All in the Family

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January 3, 2011

By Claire Farnsworth

Raheem Brock & Zach Dixon

Raheem Brock & Zach Dixon

Raheem Brock was getting impatient, because Zach Dixon was running out of time. Brock is a pass-rush specialist in his first season with the Seahawks. Dixon, his father, played for the Seahawks in 1983-84.

“Raheem kind of got on my case,” Dixon said while standing on the sideline prior to Sunday night’s division-clinching victory over the St. Louis Rams at Qwest Field. I hadn’t been out to a game yet, and he finally said, ‘Dad, when are you coming?’”

So Sunday night it was, with so much on the line for his former team and his son’s new team. Brock entered the game with 6½ sacks, but only his father had a premonition of what was to come in the Seahawks’ 16-6 victory that vaulted them into Saturday’s wild-card playoff game against the New Orleans Saints at Qwest Field.

“I’m really proud of him,” said Dixon, now a Microsoft engineer in the Washington, D.C., area. “But I was hoping he’d get to that nine- or 10-sack level. Because I know he can do it. When Raheem gets his opportunities, he’ll produce. He plays well when it’s clutch time. When the pressure is on, Raheem plays well.”

From his father’s lips to Brock’s stat line. With his father and other family members watching, Brock registered 2½ sacks against the Rams – lifting his season total to a career-best nine.
Raheem and Zach

“It felt great to play in front of my dad,” Brock said. “For my dad and my whole family to see this atmosphere and the 12th Man, and for us to go out there and play like we did, it’s a great feeling. Having my dad here just gets my adrenalin pumping even more. Just to know that he was going to be in the building and I was going to get to play in front of him, it had me pumped all week.”

This father-son tandem has been in tandem for much of their different-decade careers. Each went to Temple University. Brock played the first eight seasons of his NFL career with the Indianapolis Colts, while Dixon played four seasons with the Baltimore Colts – “the real Colts,” as Dixon put it. Dixon finished his career with the Seahawks, a career cut short because of a knee injury. Brock is putting the finishing touches on his first season with the Seahawks.

“He’s following in my steps,” Dixon said. “This is his time. I just hope he plays longer than I did, because I got the knee injury. I hope he plays another two or three more years.”

Dixon had not been back to Seattle since he played for the Seahawks. That was on the 1983 team that won the franchise’s first playoff game and then shocked the football world by advancing to the AFC Championship game. The following season, the Seahawks went 12-4 and won another playoff game.

“We took no prisoners,” Dixon said of his Seahawk teams. “We had a great team.”

Rather than take prisoners, his son just sacks them. Brock and fellow rush-end Chris Clemons split a sack against the Rams, giving Clemons 11 – also a career high.

“They’ve been really good for us,” coach Pete Carroll said of Clemons, who was obtained in a March trade with the Philadelphia Eagles, and Brock, who was signed Sept. 6. “Both those guys are really quick. They have high motors. Raheem was all over the place (against the Rams), not just in the passing game. Both those guys bring us intensity that if you’re not right getting off the ball on the line of scrimmage, they’re going to get you. They finished that game on fire.”

Zach & Raheem

Zach & Raheem

It used to be an either/or situation, with Brock spelling Clemons at the hybrid “Leo” end spot in Carroll’s defense. But in recent games, defensive coordinator Gus Bradley has started using them together to generate more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Brock was on the field for 34 of the Seahawks’ 54 defensive snaps against the Rams; Clemons for 47.

“We kind of changed some things defensively, so it would better fit Raheem’s style, just because we felt like we needed even more rush,” Bradley said. “And he’s come through. They’re different styles. Raheem, he’ll speed rush you, he’ll spin, he’s very creative in his pass-rush moves. Clem, he’s creative in his own way, too, but he’s just got great get off.”

Who’s more relentless?

Bradley laughed before offering, “I think they battle each other. Raheem is kind of the quiet storm. But they feed off each other and they’re competing against each other.”

The pressure these two are capable of generating will be huge on Saturday, as the Seahawks were unable to sack Saints quarterback Drew Brees when the teams met in New Orleans in Week 11.

“To have both those guys on the edge, for a game like this especially, it’s important,” Bradley said. “If we can get a four-man rush on Brees and play your split-safety looks, then you’ve got a chance.”

Back to Dixon and his fatherly intuition for a second. He didn’t leave town without offering one more scenario.

“Hopefully we get New Orleans in here next week and upset them,” he said. “That’s what I’m looking at.”