Sat, 29 Jan 2022

Taking a look at three matchups that could make the difference in Monday night’s game at Washington. John Boyle

The Seahawks head to Washington for a Monday night clash between a pair of NFC teams that were both division champs a year ago, but that both come into this game with losing records. While the Seahawks are looking to right the ship after falling to 3-7 with last week's loss, the Washington Football Team (4-6) is trending in a positive direction having won two in a row following a four-game losing streak, including a win over the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers.

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"We've got a matchup with Washington, and we find them at a time when they played two really good football games against two teams and got good, solid wins," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "I'm sure they're feeling really excited about where they're going. They looked really solid, a really well-balanced team, very much like we've seen Ron's (Rivera) teams over the years. They're good on (special) teams, they're good on defense, and they move it on offense. They have a real nice system going. We're up against a good club. Unfortunately, we catch them when they're hot and going and all that."

If the Seahawks are going to win on the road at Washington for the second straight year, these are three key matchups that could make the difference in Monday night's game at FedExField:

The Opposing View: An Insider’s Look At The Seahawks’ Week 12 Opponent, The Washington Football Team Seahawks Offense “Focused On The Moment,” Not Past Struggles Seattle Seahawks vs. Washington Football Team: How to Watch, Listen and Live Stream on November 29 1. Washington WR Terry McLaurin vs. a short-handed Seahawks cornerback group.

Terry McLaurin has been a big factor in Washington's offense since joining the team as a third-round pick in 2019, and that has continued into this season with McLaurin leading the way with 54 catches for 735 yards and five touchdowns. And not surprisingly, his big games tend to coincide with Washington playing well. Four times this season, McLaurin has had 100 receiving yards and a touchdown, and Washington has won three of those four games, including last week's victory over Carolina in which he had five catches for 103 yards and a score.

"He's really fast, so he's always got the edge on the opportunities," Carroll said. "He's a really good athlete, really powerful, explosive athlete. Gets off the ground really well. You can see and feel the strength of him. He doesn't get knocked around when he's going to play the ball. They know how to put the ball up to him and utilize him. He's just been legitimately what people thought he would be coming out of the draft. He's a big-time player."

The Seahawks have handled opposing receivers pretty well for most of this season, particularly of late, but they will not be at full strength at cornerback, making McLaurin that much bigger of a challenge. Rookie Tre Brown, who helped elevate Seattle's cornerback play after taking over a starting role, suffered a season-ending knee injury in last week's loss to Arizona. The good news for Seattle is that starting right cornerback D.J. Reed is expected back after missing last week's game with a knee injury, and Sidney Jones IV played well in a starting role last week, but McLaurin will still provide a tough challenge for those two and the rest of Seattle's secondary.

2. Seahawks third down offense vs. Washington's third-down defense.

The Seahawks know that if they're going to turn this season around, they're going to need to get more out of an offense that came into this season with high expectations, but that has struggled to play up to its capabilities for much of the season. And one of the biggest issues with this Seahawks offense has been the ability to convert on third down and sustain drives, leading not just to Seattle not scoring as many points as it would like, but also to the Seahawks running the fewest offensive plays in the NFL this season, something that can also take a toll on the defense.

After going 2 for 10 on third down last week, the Seahawks are now converting just 32.4 percent of their third downs this season, which ranks 31st out of 32 teams, and it's all the more frustrating for the Seahawks because the numbers show them being a pretty efficient team on first and second downs.

"I think it's pretty isolated to third down when you look at some of our issues that have come up on those possessions," said offensive coordinator Shane Waldron. "Like I said, just getting back to the basics of great communication, all of the receivers getting open in the timing and rhythm of the play, and then the quarterback trusting what he sees and going after those third-down scenarios like we worked on today. We will keep working to get better in that area. For the first and second-down stuff, we still want to eliminate the negative plays. Look at this past week, we had a good day as far as executing on first and second down, taking away a few of those plays where we had some negative plays with the ball on the ground. We're eliminating turnovers and playing efficiently on first and second downs, so for me and us as an offense, it's really the third-down execution that it comes down to for us."

The Seahawks know they need to handle business on their own end if they're going to get right on third down, but Monday's opponent could represent a good chance for Seattle to improve in that area. While Washington's defense has been solid on third down in its past two victories, holding Carolina and Tampa Bay to a combined 6-for-19 conversion rate, third down has been a struggle for most of the season. Even with those two strong performances factored in, Washington still ranks last in third-down defense this season by a large margin, allowing opponents to convert 53 percent of the time.

If the Seahawks are going get their offense on track, they know that will start with being better on third down Monday night.

"We have to execute," left tackle Duane Brown said. "We have everything we need, we don't need anything else other than what we have in the locker room. It's just about getting it done, just making that commitment to executing small details and finishing drives."

3. Which team comes up with a big play in the clutch in a Pete Carroll vs. Ron Rivera showdown.

Dating back to Ron Rivera's days as the head coach of the Carolina Panthers, he and Pete Carroll have faced off nine times, postseason included, and with a couple of exceptions, nearly every one of those games went down to the wire and was decided by some late-game heroics.

Last year, for example, Washington was driving for a potential go-head score late in the fourth quarter, but after Washington got as far as the Seahawks 23-yard line with just over a minute left, Seattle put the game away with back-to-back sacks by L.J. Collier and Carlos Dunlap II.

Over the years while Rivera was in Carolina, the Seahawks won games thanks to late-game heroics like touchdown catches by Jermaine Kearse, Luke Willson and David Moore, or thanks to big fourth-quarter turnovers like an Earl Thomas forced fumble, or in a playoff win, a 90-yard Kam Chancellor pick-six that ended a comeback attempt. Carolina memorably pulled off an upset at what was then Lumen Field in 2015 when Greg Olsen caught a touchdown pass in the final second to cap a comeback that saw Carolina overcome a two-score deficit in the fourth quarter.

As the list above would indicate, the Seahawks have had the upper hand in most of the Pete Carroll vs. Ron Rivera matchups, but this year's Seahawks haven't been finishing games nearly as well as past teams have, as is evident in their 1-3 record in one-score games. Based on past history, this one could go down to the wire and come down to which team comes up with a big score or stop late, so this would be a great week for the Seahawks to get back to being a team known for its ability to finish.

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