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Team Analysis

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 Seattle Seahawks Team Analysis:

INSIDE SLANT
Nationally, it's a rematch of Super Bowl XLVIII, a battle of two teams expected to contend to get back there again this season.

But for the Seattle Seahawks, the greater importance of Sunday's game against the Denver Broncos is getting back on the winning track after a surprising loss at San Diego.

The Seahawks simply didn't play very well against the Chargers, with eight penalties, a costly turnover, and numerous missed tackles and blown blocking assignments. It added up to the first loss by more than a touchdown since Oct., 2011, when quarterback Russell Wilson was still at the University of Wisconsin.

And it left a team that has become known for its youthful enthusiasm and boisterousness uncommonly subdued.

And tired. Truth be told, it might be said that the Seahawks just couldn't take the heat, which cornerback Richard Sherman described as "120 degrees" in San Diego and said he had to pour ice over himself and took intravenous fluids.

In perhaps further evidence of the effects of that game, running back Marshawn Lynch, who carried only six times, sat out practice Wednesday with a back injury. He left the game early Sunday when his back tightened up. However, nothing has been said to indicate he won't play Sunday.

"Really serious," coach Pete Carroll said on Wednesday of the team's mood this week. "And these guys, they are clued in that they want to put together a really good week right now. We know that we a have a terrific championship matchup coming up. But it's more that they want to play really good football. And I'm sure I'm going to see that all during the week."

Said Sherman: "Guys are just locked in. When you feel like you lost a game you feel you shouldn't have lost, guys are going to feel some type of way. They're just ready to execute, ready to get back on the field."

Sherman said it doesn't hurt that the opponent is an unquestionably good team in the Broncos, who had set an all-time NFL record for points scored in a season with 606 before being shut down by Seattle in the Super Bowl, 43-8.

"I think that they want to come in and get a win," Sherman said. "That's the same motivation that we have."

Sherman, though, downplayed the idea that what happened in the Super Bowl will hover much over Sunday's game.

"Not even all the guys that are playing in this game were there last year so I'm not sure all the guys are motivated that way, 43-8" he said. "I think they're just motivated to win."

Certainly, Seattle's defense is after allowing 30 points for the first time since a 30-28 loss in the divisional playoffs to Atlanta in 2013, and giving up 377 yards.

San Diego's outburst has Seattle in some uncommonly mediocre territory in the NFL defensive standings. Seattle's 23 points allowed per game, for instance, ranks 20th and the 225.5 passing yards allowed per game is 18th.

"I don't think we felt like we played like we can," Carroll said of the defense. "So they are really anxious to bounce back and show a really good game."

The game also continues something of a gauntlet of great quarterbacks for Seattle to open the season, first facing Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers before getting San Diego's Philip Rivers last week and now Denver's Peyton Manning.

"It doesn't get any better than this," Carroll said. "They can ship New England in here somewhere in the bye week if they want. It's as hard as it can get. It's great for us; it's going to help us during the course of the season. You can't get any better challenges than these guys throwing the football. Aaron (Rodgers) is phenomenal, look what we just saw (Philip Rivers), and here comes Peyton (Manning). We haven't talked about it that much openly because we look at one game at a time but now that we're at the third one of these, it's a great stretch for us and it'll only help us. We have to be so on the mark and so on with everything that we're doing to defend these guys that it'll help us. "



SERIES HISTORY: 53rd regular-season meeting. Broncos lead series, 34-18 and have taken 17 of the last 22 since 1992.There have only been three games between the two since the Seahawks were moved to the NFC West in 2002. Denver won two of those, including a 31-14 home win in 2010. The most recent meeting was Seattle's 43-8 victory in Super Bowl XLVIII last February.

NOTES, QUOTES
--A lot was made of cornerback Richard Sherman giving up four completions against the Chargers after not having a single ball thrown his way against the Packers.

Carroll said he thought the game had Sherman against San Diego was "pretty normal. ... I think it's amplified by the fact that the first week, the ball didn't go his way at all. They just played normal football and a couple of plays went that way and he defended some stuff and they got a couple of balls. But that is totally going to happen. I thought that the San Diego guys were on point with it. You heard Philip Rivers talk about it, they just played a regular game plan and showed respect for the player that Richard is and it worked out pretty normal, I think."

--Carroll said Marcus Burley will cover Denver's Wes Welker in the slot and that the Seahawks assume Welker will "be out there a lot" now that his NFL suspension has been reduced and he is free to play this week. Burley was acquired in a trade with Colts prior to the first game and has emerged as the starting nickel with Jeremy Lane on IR-designated to return with a groin injury.



BY THE NUMBERS: 6 -- Only five other times have the two teams that met in the Super Bowl one year played in the regular season the following year. The last came in 1997 when the Green Bay Packers won at New England, 28-10.



QUOTE TO NOTE:
"Just being disciplined really. Everybody being on their assignments, understanding their responsibilities, and executing. I think being physical, when you caught the ball just being able to stop and feel it. Our offense executed fantastically in that game, our special teams. I'm sure they've made adjustments and we've also made adjustments, it will be a great game. I don't think the Super Bowl will be indicative of what this game will be. I'm sure it will be a much better game," --- Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman on what worked so well in the Super Bowl over the Broncos and if it will carry over to the game Sunday.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
PLAYER NOTES

--RB Marshawn Lynch sat out practice Wednesday with a back injury after leaving the game early Sunday with back tightness. It isn't thought the injury would hamper his ability to play Sunday.

--S Kam Chancellor sat out practice with an ankle injury.

--TE Zach Miller sat out practice with an ankle injury.

--RB Christine Michael was a limited participant on Wednesday with a hamstring injury that caused him to miss the first two games of the season. He could be back this week.

--LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, yet to play due to a hamstring injury, may also be back this week.



GAME PLAN:
Offensively, the Seahawks will hope this week to get the ball to Marshawn Lynch and Percy Harvin a lot more than they did against the Chargers.

Lynch had just six carries as Seattle had only 13 rushing plays total out of 38 offensive snaps for the game. And Harvin had just three offensive touches.

That Seattle had the ball so little was a big part of the reason. Falling behind early also limited the carries for Lynch, who had just six --- tying the fewest since being traded to Seattle in 2010.

Expect the Seahawks to feed Lynch early and often in an attempt to re-establish its dominance with the running game, and then set up more big plays in the passing game. Seattle didn't have much luck getting the ball downfield last week.

Defensively, Seattle expects more of what it got against San Diego --- lots of timing routes and from Denver quarterback Peyton Manning. The Broncos, though, are also trying to run the ball more this season with Montee Ball. Seattle had great success shutting down the run in the Super Bowl as well as getting to Manning with just a four-man rush. The four-man rusher hasn't been quite as consistent in the first two games, however, and that will be a real key in this game.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

--Seahawks LB K.J. Wright vs. Broncos TE Julius Thomas.

The Seahawks played a great game against Thomas in the Super Bowl, holding him to four meaningless catches for 26 yards. That capped a season in which Seattle had great success holding down tight ends, such as New Orleans' Jimmy Graham and San Francisco's Vernon Davis.

But San Diego's Antonio Gates had his way with the Seahawks last week with three touchdown catches. Wright, who played so well against the likes of Davis and Graham last season, was on the bad end of one of Gates' touchdowns. He won't have the sole duty on Thomas Sunday, but he -- and the entire Seattle defense -- will need to defend the tight end better than last week.

--Seahawks pass rush vs. Broncos QB Peyton Manning.

The Broncos seemed unnerved by the Seattle defensive front from the first play of the Super Bowl -- an errant snap that flew past Manning for a safety. Denver never really recovered and Manning never found his rhythm in the face of a persistent Seattle pass rush.

Seattle's rush hasn't been quite as salty so far this season, though, while Denver feels its offensive line is better after making a few changes from the Super Bowl. Specifically, getting Ryan Clady back at left tackle.

--Seahawks RT Justin Britt vs. Broncos DE DeMarcus Ware.

Britt, a rookie, has fared decently overall in his first two games, though he did struggle some last week against the Chargers, particularly in the late going once San Diego got the lead and was able to tee off. Ware was one of Denver's high-profile free agent signees aimed at bolstering a defense that Seattle handled easily in the Super Bowl.

 

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