SEATTLE (AP) — Eight sacks in a single half may even be more than Pete Carroll envisioned for his young, explosive defense.
But Monday night's dominating performance against the high-octane Green Bay Packers offense showed the Seattle Seahawks defense may be among the league's best.
Seattle's secondary was already thought to be one of the best units in the league with three starters making trips to the Pro Bowl last season. But the prospect of coupling a hard-hitting, ball-hawking secondary with a pass rush that could give offensive linemen fits is what Seattle's coaches knew was needed for the whole group to take another step forward.
A breakthrough performance from first-round pick Bruce Irvin on Monday night may have been the final piece necessary for the Seahawks defense to take that step.
Irvin sacked Aaron Rodgers twice in the first quarter and helped free up the rest of the Seahawks to tee off on the quarterback.
Irvin proved too much for Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga to handle on his own, which forced the Packers to account for Irvin as well as Chris Clemons coming off the other edge. Green Bay adjusted by shifting the help to Irvin's side and Clemons then took full advantage, getting to Rodgers four times in the second quarter alone.
"When he got his first two sacks they had to bring the chip to his side to help him, to help the right tackle, so it made it a whole lot easier for me to actually be able to rush backside one-on-one," Clemons said.
The pressure from the edges opened things up inside as well as Brandon Mebane picked up a pair of sacks, a third was negated by penalty, and Alan Branch got a pair of quarterback hits. It created matchup problems across the entire Green Bay offensive line and Seattle didn't waste the opportunities.
"They can't just chip the ends," Mebane said. "They've got to chip us or bring help or whatever. All of us can't be blocked."
Seattle got pressure on Rodgers in many different ways — a three-man rush, a four-man rush, varying personnel groups — but what they all had in common was the pressure was coming from Seattle's front four.
"We have a very good secondary and our linebackers are solid," Clemons said. "That's the thing about us as a front four. We know what we have to do each and every week to allow our team to go. We are the engine to our defense. If we can get off and get to a very good start early in the game, it makes the game a whole lot easier for them so they don't have to cover as long."
Clemons' 11 sacks a season ago were the only consistent pass rushing threat the Seahawks managed to get from their defensive line. Seattle was forced to bring additional pressure from the linebacker spots to try and affect the quarterback. It subsequently gave more space downfield for quarterbacks to find receivers. But by getting the pressure from up front, it gives an already impressive Seattle defense a formula to become even more dominant.
"Any time you can get pressure with our four guys up front and keep another guy in coverage that really helps us," defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said.
Seattle has allowed the fewest points of any team in the league at just 13 points per game despite playing the high-powered offenses of Dallas and Green Bay. The Seahawks are fourth in total defense (272.3 yards per game) and sixth in sacks (10).
Seattle's next opponent, the St. Louis Rams, has allowed the second-most sacks of any team in the league with 12 through three games, tied with Cincinnati. Starting left tackle Rodger Saffold is out for the game and backup Wayne Hunter will get the start in his place. It's another opportunity for Seattle's defense to take another step forward.
"We hope to be this effective as we have the first couple of weeks," Carroll said. "We have a long ways to go, but the exciting thing is that we're so young and we're just developing the connection that it takes to be really good."
Notes: G John Moffitt is doubtful for Sunday's game with a knee injury. ... G James Carpenter is expected to play for the first time since suffering an ACL injury last November. Carroll was mum on exactly how he plans to rotate his linemen with Moffitt possibly out and Carpenter able to return. ... LB Leroy Hill (calf) is questionable but expected to play according to Carroll. DT Jaye Howard (foot) and TE Anthony McCoy (groin) are also questionable. ... CB Brandon Browner was fined $7,875 for unnecessary roughness stemming from a hit on Packers WR Greg Jennings.