Yes, the Seahawks took what should have been a certifiable laugher Monday night and instead made fans want to cry more than a few times (especially if they bet the over).
Yes, every opportunity to hasten the anticipated blowout slipped out of the Seahawks’ grasp, until the game wound up, perhaps inevitably, as one of their patented one-score wins.
And, yes, Carson Wentz is a severely deficient quarterback right now. And the Eagles are a damaged team barely staying afloat in a dreary division — hardly the kind of opponent to elicit sweeping generalizations.
But hidden in plain sight in Seattle’s lackluster 23-17 victory that was notable mostly for how non-decisive it was, there was once again the glimmer of something approaching … normalcy in the Seahawks’ defense. And for a team that until two weeks was setting a pace for the most yards allowed in NFL history, normalcy is good. In fact, it’s just delightful.
Even better, if you’re looking down the road to a playoff appearance that now seems a foregone conclusion, is that there were times Monday you could even substitute “dominance” for normalcy. Or “feistiness.” Or, certainly, “burgeoning confidence,” as amplified by someone who oozes that trait, safety Jamal Adams.
“The swagger’s through the roof man,” Adams said. “We’re playing with a lot of swag, we’re playing with a lot of confidence. We know when we step on the field, we’re going to try to take the ball away, we’re going to get a sack, and we’re going to get a pick. And then we’re going to invite everybody to the party, man. That’s what we do.”
For the first 8½ games, it more closely resembled a pity party than anything else. The Seahawks defense was portrayed as the weak link that could very well sabotage their title hopes, and for good reason. Teams were running rampant on them, and they seemed helpless to stem the tide.
But things started to change in the second half of the Rams game, when they held L.A. scoreless after another miserable start in the first half. Then came the well-documented accountability meeting by the defense that led to a stellar performance against Arizona in which they held the No. 1 ranked offense in the league to 100 yards below their average.
That resurgence continued Monday, when Seattle limited Philadelphia to just 250 yards and a deceptive 17 points — it was just nine until that Hail Mary connected for a meaningless score with 12 seconds left in the game.
And yes, I threw out those earlier provisos for a reason. Philadelphia’s offense is stuck in the sort of malaise that gets quarterbacks benched, coaches fired and sports radio hosts on WIP frothing at the mouth.
But for much of the year, favorable matchups and ostensibly weak opponents didn’t stop the Seahawks defense from getting gashed, bashed and otherwise trashed.
So take the signs of continuing progress Monday with a grain of salt, yes, but also with a realization that genuine change is occurring before our very eyes.
It certainly helps that the Seahawks are slowly returning to health, with cornerback Shaquill Griffin the latest starter to come off the injured list. The cohesion and consistency is growing as key players finally get a chance to play with one another for more than a week at a time.
“There were a lot of corrections, other things fixed during the game, a lot of great communication,” coach Pete Carroll said. “We’ve taken a real nice step forward, and I’m hoping that we can just keep building on it.”
The midseason addition of defensive end Carlos Dunlap from Cincinnati has undoubtedly been the most dramatic turning point for the defense; the Seahawks will sweat out the foot injury that knocked him out of the game late in the fourth quarter.
Before Dunlap arrived, the Seahawks had 12 sacks in seven games. After adding six more Monday — with seven players contributing full or half sacks — they have 19 sacks in the four games since Dunlap joined the Seahawks. That’s a stunning turnaround for a team who’s pass rush was rightfully deemed one of Seattle’s glaring weaknesses.
“Kenny’s doing a really nice job of mixing the calls and utilizing the personnel and keeping them off balance, and it’s great that everybody’s benefiting,” Carroll said, referencing much-maligned defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.
The upshot is that as the Seahawks lurch past the first of four consecutive games against subpar opponents, their defense will have a great chance to further solidify before the team reaches the meat of its schedule.
We’ve all seen enough defensive breakdowns this year to know it could all still fall apart against a well-oiled offense run by an elite quarterback — neither of which were within the county line Monday night. But considering the dire results of the first two months, it’s rather amazing to be analyzing a defensive revival that looked like it would never come.
“You know, we’re coming together, man,” Adams said. “Everybody’s getting healthy, we’re starting to understand the defense as a whole. We’re playing together, we’re playing as one. And like I said, from the beginning, we knew what we had. We knew what type of talent we had. It was only a matter of time.
“We understood that people outside, they were going to chirp. But at the end of the day, we knew who we were as a team.”
Speaking on behalf of the outside chirpers, could it turn out that the Seahawks, to paraphrase the late Dennis Green, aren’t who we thought they were?