Back on November 1, the Seahawks entered a Week 8 contest against the 49ers ranked near the bottom of the league in a number of key pass rushing metrics and were on pace to barely surpass 20 sacks on the season as a team, somehow falling short of their 28 sacks in 2019.
But over the past three games, corresponding with the return of safety Jamal Adams and arrival of defensive end Carlos Dunlap via trade, Seattle has seen its fortunes pursuing opposing quarterbacks take a 180 degree turn. During that span, the team has racked up 13.0 sacks, including a season-high seven of them in a loss to the Bills, and the increased pressure has elevated the play of the rest of the defense.
Since halftime of a Week 10 loss to the Rams, a once-maligned unit has given up only 27 points over the past six quarters. Last Thursday, the Seahawks held the Cardinals to a season-low 314 total yards, bottling up the league's top-ranked rushing attack and holding dual-threat Kyler Murray to only 15 rushing yards.
At the center of Seattle's mid-season resurgence, even while admitting he was playing with "one arm" due to a sore shoulder, Adams has produced 3.5 sacks and five quarterback hits since coming back from a groin injury. Up front, Dunlap has dominated from the LEO spot, amassing 3.5 sacks and seven quarterback hits, and his presence has opened up opportunities for other players along the defensive line to make an impact as rushers.
Overall, the Seahawks generated 21 pressures on Murray from their defensive line alone against the Cardinals. While they weren't as reliant on the blitz as they had been in prior games, Adams still chipped in with a quarterback hit and a key pressure to force an intentional grounding penalty that ultimately led to a safety on the very next play.
"Execution, effort, and just a want to," Adams said when asked what has changed over the past several weeks. "I think that's what it's about when it comes to blitzing. Obviously, there's different techniques as far as getting a jump on the ball or knowing a formation, but I think for us it's just executing and having that want to attitude."
From Adams' perspective, Seattle's overall execution on defense has taken a major step forward in large part due to enhanced communication. Continuity has been a significant obstacle for the defense during a season that opened without OTAs, minicamps, or preseason games and injuries at all three levels have exacerbated the issue, including the star safety being sidelined for four games himself.
With so many players in and out of the Seahawks lineup, it's been difficult to build chemistry, particularly in the secondary where Adams and Quinton Dunbar were trying to mesh with Shaquill Griffin and Quandre Diggs. Three of those players have missed four games apiece during the season with injuries, while Diggs was ejected for the majority of a Week 2 win over the Patriots.
Up front, Bruce Irvin was lost for the season in that same game to a torn ACL and rookie Darrell Taylor has yet to return to practice, which helped necessitate the move to acquire Dunlap from the Bengals. While he had a sack in his Seahawk debut, he needed time to truly get acclimated changing teams for the first time.
Even at linebacker, first-round pick Jordyn Brooks missed multiple games with a knee sprain after replacing Irvin, preventing the rookie from truly making an impact until his return in Week 7.
Now that Adams and Dunlap have been in the lineup for three straight games, however, Adams can see the difference on the field. Teammates are finally getting on the same page on a consistent basis and an "accountability" meeting set up by defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. played a role in attributing to those improvements.
"The back end doesn't eat if the front doesn't eat as well," Adams commented. "We work hand-in-hand, we work together and I think that's what makes it very special when we can get after the quarterback and we have great coverage or vice versa, whatever the case may be. As long as we feed off one another, continue to execute, we'll continue to get to the quarterback."
Entering Week 12, Adams and the Seahawks have another ideal matchup coming next Monday night to keep momentum rolling against an Eagles offense currently ranked 24th in total offense. Injuries have saddled the struggling NFC East squad, particularly along the offensive line where the team has lost guard Brandon Brooks and tackle Lane Johnson for the season.
This week, reports indicate Philadelphia will slide an aging Jason Peters from left tackle back inside to guard, while Jordan Mailata will take his place protecting Carson Wentz's blindside. Rookie Jack Driscoll, though limited at practice this week, will likely start on the right side for a line that has given up more sacks than any team in the sport.
Adams holds the utmost respect for the Eagles, who still have a couple of stellar veterans in the trenches in center Jason Kelce, guard Issac Seumalo, and Peters. He also respects some of their young players such as Driscoll and Mailata, who have been thrown into the fire with all of the injuries around them.
But maintaining the confidence that has long driven his stellar play, Adams loves what the Seahawks have accomplished the past few weeks and he's looking forward to seeing what the defense can do to build off for an encore to build off that recent success in Philadelphia.
"For us, it's something we've got to take advantage of... Obviously, they have a lot of missing parts and moving parts. But it's not gonna stop our game. We gotta do what we do and we gotta execute."