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January 7, 2013 at 1:53 PM

What we learned: Seattle 24, Washington 14

Three things we learned

1. Run defense can in fact be repaired.
How else do you explain how Seattle’s run defense stiffened after an awful opening period? Washington rushed for 61 yards on two touchdown drives in the first quarter, but over the final three periods Washington rushed for a total of 43 yards. The fact Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III was obviously injured played a role as the Seahawks no longer had to honor the threat he would run, but that doesn’t explain why running back Alfred Morris — the NFL’s No. 2 rusher in the regular season — went from averaging 6.1 yards per carry in the first quarter to averaging 3.9 yards over the final three. Seattle’s run defense did, in fact, make adjustments and improve after a shaky start.

2. The Seahawks have a stiff upper lip.
Griffin’s knee injury may explain why Washington couldn’t extend its lead, but that doesn’t cover how Seattle erased it. After falling behind 14-0, the Seahawks scored on their next three possessions. All were drives totaling than 60 yards, meaning this was some heavy lifting by Seattle’s offense to pull itself back into the game. Seattle drove more than 60 yards on its first possession of the second half only to lose the ball on Marshawn Lynch’s fumble at the Washington 2-yard line. This is not the same Seattle offense that we saw back September.

3. Zach Miller can be called a weapon without sarcasm being involved.
He was one of Seattle’s marquee free-agent signings a year ago, a tight end who caught more than 50 passes in three successive seasons in Oakland before signing with Seattle. He spent most of his first year as a Seahawk blocking, finished with a career-low 25 catches and even this year only had 38 receptions. Well he had four catches on Sunday – matching his second most in any game as a Seahawk – and two of those were critical third-down grabs that resulted in first downs.

Three things we’re still trying to figure out

I. Will the Seahawks be blitzed into oblivion?
The Seahawks gave up five sacks in the first half of their regular-season finale against St. Louis, which was more than quarterback Russell Wilson had been sacked in any game prior to that. St. Louis was one of the league’s top pass-rushing teams, though, and the Rams’ top-tier personnel mitigated against the concern their blitz-happy attack provided a template for beating Seattle. Well, Washington was a below average pass-rushing team in the regular season, finishing with 32 sacks, which was tied for No. 23 in the league. Washington went and blitzed its way to five sacks against Seattle.

2. What will Seattle do about its pass rush?
Bad enough the Seahawks finished the game with two sacks, giving them three over the previous 12 quarters they’ve played. But Chris Clemons – the team’s leading pass rusher at 11.5 sacks – suffered a second-half knee injury the team fears could be serious. If he’s out, Seattle has a capable backup in Bruce Irvin – the team’s first-round pick who led all rookies with eight sacks in the regular season – but no other Seahawk had more than three sacks in the regular season. Jason Jones – the defensive tackle signed in the offseason to aid the pass rush – is already out with a knee injury, and an injury to Clemons would create a serious void in a pass rush that was already a concern.

3. Does Seattle matchup with Atlanta as well as it appears?
The Seahawks’ offensive strength lines up against the Falcons’ defensive weakness. Atlanta ranked No. 30 No. 21 in run defense while Seattle gained the third-most yards on the ground of any team in the league. Not only that, but Atlanta’s offensive strength – a diverse passing game with top-shelf targets Roddy White and Julio Jones – is going straight into the teeth of a Seattle secondary that has cornerback Brandon Browner back and is considered the strength of the Seahawks’ defense.


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