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Published: Sunday, September 30, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Seahawks' defense may be the best in the NFL

  • Seattle defensive end Bruce Irvin celebrates after sacking Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the first half of the Seahawks' 14-12 win over the P...

    Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

    Seattle defensive end Bruce Irvin celebrates after sacking Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the first half of the Seahawks' 14-12 win over the Packers on Monday night.

A week ago, I wrote:
If Seattle can put up a similar performance tonight against Green Bay, if the Seahawks defense can do what it did against Dallas to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, there will be no ignoring the Seahawks.
Boy was I wrong.
Well, actually, the Seahawks were hard to ignore after Monday's win over the Packers, but not for reasons anyone could have imagined. The thought heading into last week's game was that the Seahawks, whose dominant victory over Dallas was mostly dismissed nationally, would be impossible to overlook if they beat the Packers on Monday Night Football, particularly if their defense once again held up against a potent passing attack.
Well, Seattle did win, and the defense was again impressive, but thanks to a wild, controversial ending to Monday's game, very few people are talking about another dominant performance by what may be the best defense in the NFL.
It's not that Seattle's defense has been entirely overlooked. ESPN's Monday Night Football crew was praising the Seahawks' defense throughout the game until Golden Tate's touchdown catch became the biggest story in sports for the better part of a week, and both Sports Illustrated and the New York Times have written about Seattle's defense this week. But even so, most people outside of Seattle view the Seahawks as a team that is 2-1 because of a fluke call, when in reality the biggest reason for Seattle's 2-1 record is the play of a defense that has given up the fewest points in the NFL through three games.
The Seahawks have allowed 13 points per game, they sacked Rodgers eight times in the first half, and in that win held the Packers to their lowest point and yardage totals since 2010. Last season, the Packers averaged more than four pass plays of 20 or more yards last season, but on Monday they had just one, yet all anyone wants to talk about is whether or not the Seahawks should have been awarded that final touchdown.
"It's kind of frustrating, but we know what we did," said rookie defensive end Bruce Irvin, who had two of those eight sacks. "The only thing that matters are the people in this locker room. We'll get the recognition when it's due, but it was frustrating hearing so much about that one play when we had such a good game as a defense."
The Seahawks, who play in St. Louis today, are trying to open their season with a 3-1 record for the first time since 2007, and if they do, it almost certainly will have a lot to do with what they do on defense. And if a win comes today, and if the defense again shuts down an opposing offense, nobody in Seattle's locker room will worry too much about the amount of attention that comes with another victory.
"You don't get expect to get very much credit, regardless of the outcome," cornerback Richard Sherman said. "I told you guys last week, regardless of the outcome of the (Green Bay) game, we're not going to get the respect we feel like we deserve, but it doesn't really matter to us because we keep it in house, we keep it about us. Our expectations and everything we feel for one another doesn't change regardless of what the outside world thinks, so that's what we keep focused on."
Three games is certainly too small of a sample size to make any sweeping declarations about Seattle's defense. However, based on what the Seahawks did in the second half of last season and what they have done so far this year, it's not a stretch to say this could end up being the best defense in Seahawks' history. The Seahawks have had plenty of other impressive defenses, most notably in 1984, 1991 and 1992, but this one has a chance to be every bit as good, if not better.
What gives this defense the potential to be so good is that it is strong from front to back. The eight sacks against Green Bay showed how potent the combination of Bruce Irvin and Chris Clemons can be, but the sacks also were a product of incredible coverage by what is looking more and more like the best secondary in the NFL.
For the third consecutive year under Pete Carroll, the front seven is incredibly hard to run against, and while the line and the back four have gotten a lot of attention, the linebackers also have proven to be a very solid group. K.J. Wright is playing like a Pro Bowl player, veteran Leroy Hill is still playing at a high level and rookie Bobby Wagner has more than held his own through three games.
"This is the best defense I've played on since I've been in the NFL," said Hill, who was a rookie on Seattle's 2005 Super Bowl squad. "Even the Super Bowl team, we had a good D, but we had an ever better offense. I've played on some pretty decent defenses, but this one is by far the most complete, front to back, that I've ever been a part of, college and everything."
The Seahawks have shut down Tony Romo and Aaron Rodgers in back to back weeks. They'll get plenty more chances to prove themselves against the likes of Tom Brady and the Patriots and the high-powered Lions offense before the midway point of the season. Should Seattle's defense continue to play this way, it should be impossible to ignore, but then again, we said that last week, too.
But hey, this defense doesn't care much about being in the spotlight. It might be the best defense in the NFL, it might be the best in Seahawks history, but they're not going to worry about it if nobody notices.
"We don't care about what people think about us," Clemons said. "We know what we've got in this room. We've never really cared about what people though about us. We understand each other, we hold each other accountable for everything that we do, so that's our thing. For other people to not think about our defense? So what, we don't care."
Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com.

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