Seattle safety Earl Thomas won his first NFC Defensive Player of the Week honor Wednesday, bringing to eight the number for current members of the team's Legion of Boom secondary.
The only surprise in Seattle free safety Earl Thomas being named on Wednesday the NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against the Rams last Sunday is that it was the first time in his career he had ever won the award.
That Thomas was honored this week seemed a slam dunk after he made two game-turning plays in a win that allowed Seattle to move into first place in the NFC West, knocking the ball out of the hands of Los Angeles running back Todd Gurley at the goal line to save a touchdown in the first quarter and then picking off a pass to help preserve a 16-10 victory in the fourth.
In a way, though, the fact that the honor was the first of Thomas’ career speaks to what Seattle coaches often cite as one of his greatest attributes — that he plays his position so well that opponents often don’t even brother to test him.
That makes Thomas an incredibly valuable piece of Seattle’s defense, if not the most valuable, as everyone may have learned last season when Thomas missed the final four regular season games and two in the playoffs and opponents moved and scored on Seattle’s defense in ways rarely seen the last few years. Simply put, opponents often look to attack Seattle’s defense anywhere else but where Thomas is when he’s patrolling the back end of the secondary.
That can at times be frustrating for Thomas, though, as he can have a great impact on a game without necessarily compiling a lot of stats — and getting a lot of notice — something he acknowledged in August.
“I feel like your talent level, a lot of times when you play safety they can scheme around you,’’ Thomas said. “When you play corner, especially in this system, they’ve got to come at you. But safeties kind of get overlooked now. The corners get paid all the money. We are kind of the stepbrother. But we are very, very valuable to the team.”
While Thomas’ basic job is to man the back middle of the Seattle secondary, essentially serving as a last line of defense, his other two Legion of Boom founding member compatriots — cornerback Richard Sherman and strong safety Kam Chancellor — are typically closer to the action. Sherman obviously finds himself covering receivers man-to-man many times in every game, often the opponent’s best receiver, which means that no matter what a few balls are coming his way at some point every game. Chancellor, as a strong safety, typically lines up closer to line of scrimmage and can more often find himself right in the mix of things.
And maybe that’s why each has won POTW awards before — Sherman, in fact, has won four and Chancellor three bringing to eight the total for the Legion of Boom.
Here’s a review of the past games that won POTW awards for the LOB:
Nov. 11, 2012 — Seattle 28, New York Jets 7: Sherman won the first player of the week award for any member of the LOB for a game in which he picked off a pass in the end zone to stop an early Jets’ drive and then set up Seattle’s final touchdown with a sack of Jets’ QB Mark Sanchez on a first down play at the Seahawks’ 32 early in the fourth quarter. The fumbled was returned by Jason Jones to the Jets’ 49. That play remains the only sack of Sherman’s career.
Sept. 15, 2013 — Seattle 29, 49ers 3: Sherman won his second POTW award in what was in part recognition for a teamwide effort in holding Colin Kaepernick to a passer rating of 20.3. Sherman had one of Seattle’s three interceptions, returning it 28 yards to set up a field goal (maybe fittingly, Thomas and Chancellor had the other two INTs for Seattle in this game).
Dec. 15, 2013 — Seattle 23, Giants 0: Sherman had two of Seattle’s five interceptions of Eli Manning, then preserved what was Seattle’s first road shutout since 2005 by tipping a pass in the end zone that was picked off by Thomas (he’d have another tip leading to another interception the following month that may be a little better remembered).
Nov. 27, 2014 — Seattle 19, 49ers 3: Sherman had two interceptions of Kaepernick in leading an easy Seattle Thanksgiving night win as the Seahawks held the 49ers to 164 total yards.
Sept. 21, 2014 — Seattle 26, Denver 20 (OT): In a rematch of the previous year’s Super Bowl, Chancellor forced and recovered a fumble by Montee Ball on Denver’s first offensive play to set up a Seattle field goal, then had an interception of Peyton Manning and a 52-yard return to set up another field goal late.
Nov. 23, 2014 — Seattle 19, Arizona 3: In a game that kicked off a season-ending six-game winning streak that allowed the Seahawks to overtake the Cardinals for the NFC West title, Chancellor had seven solo tackles as Seattle held Arizona to 204 yards.
Nov. 13, 2016 — Seattle 31, New England 24: Chancellor was at the center of the game’s deciding play — a final pass into the end zone from the 1-yard line from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowksi that fell incomplete, Gronknowski unable to get any space under tight coverage from Chancellor. Chancellor also earlier in the fourth quarter forced a Julian Edelman fumble recovered by Sherman that led to Seattle’s final touchdown and teamed with Thomas on a memorable hit of Gronkowksi to force an incompletion in the second quarter.