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Seahawks' defensive backs get job done

January 11, 2007|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

The Seattle Seahawks' secondary has been chewed up because of injuries, but somehow it keeps getting the job done.

Cornerbacks Kelly Herndon (broken ankle), Jimmy Williams (knee sprain) and Marcus Trufant (ankle sprain) will not play against the Chicago Bears on Sunday, leaving Seattle with the same makeshift secondary that was effective in Saturday's wild-card victory over Dallas.

Jordan Babineaux, normally a strong safety, will start at cornerback opposite rookie Kelly Jennings, who played nickel back for most of the season. The Seahawks' third cornerback is Pete Hunter, who signed as a free agent last week and played a key role against the Cowboys.

Hunter was a loan officer living in Texas and preparing to become a border guard when Seattle called. Although he had not played a complete season since 2003, Hunter didn't perform like somebody signed off the street. He made five tackles and recovered a fumble in the win over Dallas.

Hunter, who played 34 games over four seasons with the Cowboys and Cleveland, was able to fit right in because Seattle's defensive schemes are designed so that cornerbacks don't give up big passing plays.

The Seahawks count on safeties Michael Boulware and Ken Hamlin to cover a lot of the field and make plays against runs and passes. That's a lot of responsibility for safeties who are not known for their speed, but both players pulled it off against Dallas.

Taking advantage of quarterback Tony Romo's inexperience, they held the Cowboys' playmaking receivers, Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn, to a combined six catches for 67 yards and no touchdowns.

Seattle's secondary will be on the spot again against the Bears, who will be looking to get the ball to receivers Muhsin Muhammad and Bernard Berrian, who had productive games when the teams played during the regular season.

In Chicago's 37-6 win on Oct. 1, Muhammad caught five passes and Berrian finished with three for 108 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown. And that was when the Seahawks still had healthy cornerbacks Herndon, Williams and Trufant.

Summary: The key for Seattle will be getting pressure on quarterback Rex Grossman against a solid Chicago offensive line that typically provides good pass protection. The Seahawks like to zone blitz and use Hamlin as a pass rusher, but with so many injuries that tactic may open things for the Bears' passing game and help Grossman out of his slump.

lonnie.white@latimes.com

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