Micah Rice: Clemons' return another brick in Seahawks wall

By Micah Rice, Columbian sports editor

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SEATTLE — Eight months ago, a player suffered a serious knee injury during the Seattle Seahawks' playoff win over the Washington Redskins.

But there were no grotesque highlights shown ad nauseum. The details of the painstaking rehab process were not parsed by the national media.

Chris Clemons was the other guy injured on the torn-up FedEx Field turf in January. While Robert Griffin III's recovery created much fanfare, Clemons' return to action Sunday could be just as important to the eventual fortunes of his team.

The Seahawks sack leader the past three seasons, Clemons suffered a torn ligament and meniscus. Though he played primarily on third down Sunday, his presence further bolstered a defense that has allowed on average less than 10 points through three games.

Clemons declined to do locker room interviews Sunday, but his teammates were more than happy to sing his praises after Sunday's 45-17 win over Jacksonville.

"It's nice to see Clem get after the quarterback again," Seahawks safety Earl Thomas said. "After the game I gave him a big hug. I told him I missed him and to just keep it going."

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll wanted to ease Clemons back into action Sunday.

"It worked out perfect," Carroll said. "We wanted to get him 15 plays, and he was somewhere in there. ... He felt a little rusty, but he was really excited that he got through the game and he's ready to go now."

The same can be said for many pieces of Seattle's defense. For the first time, fans saw a defensive line bookended by Clemons and offseason acquisition Cliff Avril, himself hobbled by a hamstring injury that caused him to miss the season opener.

Brandon Browner's return from a hamstring injury brought the defensive backfield to full strength for the first time this season. When Bruce Irvin's suspension ends after next week, the Seahawks will have one of the deepest, most versatile pass rushes in the league.

"There are a lot of guys competing for sacks," said Bobby Wagner, who had nine tackles Sunday. "As a linebacker, I'm excited because that frees me up."

And while the offense played with cohesion and swagger Sunday, one senses the defense is the engine that will power the Seahawks toward their Super Bowl goal. The Seahawks themselves aren't shy about saying that when all the pieces are back, this group could be special.

"We showed a little bit this week and last of what we can be," Browner said. "We're definitely on the rise."

Jacksonville went three-and-out in its first four drives and was held to minus-7 yards over a span that lasted well into the second quarter. The Jaguars only moved the ball after Seattle was comfortably ahead, gaining 213 of their 265 yards after halftime.

Even that didn't sit well with safety Kam Chancellor.

"I'm not that happy," he said. "We asserted our authority, but we gave up too many yards."

Frankly, Jacksonville never should have made the Seahawks sweat on Sunday. If these teams played 10 times, Seattle should win all 10. But in a league where lopsided matchups are rare, Sunday's dominance is what you'd expect from a championship-caliber team.

"We carry ourselves like champions," Thomas said. "Champions get up for every game."

Micah Rice is The Columbian's sports editor. Reach him at 360-735-4548, micah.rice@columbian.com or on Twitter @col_mrice.