On a team where all the recent noise has been about the flashy new defensive end, where all the linebackers are stars, one on a Hall of Fame trajectory no less, and where the coach is revered for his wizardry in the defensive backfield, it would be easy to forget about the defensive tackles.
It would be even easier to overlook the Seattle Seahawks’ big DT’s after watching Jarran Reed leave the active roster with a six-game suspension and Poona Ford leave the field Week 1 with a calf injury (of unknown severity).
And let’s face it — fans are conditioned that way. Who’s going to build monuments to run-stuffing linemen? Which GM is going to give them big contracts? Looking past their performance is what we do, fair or not.
However, Seattle’s 21-20 victory over the Bengals in Week 1 simply doesn’t happen without Quinton Jefferson and Al Woods.
Pictured: Cincy’s backfield, a.k.a Jefferson’s vacation home
Jefferson filled up the stat sheet like an All-Pro. Like two All-Pros. My go-to line for Bobby Wagner is that it often looks like there are two of him on the field. Jefferson was similarly omnipresent in the season opener:
- six tackles
- three quarterback hits
- two passes defensed
- two tackles for loss
- two sacks
Without Ziggy Ansah and L.J. Collier available, Seattle was looking for a d-lineman, any d-lineman to step up and bother Andy Dalton. They got one — hey, they got two if you buy in to counting Jefferson twice! If you count Al Woods, and we soon will, they got three!
Seahawks.com, in their recap of the game, spotlights Jefferson. The whole page is worth visiting, but you’re going for the right reason, our reason, click here.
Before Woods takes center stage, liste to how effusive Jefferson was in his postgame interview with 710 ESPN, striking a balance between self-satisfaction and praise for teammates.
“I mean, I’m a player in this league, and I want to make a name for myself this year,” he said. “When we get all our guys back in the building, it’s gonna be a fun, fun year.”
Dalton threw only one interception in the loss, but he tried to throw more. He had five balls tipped, others defensed downfield*, and one opening-drive near-pick that could have made the game play out quite differently.
*The Shaquill Griffin deflections were maybe some of the most encouraging moments Sunday, but that’s another post someone else will definitely write
The one interception that actually materialized was an athletic and nimble piece of footballing by Woods.
Woods also was in on the critical fourth-down stop that nuked a Bengals drive. With Cincinnati leading 17-14 late in the third, Woods stopped Giovanni Bernard half a yard short of converting a fourth and one, and not just anywhere — on the Seattle 36. The visitors were on the doorstep of field goal range, and on the precipice of taking control of the game. It was a big play in a game full of big plays, one major turning point that will get lost in the much-to-be-discussed failures of the Seahawks in the secondary and on the offensive line.
Jefferson speaking, again, but this time on Woods: “He basically got two turnovers. His eyes got real wide on that fourth down.”
“Huge production for those guys, and it will just be better,” Pete Carroll said. “It will just be better in general when everybody is out there and doing it together. Those guys made some nice plays up front. That’s such a big way to finish... our guys rose to the occasion.
Like people said, teammates are coming back, talented teammates at that, and there’s a good chance Week 1’s stars will be shuffled down the rotation by midseason.
But if the 21-20 close shave ends up the determining factor between earning a playoff berth and staying home, or the difference between a division title and a wild-card appearance, then the impact Jefferson and Woods made will be worth remembering again in January.