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Behind Enemy Lines 2014: Seahawks Edition

The Redskins on Monday play host to the Seattle Seahawks in a 'Monday Night Football' matchup at FedExField. writer Clare Farnsworth gives us an insider's look at the major storylines for the opposing team heading into the matchup. simple question to start off here: has anything major changed – either schematically, personnel wise, attitudes, expectations, etc. – since the Seahawks were able to pull of that dominating win over the Broncos in the Super Bowl?

Farnsworth: "The most obvious changes from last season's Super Bowl team are in personnel, with Percy Harvin being available to replace leading receiver Golden Tate (Lions); rookie Justin Britt stepping in at right tackle for Breno Giacomini (Jets); Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril playing

A look back at some of the top images in games between the Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks.

more snaps as the replacements for the departed defensive end duo of Red Bryant and Chris Clemons (released and signed with the Jaguars); and cornerback Marcus Burley being acquired last month and stepping in for injured nickel back Jeremey Lane. Since Pete Carroll arrived in 2010, the Seahawks have been able to compensate for losing starters or having them injured because the backups stepped in and played well. The question that will continue to be answered: How will the players filling the roles of those who are now starters perform when called upon? We'll get a look at that on Monday night, when Luke Willson steps in for injured starting tight end Zach Miller and Cooper Helfet steps in for Willson in the two-tight end formations.

One thing that has not changed, and worked so well for the Seahawks during their Super Bowl run, is their approach to each game. No game is bigger than any other, regardless of opponent, venue or exposure. Every week is a championship opportunity. Each game prevents an opportunity to go 1-0. As clichéd as it sounds, it has worked the past two seasons – when the Seahawks went 11-5 in 2012 and then won the franchise's first road playoff game (against the Redskins) since 1983; and 13-3 last season, which ended with the franchise's first Super Bowl victory." Seahawks have gotten a lot of time off between their overtime victory against the Broncos and Monday night's game against the Redskins. Is the break coming at a good time for Seattle? Or is it possibly a momentum killer coming off such a high-emotion game?

Farnsworth:"The coaches would have preferred a midseason bye. You won't hear them complaining, however, because it would go against what they preach to the players: Don't worry about the things you can't control. But the week off, and Carroll gave his players the entire week off, follows matchups to open the season against Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning – who rank 1-2-4 in the NFL in passer rating. So it gave the defense so time to regroup. The players have returned refreshed and several defensive players have said this week that they can't wait to hit somebody." all know how vocal Richard Sherman is on and off the field, but he really has backed up what he's been saying with his play the past couple seasons. This year, not a lot of

teams are even thinking about throwing his way. What have you observed about Sherman's play so far this season, especially how it relates to how teams seem to be planning everything away from him

Farnsworth:"The Richard Sherman who stepped into infamy with his nationally televised rant after the NFC Championship Game in January is not the real Richard Sherman, as the New York media quickly discovered during Super Bowl week. They expected "The Mouth That Roared." When Sherman was more reflective in the first interview session of the week, the headline the next day shouted "The Mouth That Bored."

As for his on-field efforts this season, Sherman gained notoriety after Rodgers did not throw a pass in his direction in the opener. Then, Rivers "dinked and dunked" the Seahawks, as All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas put it, in the Week 2 loss to the Chargers in San Diego. The Chargers used shorter, quicker throws against the receivers Sherman was covering, rather than trying to test him deep – when Sherman's length and athletic ability give him a dramatic edge." impresses you the most about Russell Wilson? Here's a young guy that already has a Super Bowl victory to his credit and seems to have many, many quality years ahead of him. Why is he so successful?

Farnsworth:"Where to start? It would have to be his maturity, because I'm always telling people that when I grow up I want to be as mature as the Seahawks' 25-year-old quarterback. His attention to detail and approach to everything – off the field and on – are off the charts. As he always puts it, "The separation is in the preparation." And no one gets to the team's headquarters earlier or leaves later than Wilson.

As far as his performance on the field, one of his most impressive attributes is the ability to not only sense pressure but spin and whirl from it without running into the next pass-rusher. It buys him time to find open receivers, or a seam that might allow him to scramble for a first down. Also check out the expression on his face when the TV camera shows one of those close-ups. No matter how hectic things are around him, this kid's composure puts the coolest of cucumbers to shame." Seahawks had one of the better team defensive performances in NFL history last season, so being expected to live up to that again just wouldn't be realistic. They certainly haven't slacked so far this season, either, but they just haven't shown some of the same flashes yet that they had last season. Is there anything to pinpoint as to why this is?

Farnsworth: "Two statistical areas jump out when comparing the 2014 Seahawks defense to one that led the NFL in average points and yards allowed, as well as interceptions and turnovers, last season.

Top images from the Washington Redskins' practice on Oct. 4, 2014 at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.

The first is turnovers, or a lack of them. The Seahawks had 10 takeaways after three games last season. This year, it's three. And, as the signs in the defensive meeting rooms at the team headquarters scream: It's all about the ball. Since Carroll arrived in 2010, the Seahawks are 28-4 in games where they win the turnover battle.

The next area where improvement is needed is third downs. The Seahawks' first three opponents have converted 48.9 percent on the pivotal down (22 of 45). The Packers hit on 50 percent (6 of 12), despite losing by 20 points. The Chargers hit on 59 percent (10 of 17), and were at 67 percent through the first three quarters (8 of 12).  The Broncos were only 6 of 16 (38 percent), but converted a third-and-10 on the TD drive late in the fourth quarter to tie the game in regulation."




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