Strategy And Personnel

The Sports Xchange

December 20, 2018 at 1:01 pm.


–RB Bo Scarbrough: Unsure of rookie Rashaad Penny’s status as he recovers from a knee injury, Seattle plucked the former Alabama standout off Jacksonville’s practice squad as extra backfield insurance. Signed on Tuesday, there’s a chance he could be active if Penny can’t play against the Chiefs.

–RG Jordan Simmons: The second-year guard out of USC played well in three starts, but his season has officially come to an end due to a grade-one knee sprain that landed him on injured reserve. There’s a shot starter D.J. Fluker could be back this week, but if not, Ethan Pocic will earn his first start since Week 2 at Chicago.

–DT Poona Ford: Undrafted out of Texas, Ford continues to be a disruptive force from the nose tackle position for the Seahawks, as he recorded three tackles for loss in last week’s defeat to the 49ers. Head coach Pete Carroll indicated he’ll be seeing more snaps after his latest performance.

–LB K.J. Wright: It’s been a challenging season for Wright, who has only played in three games while battling knee problems. But the Pro Bowl linebacker returned to practice last week and believes he has a shot to be ready to play against Kansas City.

–S Shalom Luani: After Bradley McDougald departed with a knee injury last weekend, Luani stepped up as Seattle’s third safety, recording two tackles and a quarterback hit. The former Washington State starter could see extended snaps if McDougald isn’t available on Sunday.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: RG Ethan Pocic. There’s a chance starter D.J. Fluker could make it back for Sunday’s game, but if he can’t, Seattle may have little choice but to start Pocic for the first time since Week 2. It’s been a disappointing second season for the former second-round pick, as he lost his starting job to J.R. Sweezy after suffering an ankle injury early in the season and has been a healthy scratch for several games. While the rest of the offensive line has seemed to benefit from a coaching change, Pocic hasn’t developed as planned and dropped all the way to third on the depth chart behind Jordan Simmons. Now that Simmons is done for the season, the Seahawks may have to bank on Pocic rebounding from a rough outing last week in San Francisco, as he drew two critical holding calls that wiped out explosive offensive plays late in regulation and overtime.

GAME PLAN: In a battle of contrasting styles, the Seahawks need to look back at the Ravens’ strong outing against the Chiefs from a few weeks ago as a blueprint for success. Even without much of a passing game behind rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson, Baltimore rushed for 194 yards and averaged nearly five yards per carry against a Kansas City defense that has been shaky defending the ground game throughout the season. Though the Ravens couldn’t finish off the upset in overtime, the Seahawks have to feel confident with Russell Wilson under center that they can run the football effectively and take advantage with the play-action passing game against a defense that also ranks dead last in passing yards surrendered per game. The biggest key? Keeping Russell Wilson upright against a ferocious pass rush that has racked up 46 sacks this season, second-best in the league.

Facing the NFL’s best offense, the Seahawks will give up yardage in bunches defending quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his stable of talented pass-catchers featuring receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce. That seems inevitable regardless of the defensive game plan designed by coordinator Ken Norton Jr. As Seattle has done all season, however, they’ll need to tighten up the screws in the red zone and try to limit Kansas City to field goals. That won’t be simple, as the Chiefs have scored a touchdown 73 percent of the time they make it inside their opponent’s 20-yard line, second in the NFL behind only the Steelers. This also feels like a game where it will be imperative that the Seahawks steal a possession or two with turnovers, but in order for that to come to fruition, their pass rush can’t be absent for a half as it was last weekend in San Francisco.

–Seahawks Ts Duane Brown and Germain Ifedi vs. Chiefs LBs Justin Houston and Dee Ford. Brown and Ifedi have done a fabulous job keeping Russell Wilson clean this year, especially after a rough start to the season in which the quarterback was sacked 12 times by the Broncos and Bears. For all the deficiencies the Chiefs have on defense, however, they have one of the best pass-rushing tandems in football with Houston and Ford off the edge. Houston isn’t the same player who posted 22.0 sacks in 2014, but he still has a respectable 6.5 sacks, while Ford has bounced back from an injury-marred 2017 season to lead Kansas City with 11.5 sacks and 27 quarterback hits. The Seahawks will be relying on Brown and Ifedi to limit their effectiveness off the edge and keep Wilson upright in what could be a high-scoring affair.

–Seahawks CB Justin Coleman vs. Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill. A strong argument can be made that Coleman has been Seattle’s most underappreciated defensive standout this year. He helped shut down Vikings star receiver Adam Thielen two weeks ago, preventing him from making his first reception until the third quarter. He also scooped up a fumble and returned it for a score, his third defensive touchdown in two seasons as a Seahawk. Defending against Hill will be a totally different test though, as the electric third-year receiver can take the top off of a defense on any given play and already has 1,304 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. More than just a track star wearing pads, he’ll present a difficult assignment for Coleman, as he ranks second in the league with 746 receiving yards out of the slot.