By Curtis Egan
BoltTalk Staff Writer
With both teams sitting at 1-1 the San Diego Chargers look to go into the great wet north to face the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks began their franchise history as an NFC West expansion team in 1976, and the following year moved to the AFC West where they were a divisional rival to the San Diego Chargers. In 2002 with the realignment of the league that resulted in the current 4 division per conference configuration, the Seahawks were moved back to the NFC West.
The Seahawks said goodbye to one of their leading receivers from a year ago, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and that combined with the changing of the scheme to that employed by new Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carol has led to a drop off in production this season from Seahawks Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
Do not get me wrong, Hasselbeck still has the accuracy, command of the West Coast scheme and fortitude to stand in the pock and make the pass, but Hasselbeck, whose passer rating though week 2 is a lowly 74.1 has been having problems getting the Seahawks offense moving through the air. Seattle is averaging only 290.5 yards per game so far with 93 of that coming on the ground. Hasselbeck has completed 38 of the 58 passes he has attempted for 3 touchdowns, although he also threw 4 interceptions.
Offensively, the Seahawks look on paper as if they are going to have a difficult time with the Chargers Defense which has accounted very well for itself through the first two games. Seattle is ranked 23rd in overall offense, facing the Chargers Defense who are currently ranked 8th. Beyond that, the defensive players for San Diego appear to have fully bought into the system that Defensive Coordinator Ron Rivera installed. They are flying to the ball, maintaining their zone of responsibility and trusting the players around them to do their job.
Let’s not give the game away just yet, because although The Seahawks have struggled to mount a consistent offensive attack, their Offensive Line has played well. They rank as the 7th best offensive line in the league currently, and have only allowed 2 sacks through the first two weeks. However they have been bit by the injury bug at left tackle, and it appears that they might be without their first and second string Left tackles. Tackle Chester Pitts was been ruled out of the game against the Broncos last week with a knee injury, while fellow tackle Russell Okung was been ruled out of the game against the Chargers with an ankle injury. Both are unsure of their ability to play this week. If they cannot go, those would be two big bodies the Seahawks will miss on the line. Slated to start in the Left Tackle position if Pitts cannot play is a familiar face to the Chargers. Tyler Polumbus would be the starter at left tackle if that were the case. Tyler spent his first two season in the NFL on the Denver Broncos.
The Seahawks traded for Polumbus on August 31st when they started having injury problems. It is a drop off from the starters but the only option the Seahawks currently have. He will have a challenge on his hand blocking against the blitz packages Chargers Defensive Coordinator Ron Rivera has been putting together.
The Seahawks rank 19th in passing offense, again this looks like a slight mismatch as the Chargers defense is ranked 8th in the league. The Seahawks On the ground, rank 20th, while the Chargers defensively against the run are 11th through the first two weeks. The Seahawks will look to test the Chargers 3-4 defense against the run early to set up play action passes to their wide receivers.
The Chargers offense was hitting on all cylinders in the second week of the season. Chargers Quarterback Philip Rivers has a 107 passer rating through the first two games, and has completed 44 of his 68 pass attempts. He threw for 5 touchdowns and 2 interceptions through the first two games of the season. The Chargers are ranked 3rd in the league in total offense, gaining 433 yards per game, with 303 of those coming through the air. Again on paper it looks like the Chargers have an edge as the Seahawks have an overall defensive ranking of 17th in the league after their games against Denver and San Francisco.
The Chargers behind Rivers, and pass catchers such as Tight End Antonio Gates, and Wide Receiver Malcom Floyd rank 4th in the league in passing. The Seahawks are 26th defensively against the pass. They are going to have to have a very good day to improve that stat.
The Chargers have had some success on the ground, a good chunk of it coming from Full Back Mike Tolbert who ran the ball 16 times for 82 yards and scored two touchdowns against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Rookie Running Back Ryan Matthews has carried the ball 25 times for an average of 4.2 yards. In the second quarter against the Jaguars he left the game with a slight ankle sprain. However the Seahawks are very stout in defending the run. The Seahawks rank 5th against the run, they give up an average of only 57 yards per game. The Seahawks will not be able to focus on stopping the run as their primary goal defensively. They will have to look at dropping a Line backer into coverage in order to slow down the effective passing attach of the Chargers.
Seahawks Middle Linebacker, Lofa Tatupu, is the Seahawks best linebacker. He has made the Pro Bowl his first three seasons in the league. He has the speed to make an impact if he is able to remain healthy. He is the leader on the defense and I expect him to have the task of shadowing Gates when he comes across the formation. The Seahawks have a very young defense, and this game should prove challenging for them. Given the injuries the ‘Hawks have at Left tackle the home team could be playing keep up with the high powered Chargers offense. The Defense will have to help with scoring points if the ‘Hawks are to have a chance to take this game. However as the Chargers learned in the first game of the season, no game is ever a give.
Matchups to watch:
DE Luis Castillo vs. LT Tyler Polumbus: As mentioned before the Seahawks are having some major problems at Left Tackle. Look for the Chargers to test him early and often. Castillo has the speed and strength to test him, and this would be a perfect opportunity for him to make a statement game. Backup Defensive End Alfonso Boone will also see time. The fin does not stop there. The Chargers have employed some creative blitz packages in the first two weeks bringing secondary players in on the blitz, and dropping linebacker into coverage. Look for them to continue to give a multitude of different looks defensively to make it harder for Polumbus to determine who he should block.
C Nick Hardwick vs. DT Colin Cole: While Cole is not a sack machine, he is a strong veteran on their defensive line. He is an excellent tackler who at 6’ 2” and 328 pounds is a big load to stop at the line of scrimmage. Hardwick who bulked up this season weighs in at 6’ 4” and 305 pounds so he gives up 23 pounds to Cole. Cole has collected some tackles in the first two games and he has been good at the point of attack and this should prove to be an interesting game within the game.
WR Deon Butler vs. CB Quentin Jammer: For the Seahawks to stay competitive in this game they will have to have some success through the air. Butler a second year receiver leads the team with 63 yards receiving and 1 touchdown. He is a speedy receiver with a long reception of 20 yards. He will be going against the veteran of the Chargers secondary Jammer, who has been playing well thus far.
San Diego -5.5
Head to Head:
Passing Offense: Chargers
Passing Defense: Chargers
Rushing Offense: Chargers
Rushing Defense: Seahawks
Chargers win by a comfortable margin 31, 17
Offensive Coordinator Clarence Shelmon was the Running Backs Coach with the Seahawks from 1992-97.
Senior executive Randy Mueller worked for the Seahawks from 1983-1999.
Charlie Whitehurst is the Seahawks backup QB, he started his career on the Chargers.