The Seattle Seahawks enter the 2016 postseason in familiar territory with another playoff home game at CenturyLink Field after winning another NFC West crown. The circumstances will be different as they will play their first playoff game without elite free safety Earl Thomas (West Orange-Stark). Thomas started every game of his career until he missed week 12 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a hamstring injury. He left the following game against the Carolina Panthers with a fractured left tibia that put him on injured reserve for the playoffs.
Normally, a defense can’t afford to lose the best player at his position in the NFL, but the Seahawks didn’t become the best franchise over the last four years because of one player.
Jeremy Lane (Tyler) would be able to start at corner back on many teams in the NFL. However, he has spent his first five seasons in the Seahawks’ secondary.
Seattle’s secondary has their three fixtures in Thomas, corner back Richard Sherman and strong safety Kam Chancellor. The other corner back position has been started by a combination of Cary Williams, Byron Maxwell and Brandon Browner.
This season the right corner back has been DeShawn Shead and sometimes Lane. Lane’s role, however, has remained as the extra the defensive back.
For instance, the Seahawks’ week 17 game was against the San Francisco 49ers and they started three linebackers in Mike Morgan (Skyline), Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright and four defensive backs in Sherman, Shead, Chancellor and Steven Terrell (Allen). In week 16, the Seahawks played the Arizona Cardinals who requires an extra back because of superstar David Johnson. The Seahawks used a nickel package to start the game with Lane as the third cornerback along with Sherman, Shead, Chancellor and Terrell with just Wagner and Wright at the linebackers.
Prior to this season, Lane played in 41 career games, but started only six. He compiled two interceptions, 52 tackles and 22 assisted tackles over four seasons. Lane really emerged on the scene in the 2014 postseason for the Seahawks. It seemed like when the stakes got higher that’s when Lane rose to the occasion.
In the NFC Championship, the Seahawks beat the Green Bay Packers 28-22 in overtime. Lane played in 51 defensive snaps and 20 special teams snaps and he tallied five tackles.
In the Super Bowl, Lane made perhaps the play of the game for the Seahawks. It was in the first quarter and the New England Patriots were in the red zone after conducting a 13-play, eight minute drive. The Patriots had the ball at the Seahawks’ 10 yard line. Tom Brady drops back for a short pass to Julian Edelman and Lane intercepts the pass and advances the ball 14 yards.
The Seahawks failed to capitalize on the interception, but it kept the Patriots from taking a 7-0 lead in the first quarter after a tone-setting drive. As it turned out, it only prevented the Patriots from winning the Super Bowl by double digits instead of 28-24.
The Seahawks hope to reach the Super Bowl again for the third time in four years. It will be tough without Thomas calling the shots in the defensive backfield, but they have to be confident knowing they still have somebody like Lane who’s come through in the biggest playoff moments.
Lane completed his fifth year in the NFL and he set career highs in games played with 16, games started with nine and tackles with 33.
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