Marshawn Lynch and Bruce Irvin helped win the 2013 Super Bowl in Seattle before becoming stalwarts in Oakland.
Sebastian Janikowski rewrote the record book for the Raiders before booming long kicks for the Seahawks.
Seattle defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. and Oakland offensive line coach Tom Cable spent the past few seasons doing the same job with the other team.
When the Seahawks and Raiders kick off in London on Sunday, it will be a reunion of sorts — even though the game will be played several thousand miles from home.
“I’ve always enjoyed the most playing against the people I like the most. There’s guys on the club, coaches and all kinds of connections,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said. “There’s just connections across the board. It just makes it fun. If you’re competitive and you like competing against the best and your friends. I do. I just look forward to it.”
Both teams have more pressing issues than seeing old friends. The Seahawks (2-3) are already three games back in the NFC West and the Raiders (1-4) have struggled all season in the first year in Jon Gruden’s second stint as head coach.
“I just don’t like to lose,” Gruden said. “I think we have work to do. There’s not enough time in the day to do it. I’m depressed. I’m tired. I want to win. I want to do better.”
Here are some other things to watch:
The Seahawks will finally get a chance to tackle Lynch, who starred for the team from 2010-15 and helped Seattle win a Super Bowl. Lynch was mostly off-limits at practice, although linebacker Bobby Wagner recalls getting scolded by Lynch for hitting him as a rookie and dislocating Lynch’s finger while trying to punch the ball out. There will be no limits on contact Sunday.
“Never got the chance to tackle Marshawn,” Wagner said. “Talked a lot of trash. We finally get to go against each other. So it’s going to be fun.”
Gruden wants Lynch to see more of the ball Sunday. He had only 31 yards rushing on nine carries in last Sunday’s 26-10 road loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. Problem is, Lynch isn’t the only offensive threat looking for more touches.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who need to see the ball more,” Gruden said after arriving in the British capital following a nearly 11-hour flight. “We’ve done some good things offensively. But good is not good enough. We need to start playing great offensively. To do that we need to see more of Lynch. And we need to see a bit more of the ball going across the goal line, that’s the big thing.”
Quarterback Derek Carr also said he “definitely” wants to hand off more often to Lynch. He had 20 carries for 130 yards the previous week in the Raiders’ only win against the Cleveland Browns.
“We want to be 100 percent balanced every time,” Carr said. “That kind of balance is good for our football team. It’s good me, it’s good for him (Lynch), it’s good for our offensive line.”
That balance also includes figuring out how to spread the ball around more evenly between Carr’s top receivers, who have taken turns putting up big numbers in different games.
Wide receiver Amari Cooper has been the most inconsistent, with two 100-yard outings mixed with a total of four catches for 36 yards in the other three games combined. Against the Chargers, he finished with one catch for 10 yards and was only targeted once. Carr insisted that stat was misleading.
“When I look at targets, I don’t look at it as I only looked his way one time,” Carr said. “There was definitely multiple times I was looking his way. But they just didn’t end up working out.”
Cooper is only the team’s third leading receiver this season, behind tight end Jared Cook and former Green Bay Packer Jordy Nelson.
The two-time Pro Bowler said he’s happy sharing the load, but also wants to see all of the team’s top threats putting it together at the same time.
“We have a lot of guys with ability. A lot of guys who can go off and kind of take over a game, and that’s a good thing,” Cooper said. “We’d like to do it a bit more collectively, as a group. That would be better, and give us our best shot of winning.”
Lynch, who spent six seasons with Seattle, was not among the five players who spoke to media at their hotel next to Wembley on Friday. But there’s no doubt he’ll be the main focus when the game kicks off on Sunday.
“He’s had a lot to do with the Super Bowl ring that the Seahawks wear,” Gruden said. “He was the heart and soul of that team. In a lot of ways he’s the heart and soul of the Raiders right now. He’s still running with that incredible physicality. He’s been durable, he’s practiced every day.
“Behind the scenes, he’s one of our leaders. He’s a bit misunderstood by a lot of people. But believe me, if you were coaching a football team, I think he’d be one of the first guys you’d want on your team.”
Any question about Seattle’s commitment to the run has been answered by the productivity of the last three weeks. The Seahawks have seen a running back rush for 100 yards in three straight games for the first time since late in the 2012 season. Chris Carson had 100-yard games against Dallas and Los Angeles, and Mike Davis had 101 yards against Arizona.
Most impressive was the 190 yards rushing against the Rams, when Seattle averaged 5.9 yards per carry. Even more shocking, the Seahawks got those yards on the ground without a single yard coming from quarterback Russell Wilson. For the first time in his career, Wilson didn’t have an official run play against the Rams.
“We made a big turn. It’s taken us longer than I would’ve wanted to get to this point, but we feel like we can play the game that we want to play and the style we want to play it regardless of where we’re going,” Carroll said. “We’ll find out, let’s go see if we can take it across the ocean and do it as well, but that’s really important to us.”
WEST COAST GOING EAST
The matchup between the Seahawks and Raiders is just the second in London between teams from the Pacific time zone. The Rams and Cardinals played last year in an NFC West game, with Los Angeles rolling to a 33-0 win. Take away that Los Angeles-Arizona matchup a year ago and teams from the Pacific area playing in London are 2-3 all-time. Both wins belong to San Francisco, beating Denver in 2010 and Jacksonville in 2013.
Both teams opted to spend part of the week at home, with the Seahawks leaving Wednesday and the Raiders on Thursday.
Doug Baldwin caught a dump-off pass from Wilson for a 1-yard gain on Seattle’s second offensive play against the Rams. It was the only target and only catch for Seattle’s leading receiver in each of the past four seasons.
Baldwin has been bothered by issues with both knees early in the schedule. He missed most of training camp because of an unspecified issue with his left knee, then suffered a sprained MCL in his right knee in the season opener against Denver. Baldwin has just six catches for 42 yards and no TDs in the three games he’s played.
“It’s frustrating because I want to be more a part of it. I want to be part of the party, too,” Baldwin said.
Few players or coaches have been part of more games in London than Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson. He will coach his seventh game there, having gone 3-3 on previous trips with Tampa Bay (2009, ‘11), Oakland (2014), Jacksonville (2015, ‘16) and the Rams (2017).
“He leads the league in London trips, so he’s going to be my tour guide,” said Gruden, who added he doesn’t believe he’ll have much time for sightseeing.