- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 15, 2014

RENTON, Wash. (AP) - Brandon Mebane holds a special distinction in the Seattle Seahawks‘ locker room.

Through all the changes that coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider made to personnel during the infancy of their tenure running the Seahawks, the defensive tackle has managed to stay on the roster.

As the Seahawks head into Sunday’s NFC championship game against San Francisco, Mebane has the most seniority of the four players still on Seattle’s roster from before the arrival of Carroll and Schneider.

He’s a Seattle original, drafted in the third round by the Seahawks in 2007 and now one win from helping the franchise get to the Super Bowl for the second time.

“It’s very, very nice to see that and to be a part of this team,” Mebane said. “Hopefully, we can keep this going and keep winning. We have high goals for ourselves.”

Mebane, defensive end Red Bryant, center Max Unger and punter Jon Ryan are the only players still on Seattle’s roster from before Carroll’s arrival. They are a small fraternity that has stuck around for various reasons, with their on-field play topping the list.

In the case of Mebane and Bryant, both could have tested free agency in recent seasons, only to receive significant offers to continue their careers with Seattle after impressing Carroll.

“Well they got paid a lot. When it came time, pretty easy decision I thought,” Carroll joked of Mebane and Bryant. “But first, the guys have kind of been the foundation blocks of the defense here and have been here throughout and they’re rewarded for their work. And Red has come a long way and has done an incredible job with his career and we’re thrilled about it. … They have been so consistent. They’ve stuck it out because we agreed that this was a good place for them and they played really well and all of that and we’re fortunate to have them.”

Mebane is not a defensive tackle who gets a lot of attention because his numbers will never stand out. His responsibility is to eat up space on Seattle’s defensive line and create havoc in the run game. The more blockers Mebane can occupy, the easier for linebackers Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Malcolm Smith and Bruce Irvin to come in and clean up the play. On passing downs, Mebane gives way to Michael Bennett, who led Seattle with 8½ sacks in the regular season, and Clinton McDonald.

Mebane finished the regular season with 45 tackles and zero sacks. But he was a big reason Seattle’s run defense improved during the second half of the season. Mebane’s performance was good enough that he received one All-Pro vote. But ask him and Mebane didn’t see anything special about his season.

“I don’t know. I don’t think it was,” Mebane said. “I couldn’t tell you.”

Last week, New Orleans had moderate success running against the Seahawks, but Mebane and his teammates know they’ll have to be significantly better on Sunday against San Francisco. Since Jim Harbaugh arrived in 2011, the 49ers are 4-2 against Seattle. In the two losses, Seattle held San Francisco running back Frank Gore to less than 30 yards rushing in both games.

“He’s a fantastic runner, he’s got great sense, and he’s got as good a sense in the line of scrimmage as anybody that’s playing in the game,” Carroll said. “If you make a mistake, he takes advantage of it.”



AP NFL website: https://www.pro32.ap.org

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