The Seahawks still are a defense-oriented team. The Pete Carroll formula hasn’t changed, despite all the bells and whistles emanating from Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin and company.
After watching Russell Wilson pass for seemingly a million yards (that’s rounding up) over this magical five-game stretch, Pete Carroll has patiently (more or less) reiterated that the Seahawks still are a run-oriented team.
And after hearing all the praise being heaped upon the offense, including the three-headed running-back monster that filled in ably for injured Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls on Sunday, perhaps another reminder is in order:
The Seahawks still are a defense-oriented team. The Carroll formula hasn’t changed, despite all the bells and whistles emanating from Wilson, Doug Baldwin and company. They’ll go as far as their defense takes them.
That’s not to say Seahawks fans shouldn’t get giddy over the way Wilson and the offense is performing, seemingly surpassing a milestone with every completion. As Earl Thomas said Sunday after Seattle’s 30-13 win over Cleveland, “Everyone thought Russell was good, but now he’s making them notice. He’s in a zone, especially him and Doug. He’s taking over. He’s separating himself in this league.”
And Carroll, after requisitely praising the defense, gushed: “I’m just really fired up about the other side of the ball, too.”
This exquisitely functioning offense might be the shiny new toy, the flavor of the moment, but the Seahawks’ defense is the engine that will drive them where they want to go. And right now, after some early struggles, that’s an encouraging notion.
The Seahawks’ defense has slowly and quietly — for it — regained its status as one of the NFL’s elite. That’s not to say there aren’t some cautionary notes, most notably the fact they have been cleaning up against second-tier or unestablished quarterbacks. The likes of Aaron Rodgers, Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, Carson Palmer and Ben Roethlisberger punished them, all but Roethlisberger leading late drives that overcame Seahawks leads.
At one point, the loud chorus being heard around the league was that Seattle had lost its ability to finish. With five wins in a row, you don’t hear that much anymore. Statistically, the Seahawks have inched back into rarefied territory and have a good chance to become the first team in NFL history to lead the league in scoring defense four years in a row.
They are second, allowing 17.7 points per game (just behind Cincinnati at 17.4). They are second in total defense, third in rushing yards allowed (including just 18 to NFL rushing leader Adrian Peterson), and fourth in passing yards allowed. No team has allowed fewer passing touchdowns.
It’s been a growth process under new defensive coordinator Kris Richard. The absence of holdout strong safety Kam Chancellor for the first two games was crippling. But since Chancellor’s return, the defense is averaging 15.6 points allowed in 12 games, best in the league over that span (and that’s without an injured Chancellor in the past game and a half — and including 39 and 30 points allowed to the Cardinals and Steelers, respectively).
“We understand our rhythm,’’ cornerback Richard Sherman said.
Sherman has played brilliantly, and the Legion of Boom has shown more frequent flashbacks to its dominant days. On Sunday, Kelcie McCray and Jeremy Lane filled in for Chancellor and DeShawn Shead (ankle), and though the secondary depth is not up to the legendary 2013 standards, they played well. Marcus Burley, another reserve, added an interception.
“I’m just happy it’s in house,’’ Thomas said of the depth. “These guys grew up here as Seahawks, and it’s good to see them getting an opportunity and taking full advantage. We don’t have any weak links. We always talk about that. Everyone has to be prepared, and that’s what’s happening.”
Defensive ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett are having Pro Bowl-caliber seasons on the edge, aided and abetted by sturdy work inside by Ahtyba Rubin and Brandon Mebane. The linebackers have been solid all year.
Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel characterized Seattle’s pass rush as “relentless. Everyone gets stronger as the games goes on. That’s a good defense — I think everyone in the league knows that.”
But it’s a good reminder to point out, amid the noise created by Seattle’s offensive fireworks, how important that is. And how especially vital it will be to stay there as the season moves into money time.