Ziggy Ansah and Jadeveon Clowney shared defensive snaps Sunday afternoon at CenturyLink Field, playing together for the first time since each joined the Seattle Seahawks.
There were 15 plays during which the two edge rushers, key to this new — and hopefully soon improved — Seattle pass rush both lined up opposite the Saints.
But, there were no fireworks. At least not yet.
Replacing injured New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, who had surgery to repair his right thumb Wednesday, backup Teddy Bridgewater gave the Seahawks few opportunities to flood the backfield.
Ansah never reached really Bridgewater. Neither did Clowney. Quinton Jefferson, playing primarily at tackle, was the only defender to get to Bridgewater at all, logging a pair of quarterback hits. And the Seahawks ended an ugly 33-27 loss without a sack.
“He was getting the ball out quick,” Clowney said of Bridgewater, who worked freely with almost no pressure. “(Saints coach) Sean Payton’s a smart guy, and he knows what’s going on. He knows what he’s looking at. So, they got the ball out fast.”
Without Brees, the Seahawks didn’t expect much of a deep passing threat. And, there wasn’t one. Bridgewater’s longest pass of the game was a 29-yard touchdown throw, which he dumped off to Alvin Kamara behind the line of scrimmage — and the running back did the rest.
Only seven of the passes he completed went for more than 10 yards, and a handful of those were yards gained after the catch, primarily by Kamara, who had nine catches on 10 targets for 92 yards.
Bridgewater only threw in usual top target Michael Thomas’ direction seven times, completing five passes for 54 yards, by far a season low for Thomas. His longest catch was for 18 yards, Ted Ginn’s was for 10, and no other receiver had a reception for more than 7 yards.
But, that strategy proved effective enough, despite Bridgewater finishing just 19 of 27 for 177 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“He was getting the ball out in two seconds,” Jefferson said. “There really (wasn’t) much you could do. They were just going quick pass, getting him in rhythm. They didn’t really want him sitting down there. He didn’t really have (any) downfield throws.
“It was just the way the rhythm of the game was. Just all quick pass, boot, so we really didn’t get a chance … to pin our ears back and go really get after him. I feel like the times we did we were able to, but they were playing to their strengths.”
As Seahawks coach Pete Carroll pointed out postgame, “Statistically, it wasn’t bad.” The Saints compiled just 265 yards of total offense. Kamara led the rushing attack, too, but with only 69 yards on 16 carries and another touchdown.
But, the pressure from Seattle’s still-evolving defensive line wasn’t nearly enough to outweigh other Seattle miscues, despite Ansah and Clowney appearing together for the first time. Both played on each snap of New Orleans’ seven-play, two-minute drill at the end of the first half, which resulted in Kamara’s 29-yard score, and gave the Saints a 20-7 lead.
“We expected to get more pressure,” Carroll said. “It didn’t seem like they were on offense very much in this game. They didn’t have to be. We did OK on third down, and they didn’t run the ball great, scheme-wise and all that. But, we didn’t get to him.”
Active for the first time this season, Ansah, who missed the opener against Cincinnati and last week’s game in Pittsburgh while continuing to recover from shoulder surgery and a more recent groin injury, played 17 of Seattle’s 50 defensive snaps.
About 20 is what the Seahawks were aiming for, Carroll said. Carroll said he didn’t see Ansah on the field enough to get a good read on his performance.
Ansah acknowledged he felt rusty, considering he hasn’t played in a game since last December, when he was with Detroit. But, he said there were no lingering issues with the shoulder — if there were, he wouldn’t be on the field, he said.
“It feels good to be out there, get my feet wet,” Ansah said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been on the field. It does feel good to be out there. It’s only going to get better from here.”
Clowney’s snap count nearly doubled Ansah’s — he was in on 31 defensive plays, and appeared at least twice in every defensive series except New Orleans’ final drive — but he’s still trying to find his footing. He was playing in his third game with Seattle after being traded from Houston on the final day of August.
“I’m just trying to get back into it still, and trying to do as much as I can,” Clowney said. “It feels different for me. But, I’ll adjust.”
As will the Seahawks as a defensive unit, but Carroll had a few thoughts on needed improvements.
“We’re not getting the ball as much as we need to,” he said. “That’s always tell-tale, particularly when we play at home. We hawk the ball pretty good here. Usually, that has to do with effective pass rush. We usually play off of that, but there are other ways, too. There were some chances in the first half, the ball was bouncing around a little bit. Until we’re getting the football, we’re not going to be playing the way we want to play.
“Statistically, it wasn’t bad. Those guys are playing the run pretty well, and they’re doing a lot of good things in general. We have to put it all together.”