The Seahawks defense can throttle the Chiefs. Here’s how

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 10: Frank Clark #55 of the Seattle Seahawks celebrates a second quarter defensive stop against the Minnesota Vikings at CenturyLink Field on December 10, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 10: Frank Clark #55 of the Seattle Seahawks celebrates a second quarter defensive stop against the Minnesota Vikings at CenturyLink Field on December 10, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

The Seahawks defense will face their toughest test since at least week 10 versus the Rams. They can slow the Chiefs down enough to win. Here’s how.

The Seahawks pretty much have the season on the line Sunday when they host the Chiefs. They can still make the playoff if they lose, but a team coming in with one win in their last three games isn’t exactly at their peak. I believe it’s imperative they beat Kansas City, To do that, they’ll have to slow down one of the league’s top offenses. And they have the tools to do just that.

First, let me clarify something about the title of this piece. When I say the Hawks can throttle the Chiefs, I don’t mean in the sense of a 40’s film noir bad guy wrapping his hands around the hero’s neck. I mean literally throttling them, as in slowing them down. Led by the incredible Pro Bowler Bobby Wagner, Seattle’s defense ranks 14th in touchdowns allowed and 12th in interceptions. That isn’t great, but it isn’t chopped liver, either. Or the Chiefs, whose defense is very similar to paté.

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Even better, the Seahawks defense ranks ninth in takeaways and fifth in red zone touchdown defense. Meanwhile, the offense is the best in the league at avoiding turnovers, and ranks eighth in red zone touchdown percentage. Led by Wagner, the indomitable (but oddly not a Pro Bowler) Frank Clark, and the Swiss Army Knife of defensive backs Bradley McDougald, the Seattle D can get it done against the Chiefs.

Seahawks step one: constant pressure on Mahomes

First, the Seahawks need to get pressure on Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. That means more than getting a few sacks against him. He’s been dropped 25 times this season, but that really hasn’t mattered to Kansas City’s record. The Cardinals sacked him five times, but he still completed 75 percent of his passes and threw two touchdown passes. The 26 points the Chiefs scored was the season’s lowest, though.

The very next week the Rams sacked Mahomes three times, picked him off three times, and made him fumble twice. You’d think he’d crumble under that kind of attack, right? Most humans would. Mahomes just brushed it off and threw for 478 yards and six touchdowns. So how exactly do you pressure a player who is apparently immune to the concept?

Frank Clark and the criminally underrated Jarran Reed have to keep as much pressure on Mahomes as possible, for one. Sacks would be great, but as long as they keep Mahomes from buying time to make another of his insane throws, they’ll be doing their job.

Another key is to keep wide receiver Tyreek Hill from getting free passes downfield. It can be done. In Kansas City’s last two games, Hill was targeted 21 times and caught just 12 balls. The Ravens held the Chiefs to just 24 points in regulation, before losing in overtime in the first of those games. Last week the Chargers upended the Chiefs by holding them to 28 points. Some last second heroics helped, but in large part it was due to holding Hill to just four catches for 48 yards. Hill is extremely dangerous, but Shaquill Griffin can handle him. Shaq needs to forget about bad calls and fit Hill for an Armani suit all night. For that matter, Tre Flowers can be his tailor, too.

Tight end Travis Kelce is another favorite target for Mahomes. The return of both K.J. Wright and McDougald to the field can’t come soon enough for the Seahawks. They can both help minimize the damage Kelce can wreak.  With tight coverage of his two favorite targets, Mahomes should have a lot more trouble than usual. And when I say they’re his favorite targets, they both have been in Mahomes’ sights over 120 times this season. Third in targets is Sammy Watkins, and he has just 55. Between the two of them, Hill and Kelce have seen just over 50 percent of Mahomes’ throws coming their way.

Tight coverage on those two and a whole lot of Clark and Reed in the Chiefs backfield will go a long way to keeping the throttle pulled back just enough on the Kansas City machine. One more thing that will help the Seahawks is already done for them. Running back Kareem Hunt found something even he couldn’t outrun, and was cut by the Chiefs at the beginning of the month.

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Kansas City ran the ball well in their first game without him, but to be fair, they were only playing the Raiders. In their last two games, they’ve managed just 94 and 60 yards on the ground. They couldn’t break 30 points in either game. The Chiefs needed overtime for a win in the first and lost the second. The Kansas City attack hasn’t been quite the same since Hunt was cut loose. The Seahawks can slow them enough to win this game and lock up the playoffs.