The rediscovery of Jimmy Graham and the return of Kam Chancellor helped the Seattle Seahawks put aside an 0-2 start.
Those factors as well as the performance by an undrafted rookie have lessened the concern over star running back Marshawn Lynch’s health.
Even with their workhorse’s status uncertain, the Seahawks seemingly have a great shot to post their seventh straight home win and 23rd in 25 games Monday night against the winless Detroit Lions and their woeful defense.
Lynch, who had been dealing with a sore back and neck along with a calf injury, had a difficult time getting himself loose before last Sunday’s 26-0 victory over Chicago. He didn’t come out of the locker room until midway through the first half, rushing five times for 14 yards before injuring his hamstring.
The five-time Pro Bowler is expected to be re-evaluated later in the week after undergoing an MRI on Monday. He’s only missed one game since joining the Seahawks early in the 2010 season.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been out there without Marshawn,” fifth-year receiver Doug Baldwin said. “… We’ve got great guys that he’s taught up, that he’s coached up, that are able to come in there and do what they’re coached to do. Not only by our coaching staff, but also by Marshawn. So yeah, we missed him in the huddle, but it’s always the next man up.”
That next man was rookie Thomas Rawls, who went undrafted out of Central Michigan but could get another chance to fill in after shining last week with 104 yards on 16 carries. Veteran Fred Jackson is expected to remain in the role of pass blocker and receiver in third-down situations.
“He’s not looking to make guys miss him as much as he’s looking to run right at you,” coach Pete Carroll said of Rawls. “Through the line of scrimmage he’s got nice wiggle and all of that but he’s got an attitude that he’s going to let you know he’s coming.”
Carroll might also want quarterback Russell Wilson to lean more on Graham as the team tries to avoid only its third loss in 30 home games since December 2011, including the postseason. The Pro Bowl tight end was rumored to be frustrated with his role – Carroll said publicly he thought Graham was – after being targeted just twice in Week 2, making one catch for 11 yards in a 27-17 loss at Green Bay. However, he had season highs of seven receptions and 83 yards with a touchdown against the Bears.
Backup tight end Luke Willson was inactive with back spasms but should be able to play Monday.
“It’s not smooth yet, it’s not how we want it to be, but it’s a work in progress, and we know we have a lot of plays we can get and playmakers out there,” Carroll said.
Detroit (0-3) has had its struggles defensively, allowing 27.7 points and 395.7 yards per game. The Lions, who haven’t started 0-4 since 2010, allowed San Diego’s Philip Rivers to throw for 403 yards in Week 1 and Denver’s Peyton Manning to throw for 324 yards in last week’s 24-12 home defeat.
They also allowed Adrian Peterson and Minnesota to rush for 199 yards on 4.7 per carry in Week 2.
“This point in time is where our team is going to build our character and find out what we’re made of going through this,” safety James Ihedigbo told the team’s official website.
The offense hasn’t been much better with an NFC-high eight turnovers and a league-worst 135 rushing yards. Rookie Ameer Abdullah has shown some promise, though he’s run for 32 yards on 14 carries in the last two games. Starter Joique Bell, nursing Achilles tendon and knee injuries, has 22 yards on 20 attempts.
That’s made things difficult on Matthew Stafford, whose five interceptions are second-most to Andrew Luck’s seven and his 78.7 passer rating ranks 24th. He completed 31 of 45 passes for 282 yards against the Broncos but also threw two picks and lost a fumble in the fourth quarter.
Calvin Johnson has 18 catches for 160 yards in the past two games after he had two receptions for 39 yards in Week 1. However, he’s only been targeted more than 15 yards downfield three times, and now he’ll have to go up against superstar cornerback Richard Sherman.
“Penalties hurt us. I had turnovers that hurt us,” said Stafford, who was sacked four times last week. “You correct some of those things, you know, we play a whole lot better.”
That certainly won’t easy to do against a Seattle defense that got on track last week in Chancellor’s return. The three-time Pro Bowl safety should continue to ease his way back after holding out all of camp and the first two weeks because of his contract situation.
After they allowed an average of 30.5 points and 356.5 total yards in two road losses, the Seahawks (1-2) held Bears backup quarterback Jimmy Clausen to 48 net passing yards in the shutout. It was the second time Chicago had finished with fewer than 50 since 1990.
Seattle, however, now could be without defensive tackle Brandon Mebane due to a strained groin.
The Seahawks won the last two home meetings by a combined 33 points but dropped the most recent matchup 28-24 in 2012 when Stafford threw a touchdown pass with 20 seconds left.