5 Matchups to Watch as Seahawks Travel Cross Country to Face Browns
Seeking a third straight win to keep pace with the 49ers in the NFC West, quarterback Russell Wilson and the Seahawks will look to defeat the Browns in Cleveland for the first time since 2001.
Playing on short rest, Seattle squeaked out a 30-29 win over the Los Angeles Rams last Thursday night to move to 4-1 on the season. Wilson led the way by completing 17 out of 23 passes for 268 yards and four touchdowns, while running back Chris Carson amassed a season-high 118 rushing yards and caught the game-winning touchdown.
After taking advantage of a rare weekend off, the Seahawks will now travel to a stadium that hasn’t been favorable to them in the past. Back in 2011, prior to Wilson’s arrival, Seattle lost an ugly 6-3 contest to Cleveland with Charlie Whitehurst playing quarterback and produced only seven offensive first downs.
Rather than recollect that unsightly defeat, coach Pete Carroll chose to take the high road, saying, “I don’t want to remember any of it. There were no points in that game. Other than that, I don’t remember much.”
Looking to keep momentum rolling, the Seahawks are in a far better place this time around and will be squaring off with a Browns squad still licking their wounds from a 30-3 Monday night defeat to the 49ers. Second-year quarterback Baker Mayfield completed just eight passes for 100 yards and was hit repeatedly, while the defense struggled through the evening and surrendered 275 rushing yards.
Despite the poor showing on both sides of the ball, Carroll isn’t putting much stock in Monday’s loss, instead choosing to game plan for the Browns when the offense was humming one week earlier in a 40-25 win over the Ravens. Mayfield threw for 342 yards, running back Nick Chubb rushed for 165 yards and three touchdowns, and receiver Jarvis Landry recorded 167 receiving yards.
“You look at them when they’ve been on it. They’ve got a lot of firepower.” Carroll said. “They got guys who are really good play-making players out there. The quarterback, the running back, the receivers, the tight ends. They can all do stuff on offense. They got the big pass rushers too. There’s plenty of attraction to this football team.”
Heading into Sunday’s game at First Energy Stadium, which five matchups will determine who exits with a pivotal out of conference win?
--Seahawks tackles Germain Ifedi and George Fant vs. Browns defensive end Myles Garrett: Assuming veteran Duane Brown, who is listed as doubtful, won’t be able to play, Seattle will enter this game with a backup protecting Wilson’s blind side against one of the NFL’s most vaunted edge rushers in Garrett. But as much as the former No. 1 overall pick may be salivating about rushing against Fant, he may be even more excited about going against Ifedi, his former Texas A&M teammate. During their respective times with the Aggies, Ifedi and Garrett engaged in plenty of battles against each other on the practice field and have a strong familiarity with one another. This will certainly be one of Ifedi’s biggest tests yet, as 6-foot-4, 272 pounds Garrett already has 7.0 sacks through five games and looks like an All-Pro candidate in his third season.
--Seahawks linebackers vs. Browns running back Nick Chubb: Seattle boasts one of the best, most experienced linebacker trios in the NFL with Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, and Mychal Kendricks manning the middle of the defense. But the group has struggled throughout the season covering running backs as receivers and tackling them after the catch in space, as illustrated by monster games from Alvin Kamara and David Johnson in Week 3 and Week 4. Last weekend, they held Todd Gurley to six yards on three receptions, showing plenty of improvement. Going into this week’s game, Chubb may not have the same versatility of a Kamara or Johnson, but he’s a capable receiver who already has 15 receptions through five games and has home run hitting ability if he breaks a tackle and finds running room to operate.
--Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett vs. Browns cornerback Denzel Ward: If there’s a one-on-one matchup worth keeping track of in this game, it has to be the electric Lockett against Ward, one of the best young cover corners in the league. Lockett already has 30 receptions and 379 receiving yards through five games and scored his third touchdown of the season against the Rams. His ability to generate big plays on the outside as well as the slot has vaulted him into the upper echelon of receivers. Ward, who intercepted three passes and made the Pro Bowl as a rookie last year, has been limited in practice this week with a hamstring injury after missing the past two games. But if healthy, the 22-year old Ward possesses the athleticism and ball skills to be able to hold his own in this matchup, which should create quite the chess match outside the numbers.
--Seahawks cornerbacks Shaquill Griffin, Tre Flowers, and Jamar Taylor vs. Browns receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry: Though the passing game hasn’t soared as expected, Cleveland has a bevy of weapons at Mayfield’s disposal who will create challenges for Seattle’s young secondary. Griffin has enough speed to stick with Beckham Jr. in coverage, but if Flowers is lined up across from him, the Browns will surely try to exploit that matchup on the outside with their All Pro receiver. Landry doesn’t possess the same blazing speed as Beckham, but he’s a savvy route runner from the slot and like his former LSU teammate, he’s slippery with the football in his hands and ranks among the top six receivers in yards after the catch. Seattle may be forced to play more nickel with Taylor in the lineup this week due to his game-changing ability from the slot.
--Seahawks defensive tackles Quinton Jefferson and Poona Ford vs. Browns interior offensive line: The Browns made several splashy trades this offseason, including two separate deals with the Giants to acquire Beckham and defensive end Olivier Vernon. While the Beckham trade looks to be a good one, Cleveland did deal away starting guard Kevin Zeitler to land Vernon and the offensive line has struggled as a result. Mayfield has been under constant duress and opponents have had success generating pressure from the interior, creating a prime opportunity for Ford and Jefferson to make an impact in the pass rushing department this week. Ford hasn’t recorded a quarterback hit yet this year, but he’s a capable rusher and Jefferson already has 2.0 sacks and seven quarterback hits this season. Those two should have favorable matchups, especially against Zeitler’s replacement Eric Kush at right guard.