensive effort

Bobby Wagner spent two weeks with a cast on his right leg and had missed each of the Seattle Seahawks’ previous five games.

His first game back, a 19-3 win against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, showed just how vital he is to the Seattle defense.

“It’s been a long five weeks,” Wagner said.

Wagner tore a ligament in his foot and broke his sesamoid bone against the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 12. The Seahawks allowed 20.4 points per game in his absence and surrendered 190 rushing yards in last week’s 24-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

“Definitely wanted to come out there with a lot of energy and a lot of hits and just make my presence felt,” said Wagner, who tied the now-healthy Kam Chancellor with a team-high eight tackles and played every snap on defense. “I felt like I did a good job of that.

“I thought I was going to be sucking wind, but I guess I’m in better shape than I thought.”

Wagner was on pace to break Terry Beeson’s team record for tackles in a season (153) before his injury. Wagner helped contain the Cardinals’ running game to 64 yards after they ran for 139 when Arizona ended the Seahawks’ 14-game home winning streak last year.

“General, quarterback of the defense. He did great,” said safety Earl Thomas. “Him and K.J. (Wright) were very patient. They understood how this team was trying to run the ball, they saw the formations and they reacted just right on time. We were in a flow. Everybody was in a rhythm. It was like we were tied on a string.”

With Wagner making tackles and helping stuff the run, Arizona backup quarterback Drew Stanton was forced into more throws.

Stanton rolled out of the pocket late near the start of the fourth quarter. Wagner saw an opportunity he’ll rarely pass on: a chance to hit a quarterback.

He took a step toward Stanton, but quickly backtracked to the closest receiver breaking down the field. Stanton didn’t intend to run. Wagner picking up the receiver made Stanton try and fit a pass near the sideline with Richard Sherman in coverage. It fell incomplete and forced a fourth down.

“I remember last year I did that, ran after the quarterback, and they just threw it over my head,” Wagner said. “I saw him rolling out, I looked for who was closest to me and I tried to cover him.

“You always want to hit the quarterback when you get the chance. I was going to, but I decided to make the better play for the defense.”

Wagner’s return, along with Chancellor getting back to his enforcing self at strong safety, helped show what the defense is capable of, even with losing defensive tackle Brandon Mebane for the season.

Coach Pete Carroll said Chancellor had his best week of practice coming into the game. He came off a groin injury and has played through bone spurs in his ankles.

“When you have Kam out there, he’s like that guy that when somebody is bothering you, you go get your big brother. That’s Kam, for me at least,” said cornerback Byron Maxwell.

Said Thomas: “When Kam is healthy, he is the best in the league. You can’t run the ball on him. I’m excited to see him just keep going because people don’t understand what he is capable of.”

The same could be said for the entire Seahawks defense. The NFC West-leading Cardinals were held to their fewest points since being shutout, 58-0, against the Seahawks on Dec. 9, 2012.

“I think we are getting healthy at the right time. That’s going to be important down the stretch with all these divisional games we got,” Wagner said.

“When we are all healthy and we have all our pieces … we are going to see more of this.”