Gridiron Gab Week Two Preview: Seattle at Denver

Out of sight, out of mind.

A 25-point upset at home in Week One against San Francisco is old news for Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll and now the man roaming the sideline is looking at doing something the team hasn’t done in four years, start 2-0. It won’t come easy though. It’ll require winning as the underdog for another week, this time on the road in Denver.

“It’s really a[n] important challenge for us,” said Carroll about playing on the road at his Wednesday press conference at the team’s Renton, Wash. training facilities.

“You don’t want the crowd to overwhelm the day’s event.”

If Seattle wants to keep the Denver faithful in check, the Seahawks (1-0) will have to stymie a Denver passing attack that is among the National Football League’s best heading into the season’s second week of play.

“They’re a unique system,” said Carroll. “They have their own style of throwing game and [quarterback Kyle Orton] has command of it.”

While Denver (0-1) thrives on short and intermediate routes, Orton isn’t afraid to take a shot downfield. After one week of play, the second-year Bronco leads the league in completions of 25-yards or more with five.

“We know they have an offense that can throw the heck out of the football,” said Carroll. “He’s made big plays.”

There is a hitch in the Broncos’ aerial attack, though. Providing Orton enough time to get rid of the ball was an area of major concern last week against Jacksonville. Last season the Jaguars’ defense recorded just 14 sacks. Last week, they brought down Orton three times. A major contributor to the problem for Denver is the team’s starting offensive line. It features two rookies and an All-Pro five months removed from knee surgery.

While Seattle got to the quarterback often in Week One against San Francisco, bringing him down for a sack wasn’t easy. Of the Seahawks’ 11 hits on the 49ers’ Alex Smith, two resulted in sacks. One of those sacks was inked in the scorer’s book by right defensive end Red Bryant. If Seattle wants to build on its sack total Sunday in Denver, Bryant will have to be in the midst of the action again. Opposing him on the Broncos’ line is one of the team’s two starting rookies, right tackle Zane Beadles.

Denver won’t be the only team Sunday at Invesco Field at Mile High that has offensive line issues. Out for the game will be rookie left tackle Russell Okung and guard Max Unger. Okung is still working through a high-ankle sprain suffered during the preseason, while the second-year guard out of Oregon was placed on the Injured Reserve list Tuesday with a severe turf toe injury that will require surgery.

Having to reshuffle the line yet again due to the loss of Unger will not only possibly make quarterback Matt Hasselbeck’s job a little more difficult, but it also won’t do any favors for an already struggling ground game.

“We’re not running the ball as well we’d like,” said Carroll of his unit that ranks 26th in the league in yards per game this season.

“We have not hit it as cleanly as we want to.”

Of the three running backs that received carries last week, none had more than eight carries and only one had more than 18 yards. If you subtract Justin Forsett’s 22-yard scamper, he still would have led the team in yards gained on the ground, but his yards per rush drops from 6.1 to 3.5.

A contributing factor, Carroll said, for the stagnant level of production from the team’s stable of runners was the people opening up holes for them at the line of scrimmage.

“We’re not as tight…as we need to be,” said the coach.

If Seattle wants to start 2-0 for the first time since 2006, Carroll and company will have to tighten the bolts and hope that his quarterback won’t have to shoulder the load offensively like he did last week.

Sunday’s kickoff is set for 4:05 p.m. Eastern.

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