By Michael Rushton, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) – After avoiding their first three-game losing streak in
three years, the Seattle Seahawks will try to make up some ground in the NFC
West on Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
They’ll do so against a winless Oakland Raiders club that is off to its worst
start in 52 years.
The defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks dropped a two-point decision to the
St. Louis Rams on Oct. 19, seven days after losing for just the second time in
their last 19 at home with a setback to Dallas.
Faced with the possibility of losing three in a row for the first time since
Oct. 23-Nov. 6 — and for the first time with quarterback Russell Wilson under
center — Seattle responded with a 13-9 victory over the Carolina Panthers.
While it wasn’t an emphatic end to their two-game skid, the Seahawks saw
Wilson lead a late scoring drive. Carolina went up by three points on a field
goal with 4:37 to play, but Wilson came back to lead a 9-play, 80-yard scoring
drive, capped with his touchdown pass to tight end Luke Willson with 47
seconds to play.
“As an offense, I felt like we kept knocking and knocking. That’s kind of our
attitude out there,” Wilson said.
Wilson shook off a rough start to finish 20-for-32 passing with 199 yards, a
touchdown and an interception. Marshawn Lynch ran for 62 yards and Doug
Baldwin had six catches for 61 yards.
At 4-3, Seattle is tied with San Francisco for second place in the NFC West,
with both teams trailing 6-1 Arizona.
The playoffs are already a fading dream for 0-7 Oakland, which has lost 13
straight games dating back to last season. Their winless stretch through seven
games to begin the season is the worst for the franchise since 1962, when it
lost its first 13 games before winning its season finale.
Oakland visited the Cleveland Browns last Sunday and lost a 23-13 game despite
a career-high 328 passing yards by rookie quarterback David Carr. He completed
34 of his whooping 54 pass attempts as the Raiders fell to 2-17 on the road
“We came up short again out here. I thought the players’ effort was really
hard out there on the field today,” said Tony Sparano, who is 0-3 since taking
over as interim coach. “We played with a lot of energy, a lot of passion and a
lot of enthusiasm. We didn’t play smart football, any time you come on the
road and you turn the ball over three times.”
Carr had thrown for less than 200 yards in three of six games entering Sunday,
but hooked up with tight end Mychal Rivera seven times for 83 yards while also
completing a touchdown pass to wide receiver Andre Holmes.
“I thought Derek battled hard, he fought hard, even towards the end. He had a
couple of drops and some other things that he is going to look back at,” noted
The Raiders lead the all-time series with the Seahawks 28-23, but are 10-14 in
Seattle. The teams have split their past seven meetings, with the Raiders
winning 33-3 at home in the most recent encounter on Oct. 31, 2010.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Seahawks ruled seven players out of Sunday’s matchup with the Panthers,
but head coach Pete Carroll noted a few guys may be set to return.
Pro Bowl center Max Unger, cornerback Byron Maxwell, defensive tackle Jordan
Hill and returner Bryan Walters are candidates to come back from injury,
though linebacker Bobby Wagner (toe) and tight end Zach Miller (ankle) are
already ruled out.
Unger would be a big boost as he has missed the last three games with a foot
injury, while Maxwell has been sidelined for back-to-back contests due to a
“We have some guys on the verge (of coming back),” said Carroll.
Unger could help get Seattle’s traditional ground game back on track. The
Seahawks rank second in the NFL with 148.4 yards per game on the ground, but
Lynch has not posted a 100-yard rushing game since Week 1 and his 62 yards
versus Carolina was his highest total in three weeks.
The Pro Bowl back hasn’t scored on the ground in four straight games.
Wilson, though, has been able to make some plays with his feet this season to
at least help move the ball on the ground. Oakland, meanwhile, has gotten
little out of its run game, managing an NFL-worst 69.6 yards per game.
That probably won’t change this weekend as Seattle is ranked sixth against the
run (89.6 yards allowed per game) and fifth in total defense (316.1).
Oakland did manage to hold Cleveland to a mere 39 rushing yards a weekend ago
and an average of 1.6 yards per carry. That marked the sixth time since 2012
that the Raiders allowed less than two years per carry.
With the Raiders unable to move the ball, Carr has had to attempt 249 passes.
He has completed 61 percent of those for 1,517 yards. Last week he had the
first ever 300-yard passing game by a Raider rookie and he is 31 yards shy of
setting the Raider rookie record for passing yards in a season. That is
currently held by Matt McGloin, who posted 1,547 yards last year.
With nine touchdown passes on the season, Carr is three shy of matching Andy
Dalton’s NFL-rookie record of 12 TD passes through the first eight games of
the 2012 campaign.
Oakland is tied for second in the NFL with eight sacks allowed, but that
doesn’t mean Carr hasn’t been pressured a lot on the year. In fact, Cleveland
got to him three times as the club was forced to go pass-heavy.
“He’s got a great release, probably one of the best releases that I’ve been
involved with, so he gets the ball out and doesn’t take a lot of sacks like
that. That’s all part of it, it’s a big part of it,” Sparano said of Carr.
He’ll be tested again as the Seahawks bounced back from getting zero sacks
against the Rams to bringing down Carolina’s mobile quarterback Cam Newton
three times. Linebacker Bruce Irvin had two of the sacks and defensive tackle
Brandon Mebane had the other.
“This was a better day of pressuring the quarterback across the board. We
moved him early. (Newton’s) numbers weren’t the kind that he sometimes puts
up. I felt that the four-man stuff was good, the pressure stuff worked out
well and it gave us a better rhythm in the game,” said Carroll.
A stop in Cleveland was obviously the best chance for Oakland to get its first
win of the season on this quick two-game road trip. Seattle has already been
stunned and surprised once at home this season and Carroll will have his team
ready to avoid another let down.
Seattle should be able to get its ground game going this weekend and Lynch is
in line to break out in a big way.
Oakland will come to town with low expectations, but it seems a longshot it
will leave with a victory.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Seahawks 31, Raiders 12