The Seattle Seahawks pulled off one of the biggest victories in Week 1, easily defeating a team expected to challenge for the NFC West title.
New coach Pete Carroll knows it won’t matter much, however, if they can’t step up again.
The Seahawks and their surprisingly formidable defense look to build on an impressive opener Sunday when they visit a Denver Broncos team trying to avoid starting 0-2 for the first time in more than a decade.
Carroll left Southern California to return to the NFL with a club that combined to lose 23 games over the past two seasons, The high-energy coach helped lead Seattle to a 31-6 victory over San Francisco last Sunday as Matt Hasselbeck(notes) accounted for three touchdowns, and the defense stopped 14 of 15 third-down conversions.
“A lot of people didn’t give us a chance, much less a chance to have a win,” receiver Mike Williams said. “but we’ve been saying all along, people don’t know what we’re doing here. People don’t know what we put in during the week, how we prepare and how much it means to us. We’re going to take this game and move on.”
That’s the same sentiment for Carroll, who doesn’t want the Seahawks to relive a similar experience from 2009. Seattle defeated St. Louis 28-0 in last season’s opener, but was outscored 82-46 while losing its next three.
“It’s really exciting for our football team to take this next step,” he said. “Coming out and putting a good game behind us was important, but it really doesn’t mean anything now. Can we step back and meet the challenges again?”
The Seahawks seem to have a good chance if their defensive front steps up again.
Seattle’s defensive line was a major question entering the season, but Red Bryant(notes), Brandon Mebane(notes), Colin Cole(notes) and Junior Siavii(notes) helped limit two-time Pro Bowl running back Frank Gore(notes) to 38 yards on 17 carries.
The defense, which ranked 24th and allowed an average of 368.0 yards last season, held San Francisco to 263 total yards and forced two turnovers - including Marcus Trufant’s(notes) 32-yard interception return for a touchdown.
“The best way I can describe them is things happen fast,” Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said.
“We’re pleased to have him back and we’re going to get him to play,” Carroll said. “He’s not coming back to sit, he’s coming back to play.”
All that could make things difficult for the Broncos, who had trouble generating offense at times in last Sunday’s 24-17 loss to Jacksonville.
Playing behind an offensive line that featured two rookies in center J.D. Walton(notes) and right tackle Zane Beadles(notes), and with All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady(notes) starting five months after knee surgery, Kyle Orton(notes) was sacked three times and hit on several other occasions.
Orton finished 21 of 33 for 295 yards with a touchdown, but threw a costly interception with 46 seconds left.
The line also had trouble opening running lanes, as the team rushed for 89 yards and one touchdown on 25 carries.
Knowshon Moreno(notes), who missed the entire preseason with a hamstring injury, ran for a team-high 60 yards on 15 attempts. Tim Tebow(notes) was a non-factor in his NFL debut, finishing with two yards on two carries.
The Broncos added another running back to the mix, acquiring Laurence Maroney(notes) from New England on Tuesday. Maroney was inactive with a thigh injury last Sunday, and his status is uncertain for this game.
“Our finish and consistency at the end of the drive needs to be where it was (Sunday) at the start of the drives,” McDaniels said. “We got off to decent starts on most possessions, we just didn’t finish enough of them. I think our team knows that’s difference between winning and losing a close game.”
Denver, which opened last year with six straight victories, is trying to avoid beginning a season with back-to-back defeats since an 0-4 start in 1999. The Broncos have won 10 consecutive home openers, the longest streak in the NFL.
This will be the third meeting between the former AFC West rivals since the Seahawks moved to the NFC in 2002. The teams have split the previous two matchups.