RENTON, Wash. (AP) From afar, Brandon Mebane would look at film of other defensive tackles around the NFL and what Ahtyba Rubin was doing in Cleveland jumped off the screen.
What he saw on the screen became even more impressive when Rubin decided to sign with Seattle last offseason and play alongside Mebane on the Seahawks defensive line.
”He runs down the field like I never seen no big dude run down the field,” Mebane said. ”He can run like deer. Like a big deer. He’s a great player.”
On a defense with stars like Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, Michael Bennett and Earl Thomas – just to name a few – players like Mebane and Rubin can get easily overlooked. It’s understandable because their positions on the interior of Seattle’s defensive line make it difficult to stand out.
But ask around about why the Seahawks had the best run defense in the NFL this season giving up just 81.5 yards per game and were successful twice in shutting down Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson and the reasons point back directly to Mebane and Rubin as the instigators of that success.
”They make plays and they make sure that me and K.J. (Wright) never really get touched,” middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said. ”They’ve done a great job with that. I don’t know if you guys have noticed it on film, but sometimes (Mebane) calls out the plays before it happens and (Rubin) does a great job of two-gapping and keeping the double teams. They’re very crucial to what we do as a team.”
The task before Mebane and Rubin this week is among the most difficult they have faced all season, trying to shut down Carolina in the NFC divisional playoff game on Sunday. There may not be a more challenging or diverse run game in the NFL to try and slow down. Whether it’s Jonathan Stewart carrying the ball, Mike Tolbert bulling his way through the line or the times quarterback Cam Newton keeps the ball in his own hands, there is not a more unique running attack in the league according to the Seahawks.
”It is a really diverse run game. It is the most that we will see in the NFL,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. ”There is nobody that does more stuff and it’s basically because the quarterback is such a dynamic part of it. … This is the most difficult offense that we face and it really is because Cam is such an adept player and they rely on him.”
Both Rubin and Mebane entered this season with questions about how they could be effective for Seattle.
Mebane was coming back from a serious hamstring injury that cost him the latter half of last season and the playoffs. He was also trying to come back from a significant injury at age 30 and playing a position where strength and explosiveness with his legs is a priority.
”Can you imagine how big his hammy is? That’s a major surgery, a major injury to come back from,” Carroll said. ”As we watched him in the offseason, through the summer time, he worked so hard to get back. I’ve said that he had one of his best offseasons ever. He had to, to get back. That usually pays you back, and he’s had a really good year for us.”
Rubin was a bit of an unknown because of the lack of attention defensive tackles receive, but Seattle was confident in his ability to play the ”three-technique” defensive tackle position and be able to cover two gaps of the offensive line. What caught them a bit by surprise was Rubin’s speed chasing the play downfield. He recovered Adrian Peterson’s key fourth-quarter fumble last week 13 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
”It was really clear the first time we’d sat down and really talked about it. I asked him to try to be really stout as a three-technique at the line of scrimmage, and then we’ve seen you running the football, be great at doing that for us and show us that you’re a big guy that can chase,” Carroll said. ”I wasn’t asking him something that he wasn’t ready to do, but we just kind of solidified what our expectations were. He’s done that all year long.”
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