The Chiefs will try to avoid losing back-to-back games for the first time all season when they play in Seattle on Sunday night. With the AFC West title still to be decided, their playoff seeding could range from the top seed to the fifth seed.
Keys to victory
1. Defend the run.
It’s an obvious one, but it could be the difference in the game. The Seahawks have the top-ranked rushing offense in the NFL in terms of yards per game (154.9) and yards per carry (4.7). The Seahawks have passed for fewer than 200 yards in six games. They won four of those games, the two losses coming by a total of seven points to the Rams.
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2. Limit points allowed off turnovers.
The Seahawks have the sixth-highest differential of points off turnovers (scored vs. allowed) in the NFL. They’ve scored 35 more points off opponents’ turnovers than they’ve allowed. They entered this week having committed the fewest turnovers (10) of any team in the NFL. Quarterback Russell Wilson has thrown just six interceptions this season, one in his past six games.
3. Convert in red zone.
Red-zone opportunities, specifically converting them into touchdowns, will be crucial. The Seahawks’ defense ranks fifth as far as keeping opponents out of the end zone in such scenarios. Their red-zone touchdown percentage is 48.9 percent, while the Chiefs’ offense have scored touchdowns on 73.4 percent of their red-zone possessions.
4. Start fast.
The Chiefs’ best bet to force the Seahawks to rely on the passing game is to get out to an early lead. While the Chiefs have scored 266 first-half points this season (130 in first quarter, 136 in second quarter), the Seahawks have scored just 179 first-half points, including just 64 in the first quarter. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has completed nearly 100 more passes than Wilson has attempted. Making the Seahawks pass-happy would be a departure from their comfort zone.
Pete Carroll is in his ninth season as head coach of the Seahawks and his 24th season as a coach in the NFL, including two previous head coaching stints (New York Jets, New England Patriots). Having spent time in both the NFL and the collegiate ranks as a head coach, Carroll initially climbed the ranks as a defensive assistant working with defensive backs/secondary before becoming a coordinator and eventually a head coach. He won a pair of national championships while head coach at USC (2003, 2004) and also won a Super Bowl with the Seahawks (Super Bowl 48).
Brian Schottenheimer is in his first season as offensive coordinator for the Seahawks. The son of longtime NFL coach and former Chiefs head coach Marty Schottenheimer, he worked as an offensive assistant for the Chiefs in 1998. He’d previously served as offensive coordinator of the Jets (2006-11), St. Louis Rams (2012-14) and University of Georgia (2015). Prior to joining the Seahawks staff, he coached quarterbacks for the Indianapolis Colts (2016-17). Schottenheimer is a student of the “Air Coryell” system, which stresses stretching the defense with vertical routes and complements that with a power running game that features zone reads. Seattle has enjoyed success in recent weeks overloading one side of the defense with flood concepts.
Former NFL All-Pro linebacker Ken Norton Jr., a winner of three consecutive Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers in the early 1990s, is in his first season as defensive coordinator for the Seahawks after having spent the previous three seasons in that same position with the Oakland Raiders. Carroll’s teams feature a zone-heavy 4-3 defense as the basis for their scheme. Last season, the Seahawks ranked 28th in the number of times they blitzed, according to Football Outsiders. This season, they’ve moved out of the bottom five in the league in blitz percentage per numbers compiled by ESPN.