On the football field, Seahawks DE Michael Bennett loves hitting the quarterback more than anything. Sunday, however, that love worked against him when, during an Earl Thomas interception return, Bennett was penalized 15 yards for knocking over QB Andy Dalton and then hitting him while he was on the ground.
At practice Wednesday, Bennett characterized the hit as a routine part of how he plays.
“I was throwing a block on an interception,” said Bennett. “I don’t think I was out of control, I just hit the quarterback. I think because he’s a quarterback it’s a big deal.
“Players get hit all the time while doing their job. But obviously people care, because he’s a quarterback, he gets paid a lot of money. I can show you tons of plays where offensive linemen are jumping on (defensive) guys all the time and it’s not a big deal.”
Bennett kept going.
“What was I supposed to do, let him get back up?” said Bennett to a circle of reporters. From beyond the ring, DT Brandon Mebane stepped over to offer some joking advice.
“I think you should have let the man get back up, Mike,” he said.
“Maybe,” responded Bennett with a smile and a laugh, before claiming that he didn’t even know it had been Dalton he had hit.
“I just saw a Bengals jersey,” said Bennett.
Whether Bennett really knew it was Dalton he pancaked, the statement speaks volumes regarding the way the 29-year-old approaches the game.
Bennett’s intense style of play and on-the-edge mentality is a big part of what fuels Seattle’s defense. Prior to the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss, it had surrendered 10 points in 11 quarters of football.
This season, Bennett has 21 combined tackles, three sacks, and a forced fumble Sunday that was returned for a touchdown by LB Bobby Wagner.
““I feel like I’m beasting out,” said Bennett. “I feel like I’m playing the best I’ve played since I’ve been in the NFL.”
Coach Pete Carroll said Monday Bennett “lost his mind a little bit” on the Dalton hit. Wednesday he tried to define the line between intensity and stupidity.
“Our guys are walking that fence every play,” said Carroll Wednesday. “We’re trying to play as intense and as fired up as you can. It’s a big challenge; we expect our guys to play at the limit of their intensity and also learn how to make good decisions.
“That’s a rare play for us to see how somebody hit late like that.”
Carroll’s statement reflects the man’s rose-tinted outlook. LB K.J. Wright was ejected in week two’s loss to the Packers for continuing to jam TE Richard Rodgers’ face mask upward after the play ended. In the past two seasons, Seattle has been the most penalized team in the league.
In addition, the Seahawks have been a top-three team for the number of unnecessary roughness penalties incurred in each of the last two seasons, according to NFL Penalties, an independent site that tracks the type of penalty accrued by each team during the season.
For the Seahawks, then, the occasional bone-headed maneuver is part of the cost of doing business.
Rookie and fellow DL Frank Clark said it’s often not easy for defenders to know when to lay off.
“The game’s getting softer,” said Clark. “That mentality of being a big hitter? That’s going away.”
Clark said he understood why Bennett made the hit.
“You’ve got to pay the cost to be the boss,” said Clark. “At the end of the day, Mike is just doing what he knows how to do, and that’s to be physical. If you’re a physical player you need to play physical, if you’re soft, you’re going to play soft.
“With Mike, I respect his game, and I hope he doesn’t stop playing like he plays.”
For Bennett, maintaining the intensity isn’t difficult. He just has to remember where he came from.
“I just pretend like I’m poor, honestly,” said Bennett. “I just think about all the times I didn’t have anything or when people saw me not as a good player, and it just keeps me motivated.”
If Bennett keeps the fire burning, offenses are likely in for a world of hurt. The trick will be to see if Bennett can keep seeing red without seeing yellow.