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Seahawks trust their defense without Earl Thomas

Pete Carroll didn't want to see Christine Michael go


GREEN BAY – Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett isn't averse to challenging conventional thinking.

As he bizarrely began his conference call with Green Bay media on Wednesday asking, "Is time real?", he proceeded to debunk the old adage that players must step up their games to do more in the absence of a key teammate, in this case talented Seattle safety Earl Thomas.

"That's the difference between great teams and non-great teams," Bennett said. "A team that's not great, they try to have everybody lift their play up to do more than what they're supposed to do.

"When you've got people behind them, you expect them to do their job, and we expect whoever plays where
Earl is, they're going to do their job. Nobody is going to try to do more than what they're supposed to do, and that's how you play great defense."

Bennett's words can be interpreted a number of ways. He's saying the success of the Seahawks' defense is predicated on far more than just one player, and he's right.

Bennett himself, along with pass-rusher Cliff Avril, linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, plus defensive backs Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor compose one of the most dominant, veteran units in the league, which currently leads the NFL in scoring defense (16.2 points per game).

Bennett's thoughts also serve as a strong vote of confidence for Steven Terrell, who will be filling in for Thomas, a four-time first-team All-Pro with 23 career interceptions who is out for the rest of the season with a broken bone in his lower leg.

"What we do know is we trust that person," Bennett said, speaking generally about defensive substitutes. "We trust that he's got so much respect for his teammates, that he's going to be in the right spot. We trust that he's going to be the guy to make the play when it's his turn. We trust that he knows the (opposing) offense, and we trust that he studies. We're not going to go out there and try to do more because we lost a player."

How the Packers try to attack a Thomas-less Seattle secondary come Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field remains to be seen, but the player who is back to full health for the Seahawks is quarterback Russell Wilson.

Bothered by ankle and knee injuries earlier in the season, Wilson couldn't be his scrambling, playmaking self. He didn't rush for even 20 yards in a game until two weeks ago, when he broke out for 80.

Though that came in a loss to Tampa Bay in which Wilson threw two of his low total of five interceptions this season, it was a sign the Seahawks offense will have all elements at its disposal down the stretch as Seattle works to clinch the NFC West and possibly earn a first-round playoff bye.

 "You could see how he was different earlier in the year because he just couldn't get out and go," Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said in his conference call. "He just couldn't run, but he could still play, and with his will and desire and competitiveness, he made it through it, and now that he's back to being mobile, it's really picked things up.

"We've been rushing for a lot of yards since he's been back and it makes a big difference for our football team."

Thomas Rawls now is Seattle's No. 1 running back, rushing for two TDs and more than 100 yards last week vs. Carolina before leaving to be evaluated for a concussion (he was cleared by the end of the game).

Injured earlier in the season, Rawls replaced Christine Michael upon his return, and with three rookies on the depth chart behind him (including a pair of draft picks in Alex Collins and C.J. Prosise), the Seahawks chose to release Michael, who was claimed by the Packers.

Michael facing his old team – for whom he's still the leading rusher in 2016, with 469 yards and six TDs before getting let go – is another of many storylines between two teams meeting for the fifth time in the last five years.

For what it's worth, Carroll sounded disappointed Michael is no longer in Seattle.

"He did a great job for us. We loved Christine," Carroll said. "He's been around us a long time, and I've been particularly close to him and didn't like to see him go, but it's just what we had to do to make things fit.

"He matured through the time and the challenges he faced. He got it together and presented himself in a great way and competed like crazy for us."

For a current rivalry that has featured everything from a Fail Mary to an NFC title game to prime-time showdowns, weather could enter the picture again. The two teams played the famous "snow globe" playoff game nine years ago, but that was with different quarterbacks and before Carroll came to Seattle.

Temperatures in the 20s and snow are in the forecast for Sunday in Green Bay.

"We're fortunate. It was 28 degrees this morning when we got here and the wind's blowing and it's supposed to snow in the afternoon here," Carroll said of Wednesday's Seattle weather. "We're fortunate we're going to practice in it and take advantage of it. It should be the same as it is for them."

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