NFL Preview - San Diego (1-1) at Seattle (1-1)
By Tony Moss, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - Qwest Field, the Seattle Seahawks' raucous home facility, carries a special type of magic for the building's primary tenants. That magic was on display in Week 1, when the Hawks opened the Pete Carroll era with a 31-6 throttling of a San Francisco 49ers team that many had pegged to be the NFC West's top team in 2010.
And it's a good thing for Seattle, which plays host to the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, that it can tap into a little electricity within its home confines. Because, as displayed in last week's 31-14 loss at the Denver Broncos, this team remains Samson with a buzz-cut when it leaves the Pacific Northwest.
The Seahawks are now 1-9 in their last 10 games away from Qwest Field, with every one of the nine defeats coming by double-digits.
Last Sunday's 17-point setback was a total team effort, and not in a good way.
Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck threw three interceptions to mitigate any good he did on a 20-of-35, 233-yard, one-touchdown day, and a holding penalty by tackle Sean Locklear wiped a first-quarter Seahawks touchdown on the board.
Defensively, the Hawks allowed Kyle Orton to throw for 307 yards and a pair of touchdowns, failing to force a turnover all day and helping make an instant star out of a rookie wide receiver playing in his first NFL game, Demaryius Thomas (8 receptions, 97 yards, 1 TD).
Just for good measure, the special teams struggled as well, with a muffed punt by rookie return man Walter Thurmond helping set the Broncos up for their first touchdown of the day.
The homestanding Seahawks will be looking to get well on Sunday against a Chargers team that washed away the residue of an opening-night loss by throttling the Jacksonville Jaguars, 38-13.
The offense churned up 477 yards of total offense despite an ankle injury that limited running back Ryan Mathews to five carries. Fullback Mike Tolbert stepped in capably with 16 carries for 82 yards and two touchdowns in the win, though it was Philip Rivers and the passing attack who did most of the heavy lifting for the Chargers in their home opener.
Rivers completed 22-of-29 passes for 334 yards and three touchdowns to go along with two interceptions, jettisoning the red-zone troubles that had plagued the team against in a 21-14 loss at Kansas City six days earlier. Two of Rivers' TD passes went to tight end Antonio Gates (5 receptions, 57 yards), and another went to Malcom Floyd (3 receptions, 95 yards) on a 54-yard exclamation point in the fourth quarter.
The San Diego defense did its part by forcing six turnovers in the win, including two interceptions and a forced fumble for cornerback Antoine Cason.
The Seahawks have a 25-23 edge in their all-time series with the Chargers, but had a five-game winning streak in the series snapped with San Diego's 20-17 triumph at Qwest Field in Week 16 of the 2006 season. The Seahawks' last win over the Chargers came in 2002, a 31-28 overtime affair at Qualcomm Stadium, and Seattle swept their then-AFC West rival in both 2000 and 2001.
Chargers head coach Norv Turner is 0-3 in his career against the Seahawks, with all of the meetings dating back to his tenure with the Washington Redskins (1994-2000). The Seahawks' Carroll is 1-1 in his career against the Chargers, including a loss for his Jets in 1994 and a win for his Patriots in 1997. Turner and Carroll will be meeting for the first time head-to-head.
WHEN THE CHARGERS HAVE THE BALL
The Chargers are likely to be very cautious with Mathews (101 rushing yards, 3 receptions) at this early stage of the season, and the work that Tolbert (108 rushing yards, 2 TD) did in his place last week will help enable that line of thinking. The 5-9, 243-pound Tolbert is averaging 5.2 yards per carry over his three-year career in San Diego, and is also capable of catching the ball out of the backfield. Darren Sproles (40 rushing yards, 6 receptions), who had 100 yards on just nine offensive touches last week, is a dangerous change-of-pace option. But Seattle's primary concern will probably lie with Rivers and the passing game, which had the Jaguars on their heels throughout the afternoon despite the continued absence of wideout Vincent Jackson. Former first-round draft choice Buster Davis (7 receptions) made a long-awaited contribution to the tune of five catches for 48 yards. An offensive line still without tackle Marcus McNeill, who is embroiled in a contract dispute with the team, has allowed just three sacks through the first two weeks.
After holding a talented 49ers offense out of the end zone for 60 minutes in their opener, the Seahawks defense took a step back against the Broncos last Sunday. The secondary that failed to offer much resistance to Thomas and the Denver receivers must step up its game here, with cornerbacks Marcus Trufant (8 tackles, 1 INT) and Kelly Jennings (10 tackles) among those on notice. Safeties Lawyer Milloy (11 tackles) and Earl Thomas (13 tackles) were 1-2 in stops for Seattle last week. The pass rush had just one sack of Orton in Week 2, that coming from ex-Colt Raheem Brock (4 tackles, 1 sack). On the bright side, the run defense remained consistent, shutting down a Broncos ground attack that averaged a laughable 1.7 yards per carry for the afternoon. Linemen Colin Cole (9 tackles), Brandon Mebane (6 tackles) and Kentwan Balmer (3 tackles) were all active in the victory, with linebackers Lofa Tatupu (13 tackles) and Aaron Curry (9 tackles) combining for 11 stops while working behind them. Seattle is fifth in the league against the run as Week 3 begins.
WHEN THE SEAHAWKS HAVE THE BALL
As shown last week, the Seattle passing game remains a work in progress, with Hasselbeck (403 passing yards, 3 TD, 4 INT) making his mistakes as he tries to find chemistry with a new-look receiving corps. Mike Williams (5 receptions) leads the wideouts in receiving yards (71) through two games, but had just one catch last week. Veteran Deion Branch leads that corps in catches (7), but is averaging just six yards per catch. Meanwhile, Deon Butler (6 receptions, 1 TD) was active with five receptions for 50 yards in Week 2; Ben Obomanu (3 receptions) caught Hasselbeck's lone TD pass; and rookie Golden Tate had a 52- yard grab last week that ranks as the only catch of his NFL career so far. Oh, and tight end John Carlson leads the club in receptions (8) and receiving yards (84) as Week 3 begins. Four different running backs carried the football for Seattle last week, with Justin Forsett (87 rushing yards, 4 receptions) receiving the most touches on a day that saw him amass 44 yards on just eight totes. The offensive line continues to miss first-round rookie left tackle Russell Okung (ankle), but has allowed just two sacks through the first two weeks.
One week after turnovers were too big a part of the story for the Seahawks, they'll be seeing a Charger defense that made big plays from start to finish a week ago. The cornerback Cason (11 tackles, 2 INT), a former first-round pick, had an eye-opening day as did safety Steve Gregory (20 tackles), who tallied a game-high 13 tackles. The pass rush generated a couple of sacks, though neither went to pass rushers Shawne Merriman (3 tackles) and Shaun Phillips (7 tackles, 1 sack). But the team's most impressive defensive work may have been done by the run defense, which shut down Jags running backs Maurice Jones-Drew and Rashad Jennings for just 71 combined yards on 24 carries on the day. Linebackers Kevin Burnett (11 tackles, 1 INT) and Brandon Siler were a major part of that effort. Burnett had five tackles, an interception, and a fumble recovery in the win while Siler, subbing for the injured Stephen Cooper (knee), finished with six tackles and a pick. Cooper remains a question mark for this week. Up front, end Jacques Cesaire (4 tackles) made a difference with three stops and a sack versus Jacksonville.
Rivers and Gates remain among the most reliable players in the league at their positions, from both a fantasy and real-life standpoint. They'll put up numbers here. The rest of San Diego's offensive personnel is problematic, as Rivers has been spreading the ball around to different receivers and Mathews' injury casts some doubt on the rushing situation. The Seahawks have stopped two pretty good backs - Frank Gore and Maurice Jones-Drew - so it might be a good week to leave Chargers running backs on the bench anyway. Kicker Nate Kaeding is always a good regular season play, and there's no reason to bench a Charger defense that scored a ton of points for fantasy owners last Sunday.
On the Seattle side, there are no first-rate fantasy plays to speak of, with Hasselbeck too mistake-prone at this point and no other player guaranteed a high number of touches.
The Seahawks have more new faces than any team in the league and are very much a work in progress, but as shown in their Week 1 blowout of the 49ers are capable of playing winning football, especially at home. It will be critical for Seattle to stay out of turnovers in Week 3, but if they do, there's no reason to think they'll get blown off of Qwest Field. There's little question that the Chargers have superior talent to the Seahawks, but this is a team that has rarely played great football in September under Norv Turner, and has just about never done so on back-to-back weeks. Look for the Bolts to slide back into complacency mode this week, and for the Seahawks to punish them by scoring a narrow victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Seahawks 24, Chargers 22
09/26 00:50:07 ET