NFC West: Zach Miller

Tight end Zach Miller has reached an agreement with the Seahawks to restructure his contract, as first reported by 710 ESPN Seattle, ensuring he stays with the team through the 2015 season.

Miller was scheduled to make $6 million in 2014, which would have counted $7 million against the salary cap. The new deal will pay him $3 million this season, but it could increase to $4 million if he meets incentive clauses in the agreement.

Miller, 28, has been Seattle's starting tight end since leaving the Oakland Raiders and signing with the Seahawks before the 2011 season. He is an integral part of the Seattle offense and is considered one of the better blocking tight ends in the NFL.

By getting Miller to agree to a restructured deal, it likely means the Seahawks won’t sign free-agent tight end Jermichael Finley, who visited Seattle earlier this week.

ESPN’s Josina Anderson is reporting that free-agent defensive tackle Henry Melton is still in Seattle Saturday morning talking to the Seahawks. He has plans to also visit with the Dallas Cowboys if a deal is not reached with the Seahawks.
NEW YORK -- The talk is over, and the day finally is here: Super Bowl Sunday.

Here are five things the Seattle Seahawks must do well to defeat the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium:

1. Pressure Peyton Manning: It’s a mammoth task against a quarterback who gets rid of the football so quickly, but it isn’t so much about getting sacks as it is putting enough pressure on Manning to take him out of his comfort zone.

Everyone knows Manning is a classic pocket passer. He likes to step up in the pocket to make his throws. That will make it difficult for a talented edge-rusher like Cliff Avril to get to Manning.

So the Seahawks have to get pressure up the middle with their defensive tackles -- Brandon Mebane, Clinton McDonald and Tony McDaniel. Big Red Bryant will also get a push in the middle sometimes, and they might use some stunts with end Michael Bennett rushing up the middle when he lines up outside. Also, look for middle linebacker Bobby Wagner to blitz a couple of times.

"There’s no certain way to get to Manning," Bennett said. "It comes down to doing what we do and beating your man."

2. Let the quiet Beast loudly rumble: It’s been a strange and somewhat stressful week for Marshawn Lynch, having to do media sessions on three consecutive days. Not his cup of tea, and a distraction the Seahawks could have lived without, but that is all behind them now.

Lynch was successful on runs up the middle in the first two playoff games this season, but the Seahawks should try more off-tackle runs and toss sweeps against Denver. The Broncos have Terrance Knighton at nose tackle, a mountain of a man at 340 pounds. He’s a run-stuffer.

When asked what his biggest concern was regarding the Denver defense, Lynch didn’t hesitate. "Pot Roast," he said, which is Knighton’s nickname. "He’s a big boy."

The Seahawks might use a third tackle with Alvin Bailey, as they did against the 49ers, to line up with tight end Zach Miller and use a muscle push to run Lynch off the edge of the line and hope he goes Beast Mode.

3. Keep the Broncos guessing with Harvin: The Seahawks need to make the most of their X factor in receiver Percy Harvin. The Denver defense can’t know exactly how to account for a guy who played only six quarters this season, but they know he’s faster than a cheetah with its tail on fire.

So make them worry about Harvin on almost every play by putting him in motion and lining him up in different spots. Get the ball to him early so Denver will know he’s part of the plan. Someone for Denver will have to spy him, meaning someone else on the Seattle offense -- receivers Golden Tate or Doug Baldwin -- will get free.

"We’re excited to have Percy back, because he brings more to the table," Tate said. "He's going to open it up for other guys more."

4. Punish the Broncos on crossing routes: The Seattle defense can’t allow Manning and his receivers to nickel-and-dime them to death with short passes over the middle and quick slants.

And if receiver Wes Welker wants to try a pick-play block, have strong safety Kam Chancellor waiting to greet him. Linebackers Malcolm Smith and K.J. Wright also have to get physical on these plays and let the Broncos know there is a price to pay every time they catch a pass in the middle of the field.

"We are a physical bunch," Chancellor said. "We like to be physical. We like to be hands-on. We like to make you feel our presence. That’s how we operate."

5. Play with poise: This is the most important point. Seattle is the more talented team overall, but the Seahawks must play smart and not get over-amped in the biggest game of their lives. Careless personal fouls and false starts can be the difference in the game, and too much emotion can cause a player to make a mistake he wouldn’t normally make.

The Seahawks did a great job of controlling their emotions in the NFC Championship Game against the hated 49ers. Well, until the end when cornerback Richard Sherman went on testosterone overload after the game-saving play. But the game was decided at that point, so have at it.

The same is true in the Super Bowl. Play your game and don’t give the Broncos a freebie. Do what you did to get here.

"Respect the journey," said Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. "But at the same time, enjoy the moment. Take it all in. It is real. Just be poised and respect the process. I’m going to play with a smile on my face and just go for it."

Good advice. If the Seahawks follow it, that should be enough.
JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- He is the X factor, the unknown addition who everyone knows.

Seattle Seahawks receiver Percy Harvin will play in Super Bowl XLVIII. If this was your company softball team playing for the league title, you’d be adding a ringer moments before the first pitch.

It is one of the most unusual situations ever, adding a Pro Bowl-caliber player who only played in six quarters all season, for the biggest event in sports.

[+] EnlargePercy Harvin
AP Photo/John FroschauerSeattle is excited to have Percy Harvin healthy and in the lineup for the Super Bowl.
In the view of some fans, Harvin was supposed to be the final piece to get the Seahawks to the Super Bowl. They accomplished that without him, but can he help them win it now that he’s back?

“It’s not about me,” Harvin said. “I’m just adding another playmaker. We already have three or four good receivers out there. I’m just adding to the mix.”

The mix now has a player who might be the fastest man in the NFL. Speed is a dangerous thing when you add in all the other skills Harvin possesses -- a precise route-runner, elusive ball carrier and explosive kick returner.

“His acceleration is unbelievable,” Seattle tight end Zach Miller said. “He’s a playmaker. Once he gets the ball in his hands, he is so explosive and so fast. He’s definitely a threat to score every time he touches the ball.”

Harvin has started almost every interview this week with this statement: “I’m just glad to be here.”

Obviously, but considering what he has endured this season, it’s a little like leaving a prison cell for a penthouse suite on Park Avenue.

He signed a six-year, $67 million deal with the Seahawks last March and was widely viewed as the offensive weapon that would propel the Seahawks to the next level. But Harvin had major hip surgery on Aug. 1 to repair a torn labrum.

He returned Nov. 17 for the game against his former Minnesota Vikings teammates, showing his talent with a 58-yard kickoff return and a spectacular one-handed catch on a third-down play that kept a scoring drive alive.

Maybe it was too much too soon. Harvin aggravated his hip injury, which became inflamed afterward. He missed the rest of the regular season. Seattle coach Pete Carroll was about to put Harvin on injured reserve before the playoffs started, but Harvin convinced Carroll he could play.

Harvin caught three passes in the New Orleans playoff game, but suffered a concussion at the end of the first half. He didn't make it through the mandatory concussion protocol in time to play in the NFC Championship Game against San Francisco.

“It’s been weird, frustrating, disappointing, all the above, man,” Harvin said. “I had a tough time, and it wore on me a little bit. But my teammates have been A-plus-plus. This whole organization has been top of the line.”

Harvin said one teammate helped him more than any other.

“A couple times I was really down," Harvin said. “But [cornerback] Richard Sherman, I don’t know how he even read me, but he came up and said, ‘Man, I kind of see you’re really down. You’ll get through this. We have your back.’ I’m so grateful for that.”

Now Harvin is back for the biggest game of his life. And he’s smiling, something he hasn't done much of this season. He was grinning from ear-to-ear at every media session. Something has changed beyond the obvious. Harvin is healthy, finally, and he knows he has a chance to show what he can do on the NFL's biggest stage.

“You can really see it in his eyes,” Seattle offensive tackle Russell Okung said. “You know that anytime Percy gets the ball, he’s looking to run by a guy and score. Anytime you have a guy like that, he’s hard to beat. He has a zeal for the game. I can’t wait to have him out there. It’s almost something magical.”

Seahawks smacked down on clinch plans

December, 22, 2013
Pete Carroll AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonSeahawks coach Pete Carroll saw his team held to 192 yards at home by a stingy Arizona defense.
SEATTLE, Ariz. -- It was supposed to be Clinch Sunday for the Seattle Seahawks and their rabid fans.

There was a hitch in the clinch celebration.

The Arizona Cardinals played the role of the Grinch who stole Christmas week.

For the rest of the NFC contenders, enjoy your reprieve. Seattle was inept on offense Sunday, had 102 yards on nine penalties, and failed to hold the lead late in the game, giving you life to fight another week.

In an old-fashioned defensive smackdown, with two NFC West teams slugging it out like it was 1999 (or maybe 1959), the Cardinals prevailed 17-10. Arizona is now 10-5 and still in the playoff picture.

The Cardinals came to Century Link Field, the place where no visitor had won in two years, and outmuscled the most physical team in the league.

“It was two defenses just duking it out all day,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “You have to give [Arizona credit]. They played really well on defense, harder and tougher than we wanted them to be.”

An opponent playing harder and tougher than Seattle is a surprise. The Seahawks sat in the dressing room afterward saying it didn't matter, and it won’t if they win next weekend at home against St. Louis. But one look in the players' faces and it was clear they were stunned.

Seattle's 14-game home winning streak was over to a team it was favored to beat by 10 points, and the Seahawks didn’t see it coming. A game one week from now that could have been a glorified practice session is now a showdown for everything they have worked for all season.

“We can’t harp on this," Seattle free safety Earl Thomas said. “This is no time to panic. Everything we’ve worked for is still right in front of our face. There’s not anything different.”

Well, a few things are much different than most people thought. The Seahawks have lost two of their past three after going 11-1. And the offense hasn’t looked overly impressive, even in the 23-0 win against the New York Giants last week.

For the first time all season, quarterback Russell Wilson and the Seattle offense looked overwhelmed.

“You have to credit their defense,” said Wilson, who was 11-of-27 passing for only 108 yards and was sacked four times. “But we can play better and we can do better. We had some opportunities to make some big plays, but for whatever reason, we were a little bit off.”

That might be understating it just a tad. In a game that could have clinched the NFC West title and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, the Seattle offense looked completely out of sync and unable to find any answers to the rugged Cardinals' defense.

“It’s impossible not to feel frustrated," said Seattle tight end Zack Miller, whose 11-yard TD catch in the fourth quarter was the only time the Seahawks reached the end zone. “But we still control our own destiny.”

After the 34-7 victory against New Orleans on Monday night three weeks ago, that destiny seemed assured. The Seahawks appeared Super Bowl bound.

That destiny is a little in doubt now. This game left some questions to answer, and it also had some head-scratching moments near the end.

What was a magnificent defensive battle became a sideshow circus of bizarre calls in the fourth quarter.

Two big calls went against Seattle. First, an apparent fumble by Arizona running back Rashard Mendenhall at the Seattle 16 was reviewed, but upheld as called as no fumble.

“We could not determine the status of the runner’s knee," referee Scott Green said. “The ball does come loose, but we never got a [video] shot that showed the status of his knee or any other part of his body being down, so therefore, you go with the call that was made on the field.”

The Cardinals kicked a field goal moments later to go up 9-3.

Later came a controversial interception on Seattle's last possession, when a pass intended for Doug Baldwin appeared to hit the turf, bounce in the air and was ruled an interception by Karlos Dansby.

“Again, we didn’t have indisputable evidence that it hit the ground," Green said. “Therefore, we went with the call as it was made on the field, which was an interception.”

However, maybe the craziest play of the game went Seattle’s way. After the Seahawks tied it 9-9 on the pass from Wilson to Miller, Hauschka’s extra-point attempt was blocked.

But Hauschka got another chance when the Cardinals were flagged for lining up over the center, which isn’t allowed. Hauschka made the second attempt and the Seahawks led 10-9 with 7:26 to go.

But don’t say Seattle lost this game because of the officiating. They lost because the Cardinals' defense was dominant.

So were the Seahawks -- until the end. After keeping Arizona out of the end zone all game, the Seahawks' defense couldn’t do it when it mattered most. The Cardinals drove 80 yards and scored on a 31-yard touchdown pass from Carson Palmer to Michael Floyd on a third-and-six.

The home-field magic was over.

“If there is one thing I’ve learned, you’re going to have ups and downs in life,” Wilson said. “At the end of the day, we still have to win the next game. That’s doesn’t change for us. We lost this one and we shouldn’t have lost it. We’ve had a really good season, and we just have to finish strong. Now the last game of the season is a championship game. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
RENTON, Wash. -- The Seattle Seahawks haven't gotten a lot of production out of their 11 drafts choices in 2013, but one who has stood out is tight end Luke Willson, a fifth-round draft from Rice University.

Willson, 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, has 18 receptions for 265 yards and one touchdown as the team's No. 2 tight end to Zach Miller.

"He's been a fantastic draft pick for us," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said about Willson. "To play so early and contribute in such a variety of ways, and he's really just getting started. He's a tremendous prospect for us for the years to come."

Carroll also believes Miller has been a great influence on Willson.

"Zach is a tremendous pro," Carroll said. "It's his work ethic, toughness, attention to details and his versatility. Whatever you ask of him, he does really well with great pride. All of our players could grow from that. Zach is a great example of that.

"Luke has tremendous talent. He has speed and strength and catching ability and range and all of that. But to make yourself a great pro, it's those other elements that you need to really bring the package together. Zach really does demonstrate that on a regular basis. He's a great leader and a great role model for Luke, and Luke is a great kid too. There is nothing to keep him from being the same style player in the years to come."

Rice had two tight ends drafted in 2013. Vance McDonald was selected in the second round by San Francisco, but has been a disappointment this season for the 49ers with only eight receptions.

What is it that made the Seahawks feel Willson was the Rice tight end that wanted instead of McDonald?

"Not everybody knew about him," Carroll said of Willson. "He hadn't done a whole lot, but we saw the talent. We saw the range of ability, but it was really [Seahawks GM] John Schneider's knack of understanding where he would get drafted that made him so valuable to us.

"At that spot [the fifth round], that's as good a pick as you could make. I think it was just a set of circumstances that made him available to us. I'm not comparing him to the other fella at all. It's just when we had that pick at that time it turned out to be a great opportunity, and Luke has made that come to life."

Zach Miller, Max Unger will play Sunday

December, 13, 2013
RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks tight end Zach Miller returned to practice Friday and will start Sunday against the New York Giants, as will center Max Unger.

“Zach got work [Friday], and all the guys that we were sort of taking care of made it back,” said Seattle coach Pete Carroll. “They’re good.”

Miller did not practice earlier in the week because of bruised ribs. Unger returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday after suffering a strained pectoral muscle in the San Francisco game.

Defensive tackle Tony McDaniel wasn’t at practice Friday because he was sick, but he is expected to play Sunday.

Receiver Percy Harvin did not practice this week and will not play.

“It’s looking like it’s going to be a bit before we get it right,” Carroll said of Harvin. “He’s doing a ton of stuff to get it back but hasn’t turned the corner. We’ll keep doing whatever it takes to get him back.”

Harvin made his season debut against Minnesota on Nov. 17 but aggravated his surgically repaired hip and hasn’t played since. Carroll was asked Friday if Harvin still is vulnerable to injuring or aggravating his hip.

“If they [doctors and trainers] aren’t releasing him to get back out there, that means he’s vulnerable,” Carroll said. “We’re going to make sure we take our time, and we still have a number of games left. If we can get him there, we’ll take it when it comes.”

Cornerback Brandon Browner remains out with a groin injury while he awaits news on his appeal for a substance-abuse violation. Cornerback Walter Thurmond has two games remaining on his suspension for a substance-abuse violation.

Malcolm Smith will start Sunday at outside linebacker for K.J. Wright, who had surgery Wednesday to repair a foot fracture and is out for the season.

Rapid Reaction: Seattle Seahawks

December, 2, 2013

SEATTLE -- A few thoughts on the Seattle Seahawks' 34-7 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Monday night at CenturyLink Field:

What it means: The Seahawks proved they are the best of the best in the NFC with a convincing victory over the Saints, which gives Seattle a two-game advantage in the race to have home-field advantage in the playoffs. But in reality, it’s more than two games because the Seahawks have defeated both the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans, which gives Seattle the tiebreaker over both teams that are two games behind them with four games to play, and the Saints and Panthers have to play each other twice.

Stock watch: In MVP considerations, Russell Wilson has moved ahead of Drew Brees by clearly outplaying his idol Monday night. Wilson was sensational in the first half, completing 14 of 19 passes for 226 yards and two TDs. And the Seattle defense destroyed the potent New Orleans passing game, including a 22-yard touchdown for defensive linemen Michael Bennett after defensive end Cliff Avril knocked the ball out of Brees' hand and Bennett caught the deflection.

Miller a tough tight end, too: This game was supposed to be about the Seahawks defense against New Orleans star tight end Jimmy Graham, but the Saints had a tough time covering Seattle tight end Zach Miller, who had a 2-yard TD catch after a 60-yard catch in the first quarter.

Maxwell and Lane up to the task: Fears of Brees lighting up the Seattle backups in the secondary were unfounded. All the distractions this week surrounding the suspension of Walter Thurmond and possibly Brandon Browner, who is out with a groin injury, didn’t hurt the Seahawks at all. Byron Maxwell played well as the starter, and Jeremy Lane also did a good job in the slot on the nickel packages.

What's next: The Seahawks fly south to play their archrivals, the San Francisco 49ers in Candlestick Park. This was expected to be a game that might decide the NFC West, but Seattle has a three-game lead with four to play, so it isn’t the game it might have been, but it is important to San Francisco’s playoff hopes.

Upon Further Review: Seahawks Week 7

October, 18, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the Seattle Seahawks' 34-22 win against the Arizona Cardinals:

[+] EnlargeZach Miller
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesAfter missing two games, tight end Zach Miller returned to the Seahawks lineup in grand fashion -- scoring a touchdown Thursday night in Arizona.
Dominant defense: The headline stat was a season-high seven sacks, but the Seahawks defense was stellar across the board. It’s truly misleading that Arizona scored 22 points. Ten of those points came after Russell Wilson was pressured and fumbled twice in the backfield deep in Seattle territory. The Cardinals did not have a drive of more than 26 yards until late in the fourth quarter after the game was decided. Arizona had only 30 yards rushing on 18 carries. The longest run of the game for the Cardinals was 6 yards. And Seattle had two interceptions, one of which would have been a pick-six if not for Brandon Browner tripping himself near the goal line.

Big return for Miller: This game was a nice homecoming for tight end Zach Miller, a Phoenix native who went to college at Arizona State. After missing the past two games with a hamstring injury, Miller returned to the starting lineup and had five receptions for 40 yards and one touchdown. Miller makes a big difference by occupying safeties and linebackers in the middle of the field and enabling the wideouts to get open more often.

Offensive line still struggling: If anything keeps the Seahawks from reaching all their goals this season, which they hope includes a trip to the Super Bowl, it will be the offensive line that holds them back. Thursday was another awful effort overall. Wilson was under enormous pressure, getting sacked three times and getting hit constantly. Seattle rushed for 135 yards, but a lot of that was incredible second effort by Marshawn Lynch, who had 91 yards and carried defenders on his back at times. The line woes will improve when tackles Breno Giacomini and Russell Okung return, but it won’t solve all the problems up front. It’s hard to justify making player changes on the line while the team is winning, but that would not be true if not for Wilson’s remarkable athleticism that enables him to avoid the rush and make something positive out of negative situations. However, Wilson can’t continue to endure this much punishment without an injury at some point.

Road warriors: Let’s put to bed a myth about the Seahawks. The theory that this team can’t get it done on the road isn’t accurate now. The Seahawks are 3-1 away from home this season. They also are 6-2 on the road since December of last season.
Russell Wilson and Marshawn LynchMark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsRussell Wilson didn't let his fumbles get him down, and ended up with three TD passes and the win.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Russell Wilson fumbled three times Thursday night and lost two of them, which resulted in 10 points for the Arizona Cardinals.

If that’s what you take away from his performance, you’ve greatly missed the point. You just have to see it to believe it.

Despite constant pressure that caused Wilson to take a beating, the Seattle Seahawks quarterback was remarkable once again in leading his team to a 34-22 victory at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Wilson threw three touchdown passes and no interceptions, completing 18 of 29 throws for 235 yards and ending the night with a 122.1 passer rating. And while those numbers won’t wow anyone -- Wilson is not going to put up the gaudy stats of a Peyton Manning or a Drew Brees -- he is going to do whatever it takes to win.

“It’s an honor to play alongside him,” Seattle receiver Golden Tate said about Wilson. “He’s grown tremendously. I’m very proud of him. He’s such a dangerous quarterback with his speed and his arm. He’s definitely our leader.”

Yes, Wilson has a lot of help. He plays on one of the best teams in the NFL. His running back, Marshawn Lynch, rushed for a rugged 91 yards and dragged would-be tacklers down the field at times.

His receivers made huge plays -- a leaping touchdown grab by tight end Zach Miller, a touchdown and a drive-saving scoop-catch by Sidney Rice and 77 receiving yards for Tate. And the Seattle defense had a season-high seven sacks along with two interceptions.

Wilson, as always, gave his teammates all of the credit. He praised Rice for getting open consistently and said it was huge to have Miller back. Of Lynch, he asked, “Can anybody be any tougher?”

Yes, one man can. Wilson is the guy who makes this team special, the one player who each week overcomes every obstacle placed in front of him.

“Russell does what he does,’’ Rice said. “He extends plays, gets outside the pocket and gets first downs. He just makes plays happen.”

The last time Wilson played in this stadium was the first game of his NFL career, a 20-16 loss in last season's opener. He is 18-6 since that day.

“I think I’ve grown so much since then,” Wilson said. “And our football team has grown, too. We’re just trying to be the best team every week.”

Seattle coach Pete Carroll marvels at what he sees from Wilson.

“I don’t know what we would do without him,” Carroll said. “We would be a much different team. I don’t know how you can measure it at this point. He has become such a special aspect of our team. He’s instrumental to everything we do.”

There might not be another player in the NFL whose statistical numbers are less reflective of how much he does and how well he does it. Wilson consistently makes the key play that keeps a drive alive and puts points on the scoreboard.

Here are just two examples from Thursday night:

On their first possession, the Seahawks had a first down at the Arizona 31-yard line. Wilson was pressured out of the pocket, something that happens most of the time with an offensive line that's missing both starting tackles. Wilson rolled to his right but was running backward to avoid the defenders chasing him. Nevertheless, he let fling a perfect pass downfield to a streaking Rice, who made the catch near the sideline for a touchdown.

Try that sometime -- while running backward, throw the ball 40 yards forward right to where it needs to be.

But that wasn’t Wilson's most athletic play of the night. That came on a third-and-3 at the Arizona 48 when Seattle held a slim 17-13 lead in the third quarter. Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington chased down Wilson, who had scrambled to his left. Washington had him. Wilson was going down. But a split second before he hit the turf, Wilson somehow shoved a pass to Miller for a 6-yard gain and a first down to keep a touchdown drive alive.

“That was a huge play,” said Arizona coach Bruce Arians. “Most quarterbacks, the referee would have blown that down. But Wilson is such a great athlete that the referee let him continue playing.”

Wilson was sacked three times Thursday, but that doesn’t come close to expressing the punishment he took from the Cardinals' defensive line. Officially, Arizona had nine quarterback hits, and Wilson also was knocked flat on his back by defensive end Calais Campbell on a failed fourth-and-1 quarterback sneak.

The Cardinals knocked the ball out of Wilson's hands three times, recovering it twice. One came at the Seattle 5-yard line, setting up a touchdown. Another led to an Arizona field goal.

Wilson never wavered. He never became flustered. He never does. He gets up, shakes it off and comes right back at you every time.

“Russell is always accountable,” Tate said. “He comes out the next series ready to sling it. He didn’t let those turnovers affect the way he plays.”

Tate stopped and shook his head, then said: “You just have to admire him.”

RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks tight end Zach Miller returned to full participation at practice Tuesday, and likely will return to the starting lineup Thursday night against the Arizona Cardinals. Miller missed the last two games with a hamstring injury.

Marshawn Lynch did not practice and was listed as having a hip injury, but this is a short week and the Seahawks' coaches probably are being cautious with their starting running back, making sure he’ll be ready to go Thursday.

Lynch also missed practices last week, but he rushed for two touchdowns and had 155 total yards Sunday in Seattle's victory over Tennessee.

Defensive end Chris Clemons did not practice after suffering a hyperextended elbow against the Titans. Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner also is still out with a high ankle sprain.
Ryan Fitzpatrick and Richard ShermanUSA TODAY Sports, Getty ImagesBackup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will have to face a stifling Seattle secondary and the league's best corner in Richard Sherman.
Sunday's game between the Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks is a matchup between two winning teams coming off losses, and both are missing key players on offense.

Quarterback Jake Locker is out for the Titans. Both starting tackles -- Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini -- are out for Seattle. Tight end Zach Miller could also sit.

The Seahawks have a 10-game home winning streak on the line, hoping to rebound after their first defeat of the season, 34-28 to the Indianapolis Colts.

The Titans hope to get a stagnant running game going and find some consistency with backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Paul, it looked like Fitzpatrick had a rough first outing for the Titans subbing for an injured Locker. Do you think Fitzpatrick will improve, and how difficult will it be for Tennessee to have success on offense while Locker is out?

Kuharsky: Fitzpatrick is certainly capable of playing better than he did in the loss to Kansas City, when he had three very bad quarters and one good one. I'm not sure what the Titans can do to help him if they are unable to run the ball. If they can bring some balance with Chris Johnson (and maybe Shonn Greene, who's still trying to get back after knee surgery), it could be a lot less difficult. Fitzpatrick hardly has Locker's excellent speed, but he scrambled around pretty well against the Chiefs. With Locker in the first four games, the Titans didn't turn the ball over and overcame their deficiencies running the ball. Without him, they need Fitzpatrick to imitate the mistake-free youngster. But Fitzpatrick is more of a gunslinger than Locker and is streakier, and that's probably too much to ask.

Terry, the Titans pledged to be a great running team. It hasn't really panned out that way. Last time Johnson was in Seattle, he had a 2,000-yard season. What's the run defense going to be like?

Blount: It's been all but impossible to run up the middle on the Seahawks. Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane is as strong a run stopper as there is the NFL, and it takes two blockers to handle 325-pound Red Bryant. If that fails, it's tough to get past middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. But Wagner probably won't play Sunday because of a high ankle sprain. Nevertheless, it's difficult to establish a running game on the Seahawks. Seattle is an aggressive outside pass-rushing team, so occasionally a back can get yardage outside, but not often.

Paul, Locker told us on the conference call Wednesday what a disappointment it is that he won't get to play this weekend in front of family, friends and University of Washington alumni who love him for all he did to help turn around the Huskies football program. He is a beloved guy here and a huge hero in this community. How is he viewed in Nashville?

Kuharsky: Nothing close to that yet. People who have given him a chance know he's an eminently likable guy, a hard worker and a well-respected leader, but plenty of fans called talk radio over the offseason talking about why Fitzpatrick would be a better choice or how it should at least be a camp competition. Even after Week 2's overtime loss in Houston, when he overthrew a wide-open Kenny Britt on a crucial third-and-1 late in the game, there were calls for change. (It's a throw he's got to make.) The game-winning drive against San Diego showed people what he can do. Locker also had a fantastic two-plus quarters against the Jets, which seems to have done a lot to win more people over. In playing style and development arc, I think he is a lot like Steve McNair so far. If that holds true, impatient fans will wind up happy.

Terry, home field is viewed as such a giant advantage for the Seahawks. Can you give us a tangible feel for just how loud and crazy the atmosphere is there?

Blount: In the San Francisco game, where the outdoor stadium decibel record was set at 131.9, it was so loud that it was difficult at times to even hear people talk in the enclosed press box. I know every team believes its stadium is one of the loudest, and I've been to most of them, but trust me, there is nothing like CenturyLink Field. It's deafening.

Paul, cornerback Alterraun Verner is off to an outstanding start this season with four interceptions and 11 passes defensed. Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman is viewed by some as the best corner in the NFL, but is Verner the most underrated?

Kuharsky: He could have had another two picks last week on balls he didn't manage to haul in. Verner has been really good. The team wasn't sure what it had in him. The Titans knew they got a good football player out of UCLA three years ago. But as they revamped this offseason, with Gregg Williams joining the coaching staff and the Titans determined to get more aggressive, they figured a big increase in press-man coverage would move them away from Verner's strengths. They wanted Tommie Campbell, a faster and bigger guy to win the job. (Some wrote about how Campbell has some of what makes Sherman so good.) But Campbell didn't catch on and bombed in training camp, and Verner proved to be better. If Coty Sensabaugh hasn't recovered from his concussion for Sunday, Verner will start in base and move into the slot in nickel, with Campbell replacing him outside.

The Titans rush pretty well, and Verner is getting his hands on balls all over the field. Who has had the best success slowing Russell Wilson and how?

Blount: Even though Seattle came back and won the game, the Texans had the most success because of their talented defensive front and all-everything defensive lineman J.J. Watt. Both Houston and Indianapolis took advantage of Seattle missing starters on the offensive line and teed off on Wilson on third down. Nevertheless, Wilson is the best I've ever seen making the most of a bad situation and finding the opening the defense gives him. Anticipating when Wilson will roll out and cutting off his running lanes is the key, but it is far easier said than done.

RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner was walking on crutches Wednesday and wearing a protective boot over his sprained left ankle.

“Bobby will see if he can make it back by game day,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday. “But it will go all the way to Sunday.”

If Wagner doesn’t play, K.J. Wright will move from his outside linebacker spot to Wagner’s middle linebacker spot. Malcolm Smith and Bruce Irvin would start at the outside spots.

Carroll is confident that Pro Bowl center Max Unger will return this weekend after missing the last two games with a triceps injury. Unger was a full participant at practice Wednesday,

“We’re counting on him coming back this week,” Carroll said. “We’re really hoping Max will secure the calls.”

The Seahawks were missing four starters up front in the 34-28 loss to Indianapolisn on Sunday: Unger, tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini and tight end Zach Miller.

Okung and Giacomini still are out, and Miller (strained hamstring) will be a game-day decision, Carroll said. But Carroll believes Unger’s return is a big key to the backup players performing at a higher level.

“Max is one if your team leaders,” Carroll said. “He is the guy who has the greatest command of what we’re doing up front. He will help other guys play well and make the right choices. And he’ll help the quarterback [Russell Wilson], too, in identification.

“We missed that the last couple of weeks and it’s made a difference in our pass protection. There are some spacing issues that we don’t want. Max can get everybody on the right guys. The biggest issue has been the inconsistency on communication. We’ve had to suffer through that and it’s why Russell has had to run more.”

Carroll also was asked how wide receiver Percy Harvin looks since returning to the Seahawks facility after rehabbing in New York following his hip surgery Aug. 1.

“Percy has been working hard,” Carroll said. “He’s excited and he’s running and we’re hoping there are no setbacks along the way. We’ll keep progressing with it.”

Harvin is eligible to come off the physically-unable-to-perform list for the game against the Arizona Cardinals next week, but Carroll does not see that happening.

“I don’t think that is realistic,” Carroll said. “I think that’s too soon, but it’ll happen when he’s ready to go and we get a chance to prepare him so he’s physically capable of being safe.

“He’s a full-on, full-speed football player. He’s got to be ready to go. When he comes back, we want him to be able to endure the rigors of the end of the season. It’s not important to rush him back. It’s important to wait it out and be patient and get him out there when he’s ready to go and withstand the load of the game.”

Defensive tackle Michael Bennett (quad) and cornerback Walter Thurmond (knee) did not practice Wednesday. Running back Marshawn Lynch also did not practice, but he is not injured.

Carroll also said that cornerback Jeremy Lane (hamstring) and running back Spencer Ware (ankle) will be game-day decisions this week.

Seahawks reach their teams goals Sunday

September, 22, 2013
SEATTLE -- Check every goal off the list.

The Seattle Seahawks entered Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars with some specific goals. When it ended with a 45-17 victory, the Seahawks had accomplished each task:
  • No letdown: check.
  • Fewer penalties: check.
  • No trap game against a lesser opponent: check
  • Get the passing game in gear: double check.

Despite entering the game 2-0, the offense struggled in the first half of both games with careless penalties and problems in the passing game overall.

Not this time. Russell Wilson threw for four touchdowns, including three in the first half. Backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson had one touchdown throwing and one running. Together they combined for 331 yards and five touchdown passes, completing 21 of 29 throws for a 135.2 quarterback rating between them.

“I thought Russell played great,” said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. “He was all over the place making great plays and throws. And I thought T-Jack played lights out. He did everything just right. He handled himself beautifully.”

Tight end Zach Miller and wide receiver Sidney Rice had two touchdowns each. Both Miller touchdowns came off play-action fakes that left him open in the end zone.

One Rice score came when it appeared Wilson threw the ball up for grabs, but that’s what Rice wanted him to do on the 23-yard play.

“I rolled out and Sidney pointed to me to throw it up,’’ Wilson said. “So I thought, ‘You know what? Here ya go.’ You have to trust your guys.”

Rice made a leaping catch in front of two Jacksonville defenders.

“I saw the ball thrown so I went to attack it,” Rice said. “We take advantage of the opportunities that come our way.”

Doug Baldwin did the same thing on his 35-yard touchdown grab down the sideline when he got a signal from Jackson.

“T-Jack came to the line and gave me a little smile,” Baldwin said. “I knew the ball was coming my way.”

Part of the improvement Sunday was the fact that the Seahawks did not stop themselves with penalties, a big problem in the first two games. Seattle had only four penalties for 24 yards.

“That’s a big move up for us,” Carroll said. “I’m glad we could make that such an emphasis this week [at practice] and see a real change.”

And there was no letdown coming off the emotional 29-3 victory over the San Francisco 49ers last week.

“We talked about that early in the week,” Baldwin said. “We addressed it by saying we were not going to waste this opportunity [to be 3-0]. For us, every game is a championship opportunity. We weren’t going to let it slip away.”

The Seahawks also didn’t fall into the so-called “trap game.” Seattle was a 19-point favorite over the Jaguars. It would have been easy to look ahead to the game next week in Houston against the Texans.

“Those guys on the other sideline are an NFL team just like us,” said cornerback Brandon Browner, who played for the first time this season after being out with a hamstring injury. “We talk about never overlooking any team. We looked at them just like we did San Francisco.”

Seattle checked everything off the list and won the game they were supposed to win against an overmatched opponent. But it’s the way they did it that mattered the most to the players.

‘‘That’s the way we need to play football,” Wilson said. “We didn’t have crazy penalties and we executed when we needed to. When we do that, we’re hard to stop.”

Locker Room Buzz: Seattle Seahawks

September, 22, 2013
SEATTLE -- Observed in the locker room after the Seattle Seahawks' 45-17 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars:

What letdown? The players had a lot of I-told-you-so looks over not having any letdown after the emotional victory over San Francisco last weekend and not falling into the so-called trap game against the lowly Jaguars. “We talked about it early in the week,” receiver Doug Baldwin said. “We addressed and said we weren't going to waste this opportunity.”

Just throw it: The communication between quarterback and receiver was a factor in two Seattle touchdowns. Russell Wilson said Sidney Rice signaled for him to just put it up when it appeared Rice was well covered in the end zone, and Rice leaped and made the grab. Baldwin said quarterback Tarvaris Jackson gave him a “little smile,” letting Baldwin know he was going to lob it up down the sideline and let Baldwin make a play, which he did for a 35-yard touchdown.

Touchdowns for the twins: Tight end Zach Miller was beaming about what his two touchdown catches meant to him the day he brought twin baby daughters, Remi and Kaydence, on the field. “I got one for each of them,” Miller said. “I had them on the field before the game, so now I guess I have to bring them on the field before every game.”

A dozen NFC West spectators to watch

August, 29, 2013
A look at 12 potential NFC West starters who have played zero preseason snaps heading into their teams' final exhibition games Thursday night:

Arizona Cardinals

TE Jeff King: King started 12 games last season. He could still figure prominently in the two-tight end sets new coach Bruce Arians prefers over using two backs. But with knee trouble preventing King from factoring to this point, the team has yet to get a look at him in game situations. Perhaps that changes Thursday night.

Seattle Seahawks

G James Carpenter: The Seahawks expect Carpenter to make his 2013 preseason debut Thursday night against the Oakland Raiders. Carpenter can still emerge as a starter this season, but he has to stay healthy. The foot injury he suffered recently set him back. The career-threatening knee injury Carpenter suffered as a rookie in 2011 has not been a problem.

TE Zach Miller: Miller is scheduled to make his preseason debut against the Raiders, his former team. The Seahawks want him to get game reps before the regular season. Miller is one of the more valuable role players on the team. Foot trouble sidelined him through training camp. Working him into the offense is a priority.

WR Sidney Rice: The Seahawks will hold out Rice until the regular-season opener. The move appears to be precautionary after Rice underwent a non-surgical procedure to address a knee condition. Coach Pete Carroll: "We know that he’ll be ready unless there’s a setback next week in practice again. He’ll go next week."

DE Cliff Avril: A hamstring injury continues to sideline Avril while calling into question his availability for the opener.

DE Chris Clemons: The Seahawks hope Clemons can return from ACL surgery in time for the regular-season opener. There are no guarantees, but moving Clemons from the active/physically unable to perform (PUP) list to the reserve/PUP list appears unlikely. Players entering the season on reserve/PUP cannot practice before Oct. 15. Clemons will presumably return before that.

WR Percy Harvin: Harvin is on the reserve/PUP list already while recovering from hip surgery. He can resume practicing between Oct. 15 and Nov. 19. Once he resumes practicing, he has 21 calendar days to join the 53-man roster and become eligible for playing in games this season.

San Francisco 49ers

ILB Patrick Willis: Willis is recovering from surgery to repair a broken hand. The feeling is that he could play if the games counted. Until further notice, all signs point to Willis returning for the regular-season opener.

WR Kyle Williams: Williams came off the PUP list early in camp after recovering from ACL surgery. He has also overcome a hamstring injury suffered early in camp. Williams could emerge as the starter opposite Anquan Boldin even though the 49ers have held him out of games to this point.

WR Michael Crabtree: The 49ers already placed Crabtree on the reserve/PUP list while he recovers from a torn Achilles tendon. He's not expected back until late in the regular season. He can resume practicing between Oct. 15 and Nov. 19.

WR Mario Manningham: Manningham is on the reserve/PUP list while recovering from a torn ACL. The same rules framing the timetable for a possible Crabtree return apply to Manningham.

St. Louis Rams

TE Lance Kendricks: Kendricks is coming off knee surgery and is expected to be ready for the regular season. He has alluded to participating in warmups for the Rams' game against Baltimore on Thursday night, but he is not expected to play in the game. Kendricks' versatility is important to a Rams offense that will feature Jared Cook as a receiver.