SEATTLE — To fully capture the hard-hitting intensity, the undeniable swagger and take-no-prisoners attitude that has currently overtaken the Seattle Seahawks’ defense, look no further than linebacker Jordyn Brooks.
Brooks is a laid-back guy. “I be chillin’,” is how he described it. He’s mild-mannered and calm, whether making a play or surrendering one. But something got into him early in Seattle’s Week 7 showdown with the Arizona Cardinals, another masterclass by the Seahawks, whose defense stole the show in a 20-10 victory Sunday at Lumen Field.
Early in the second quarter, Brooks drew an unnecessary roughness penalty for swinging at an offensive lineman out of frustration, and that feeling contributed to what he felt was a “bad” first half on his part. He was feeling down at halftime. Then linebacker Bobby Wagner and safety Jamal Adams pulled Brooks to the side.
Adams reminded Brooks of their offseason: grinding underneath the summer sun at a training facility in Dallas, rehabilitating their injured knees. They had good days. They had bad days. They raced to see who could run the fastest 40. They lifted each other up. It was exactly what Brooks needed to hear.
Adams’ halftime pep talk “got me right,” Brooks said afterward. “Really helped me go out and shine today.”
Not only did Brooks excel — leading Seattle with nine tackles (two for loss), a half-sack and a pass breakup — but his demonstrative spirit in the second half encapsulated the energy the defense is playing with. From pointing and flexing after his third-down sack of quarterback Joshua Dobbs to the exaggerated fist pump after dropping Rondale Moore for a loss and then emphatically stomping toward the Seahawks’ sideline after getting Moore again later in the game, this was by far the most animated Seattle’s fourth-year linebacker has been in his career.
“It’s something I wanted to get better at,” Brooks said, “letting emotions out.”
It’s easy to be in good spirits when Seattle’s defense is playing like this.
Despite loss, Seahawks’ D flashes high ceiling vs. Bengals: ‘We haven’t scratched the surface’
The Cardinals (1-6) didn’t score in the second half. They had two drives that began inside Seattle’s 35-yard line because of lost fumbles on offense and special teams, yet managed only three points on those possessions. Dobbs completed only 19 of 33 passes for 146 yards. He did score on a 25-yard run in the second quarter, one of three explosive carries Seattle allowed in the first half. Arizona rushed for 104 yards in the first 30 minutes, but Seattle flipped the script at halftime.
“We just got outta that two-high and started running one-high,” said safety Quandre Diggs, referring to their number of deep safeties. “That’s what we want to do anyway.”
Arizona rushed for 23 yards on eight carries in the second half.
“You make teams one-dimensional,” Diggs said, “you win a lot of football games.”
Seattle (4-2) had four sacks, three additional tackles for loss, three stops in the run game for zero yards and seven passes defensed. With each big moment, the post-play celebrations felt like they got bigger. When Devon Witherspoon laid the hammer and flipped Moore on a short pass in the third quarter, the rookie ran, flexed and skipped toward the end zone while the crowd roared.
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) October 22, 2023
Defensive tackle Jarran Reed led a choreographed sack dance when he dropped Dobbs on fourth-and-11 to stick a fork in Arizona with 1:12 remaining.
Seattle showed signs of coming into its own during the Week 3 win over the Panthers. Since that game, the Seahawks have the best scoring defense in the league, allowing only 10 points per game. After stifling the lowly Giants, Seattle held the high-scoring Bengals relatively in check (Joe Burrow threw for just 185 yards). This Sunday was more of the same — splash plays on defense, setting the stage for the players to strut their stuff. It’s become so contagious that even someone like Brooks had to join in.
“Look who I’m playing with,” said Brooks, who rattled off a list of his playmaking teammates. “It’s a bunch of guys that can play ball. You look around and see that, if that don’t make you excited, I don’t know what does.”
For the third straight game, Seattle’s defense had to play at a high level in spite of a Geno Smith-led offense — and special teams, on one occasion — that committed two turnovers and was held out of the end zone in the second half. Again. Seattle’s offense hasn’t scored a second-half touchdown since Week 3.
After the Seahawks forced a punt in the first quarter, DeeJay Dallas fumbled the ensuing punt return, and Arizona recovered and returned it to the 30. But two Emari Demercado runs gained 4 yards, and then safety Julian Love forced an incompletion on third-and-6, limiting the Cardinals to a 44-yard field goal.
In the third quarter with Seattle leading 17-10, Brooks raced across the field on third-and-1 to stonewall Dobbs short of the line to gain to force a three-and-out. Seattle marched inside the red zone, where Smith was intercepted on third-and-4 from the 16. Seattle’s defense forced a punt five plays later — only for Smith to fumble a snap right back to the Cardinals at the 34-yard line. Thanks in part to a bad snap on second down, Arizona ended that drive with a field goal attempt that sailed wide left.
Seattle’s defense consistently stood tall when called upon.
“That can’t put happen, putting our defense in tough situations,” said Smith, whose day — 18 of 24 for 219 yards and a couple of touchdowns — felt overshadowed by the two turnovers. “Luckily we have a great defense that continues to go out and show us no matter where the situation is or what it is, they have backbone. They’re gonna go out there and stop them.”
Seattle is 2-1 since the defense healed up and started pairing a stingy pass defense with what was already one of the best run defenses in the league. This formula isn’t sustainable, though. It’s hard to win in spite of the offense, as the Seahawks saw in Cincinnati seven days ago.
This game felt eerily similar at times. In addition to Smith’s red zone interception, Seattle had to settle for a field goal in the third quarter after reaching the 1-yard line. Seattle’s second field goal drive, which pushed the lead to 10 points with 2:17 remaining, netted only 25 yards. The offense — albeit without DK Metcalf in this game, and a patchwork offensive line for the last month — is just barely playing well enough to win.
Geno Smith is not the problem. Dissecting the Seahawks offense’s woes and possible solutions
“I don’t think we played up to our standard,” said Smith, acknowledging he’s not playing well right now. “I feel like we left a lot out there.”
The defense isn’t worried about that, of course. Their goal, as Diggs said, is to “let people know we physical. You get extra plays, you gonna take some extra hits.” When those hits like the one from Witherspoon on Moore happen, “That s— gets everybody hype,” Diggs said.
“Spoon was talking about it the whole time; he’s like, ‘You and Mal out there hitting? I gotta get me a piece. I gotta get me some,’” Diggs said. “That’s just the mentality.”
That mentality is infectious. And until the offense gets it together, that attitude is what’s required to overwhelm the opponent and keep Seattle competitive each week.
“It’s putting that intimidation in them, man,” Brooks said. “It’s like, we’re gonna be good and we’re gonna be stingy, you know what I mean? It’s still early but that’s what it is: being nasty.”
(Photo of Bobby Wagner, 54, and Jamal Adams, 33, with Joshua Dobbs: Jane Gershovich / Getty Images)