A week ago, the Seahawks failed to log a single quarterback hit in their loss to the Cardinals. A single pressure was all Seattle’s defense could muster against Kyler Murray.
That group rebounded in a big way on Sunday against the 49ers. The Seahawks topped their NFC West rival, 37-27, with the final score indicating the game was much closer than it was in actuality. That’s because Seattle’s defense held San Francisco to just 112 total yards and seven points through three quarters.
That success was due in large part to a pass rush that got home consistently. Seattle had three sacks and eight quarterback hits against 49ers quarterbacks.
“I just felt like we needed to stop talking and do the work, and let our play show,” Bobby Wagner said of Seattle’s turnaround defensively. “I feel like we were a lot more aggressive and we were able to get in the backfield and get their quarterback off his spot. Obviously, we still have things to work on, but I think it was a step in the right direction.”
Seattle was much more aggressive indeed. Whereas the Seahawks played the Cardinals straight up and rarely brough pressure, Seattle took a blitz happy approach against the 49ers. Part of that has to do with wanting to make adjustments following the loss in the desert. Another part was certainly to capitalize on an immobile quarterback who wouldn’t be able to burn you with his legs.
That allowed the Seahawks pass rush to pin its ears back and charge full steam ahead into the backfield.
“I thought that the pressure we threw at them helped everybody,” Pete Carroll said. “We just decided to take a little turn. Obviously, we’re trying to figure some things out to get better, and we just put it on the fellows. We have a great attitude group, and they want to play tough and physical and go after it. We just look for opportunities to make sure and show those guys.”
According to ESPN’s Brady Henderson, the Seahawks recorded a pressure on 17 of San Francisco’s 45 drop backs (38%). That’s the highest pressure rate of a Seahawks defense since 2018.
Wagner was responsible for most of the damage, logging 2.0 sacks and four quarterback hits lone. He came through clean up the middle on a regular basis and delivered several big-time hits. Alton Robinson accounted for Seattle’s third sack.
“Bobby was phenomenal today,” Carroll said. “He had a couple sacks, but he had 3-4 other rushes, too, where he was a factor and bothered the quarterback. I think Bobby, he’s a great leader. He never said anything to this team that he wouldn’t ask of himself, and he came through in a great way, and kind of solidified what a stud leader that he is.”
Wagner was visibly pleased to have played a more integral role in the team’s game play from a pass rush standpoint.
“I always talk to them about blitzing more,” Wagner said. “Whenever they call my number, or whenever they choose to put that in the game plan, I get excited and try to do the best that I can.
“It felt really good. I was practicing moves all week and I got an opportunity to use some them. I was able to get in the quarterback’s face and he got sacked a couple of times and it felt good.”
Wagner said Seattle’s success defensively had to do with blitzing more volume wise as well as showing different looks with their pressures. Manufacturing pressures was going to be crucial for Seattle with Jamal Adams still sidelined and Benson Mayowa also missing Sunday’s game.
The Seahawks got welcomed contributions from D.J. Reed, who made his Seahawk debut after being activated off NFI on Saturday. Reed was cut by the 49ers in August and quickly scooped up by the Seahawks. His pectoral injury is back to full strength, and Seattle inserted him into the lineup immediately at nickel with Ugo Amadi out.
Reed intercepted Jimmy Garoppolo in the first quarter and blitzed on a number of occasions. He didn’t officially log a quarterback hit, but he nearly missed one sack on one blitz and then forced Garoppolo up into the pocket into Robinson’s arms on another.
“He did a great job. He was someone I was looking forward to see play,” Wagner said. “It was cool to watch a guy go from being hurt and watching the process of learning the defense and staying locked in during a difficult time because being injured is not fun. Him coming out there and getting a pick as well as the blitzes he did, it was great.”
Carroll said that Adams would return in Week 9 against the Bills. Carlos Dunlap will also make his Seahawks debut next week. Benson Mayowa and Rasheem Green might return as well. Seattle is in the advantageous position of being 6-1 while expecting notable reinforcements in the near future.
Sunday was just one game, but that aggressiveness blitz wise and subsequent production from the pass rush was eye opening. Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense is good enough to where that level of play is more than enough. Now Seattle’s defense must prove it wasn’t a fluke.