Winning on the road is never an easy task, but there are some reasons to be optimistic heading into the game against Denver this Sunday.
The most important components of any road win are: defense, turnovers and ball control. There is a symbiosis between those three phases of the game. A team that controls the ball gives their defense rest, and time to make in-game adjustments. Turnovers lead to more possession for the good guys and less for the bad. Better defense does the same thing. The inverse is, of course, also true.
A Seahawks victory will almost certainly start with the defense. Denver struggles running the ball. Their starting tailback was a sub-4.0 YPC runner last year, and that continued in game one this season. The strength of the Seahawks defense appears to be stopping the run. They did it not just against SF, but also on the road in Minnesota during the pre-season. The Broncos line includes two rookies, a fill-in and a hobbled tackle. It is not as strong as either the 49ers or the Vikings line. The running backs are not as good as Gore or Peterson. It’s not hard to imagine the Seahawks stuffing the Broncos running game and forcing them into 2nd and long and 3rd and long situations. The Seahawks succeeded by playing almost exclusively with the base defense against the 49ers, which means they haven’t had to show any of their more exotic blitz packages. The element of surprise is in their favor. A win for the Seahawks almost definitely includes a sub-100 yard rushing day for the Broncos and at least two sacks.
If Kyle Orton is the best player for the Broncos, Matt Hasselbeck will be the best player on the field Sunday. He will face a tough test against the starting Broncos DBs, but their nickel backs and safety’s are question marks. A Seahawks victory will very likely include a big day through the middle of the field to players like John Carlson, Deon Butler and Mike Williams. It also would not be a shock to see Leon Washington and Justin Forsett used on screen plays if Denver comes out trying to apply pressure with blitzes. Denver’s run defense gave up 4.5 YPC and over 128 yards/game in 2009. They surrendered 134 yards in week one of 2010. Despite the shuffling along the Seahawks offensive line, there may be room to run against this defense. Any rushing total over 100 yards is a really good sign for the Seahawks.
Special teams must not give up any big plays. Any plays they make are a bonus.
On a neutral field, I think the Seahawks beat the Broncos 8 out of 10 times. Invesco isn’t neutral, so we’ll all have to wait until Sunday to find out what happens.