The Seattle Slew

Seattle Sports. Through thick and thin

Is This Seahawks Defense One of the Best Ever?

 

Superbowl week has arrived.

Wow, the Seahawks are playing in the Superbowl. I think it sunk in sometime late last week, but I still can’t believe that our beloved Seahawks, 2 years after a season where we went a rather pedestrian 7-9.

I think there are 2 big reasons why the feeling in Seattle is different than it was in 2005. For one-its the personality of the team. This team is tough, physical, play with an edge, and oh yeah, are pretty charismatic and outspoken.

I could go into it more, but it’s probably just best (and less work for me) if you checked out one of my earlier articles on the uniqueness of this Seahawks team. The 2005 Seahawks team, let’s just say that, while we were proud, we didn’t quite have the same diversity of personalities on that team.

The other big reason I feel, is that we actually have a pretty damn good chance to win. I mean, a real good chance. I would even throw out of the word “chance” in the statement, and replace it with probability. There’s a very good probability that these Seahawks are going to win this Superbowl. I couldn’t say that in 2005. That year felt like we were just happy to be there, and that winning agianst the Steelers in Detroit in the Jerome Bettis coronation ceremony, complete with hired officiants, was going to be quite the tall task indeed. We, in Seattle, feel very good about this team, and its chances of going into New York, and taking that championship.

And it starts with that defense. 

NFL fans are going to say its sacrilege to compare these Seahawks to some of the great defenses of all time. The purple-people eaters of Minnesota Vikings, the Steel-Wall of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the 85 Chicago Bears, or the 2000 Baltimore Ravens.

For those naysayers, who wouldn’t dare compare a modern team to a great team of the past, I will do my best to not insult you or your great team. However, here’s one fact to chew on: The Seahawks are the first team since the 1985 Bears to win the triple crown of defense: they lead the league in scoring points allowed, yards allowed and turnovers forced. 

According to Football Outsiders, the Seahawks are only the 6th team since they started tracking advanced football statistics, to break the “-40%” mark. What that means in a nutshell, is that they kick ass and take names. Football Outsiders only started tracking advanced statistics since 1991, so its really tough to say how those legendary defenses of old would have stood up to the guys these days, but here’s a quick look at how the 2013 Seahawks stand up to some of the great defenses in modern times:

 

The important colors to look at in that fancy chart are the purples and the greens (lower is better). The 2000 Ravens were really freakin good, and probably deserving of the title of the best defenses in modern times. The 1991 Eagles were also ridiculously good, although history doesn’t really remember them the way they do other defenses. As for the 2013 Seahawks, they are about in the middle of the pack, if you’re talking about the best defenses in the past 25 years. That’s pretty damn good if you think about it. They are on a very short list of teams in 25 years to be ranked somewhere in the top 5 or top 10 defenses statistically.

So on the surface, no, the Seahawks are not quite statistically speaking, in discussion for the best defense ever. But….and that’s a HUGE BUT, I think they very well could be.

First off-if you flashback to that Richard Sherman tip in the endzone to Malcolm Smith for the interception in the NFC Championship game, that is one of the moments that will live in NFL history. Sherman’s comments afterwards make it even more memorable, but on its own, it was a play worthy of its own nickname. The tip? Tip of the Kaep? There’s a lot of different ways that could go. It’s plays like those that define a defense. It gives them an identity, something to remember them by when NFL history looks back on them. And a lot of credit should be given to a defense who comes through in clutch situations, not what they do over the course of the entire regular season. In that sense, they played great against two pretty good offenses in New Orleans Saints and the San Francisco 49ers.

Secondly, in this era of touch football rules, where if you nudge a wide receiver, make contact above the shoulder with a quarterback, or hit a guy with the crown of your helmet you get a penalty, I would say that what the Seahawks have done this year is pretty remarkable. Some fans, especially some salty 49er fans, would tell you that the Seahawks secondary gets away with way too much holding on wide receivers, and therefore are “cheating”. There is very little truth there. A lot of teams get away with a lot, including the 49ers. The Seahawks are just very good with their technique. They do make penalties, but they make smart penalties, and yet are still able to play their style of smashmouth defense.

Lastly and most importantly, the Seahawks defense greatness in historical terms cannot be properly defined yet because they have yet to play in the biggest game on the biggest stage, against one of the greatest offensive teams in NFL history. If these Seahawks, on the back of their great defense, can stop Peyton Manning and the unstoppable Denver Broncos train on the way to their first Superbowl in franchise history, it could be argued that they may go down as one of the best defenses to play the game.

A lot of what happens on the other side of the ball, when the Seahawks are on offense that is, will determine the winner, but if the Seahawks defense can effectively control Peyton Manning, I don’t know how you could make the argument that they are not one of the greatest in history? Peyton Manning is certainly one of the best, if not the best to ever play the game at quarterback, and he’s having one of the best years in his career.

Bottom line: This Seahawk defense is already considered amongst the best in NFL history, but if they want to solidify themselves as one of the greatest, they will need to hoist that Lombardi Trophy on February 2nd.

We will have to wait until Sunday to find out where this Seahawks defense ranks amongst the greatest. Win or lose, the core of the team will still be intact, and they will have plenty more chances to prove it year after year for the foreseeable future. But the first step to greatness starts somewhere, and Sunday would be a good place to start.

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