Showing posts with label defense. Show all posts
Showing posts with label defense. Show all posts

Monday, September 1, 2014

HAWK BLOGGER 2014 SEASON PREVIEW PART V: Breaking Down The Defense & Special Teams

Photo by Jeff Marsh & the Seattle Seahawks

Defense – Starters

Michael Bennett – 5-Technique DE (over TE)
Brandon Mebane – 1-Technique DT
Tony McDaniel – 3-Technique DT
Cliff Avril – LEO
Bruce Irvin/Mike Morgan* – SAM (Strongside Linebacker)
Bobby Wagner – MIKE (Middle Linebacker)
K.J. Wright – WILL (Weakside Linebacker)
Byron Maxwell* – RCB
Kam Chancellor++ – SS
Earl Thomas++ – FS
Richard Sherman++ – LCB
Jeremy Lane* - Nickel CB

* New starter or new position
+ Pro Bowl
++ All-Pro

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Battle Of The Best: 2013 Seahawks Defense vs. 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers

There have been many stories about what defense stands as the best in the history of the NFL. This series intends to trump them all. The 2013 Seattle Seahawks defense belongs in the conversation for all-time great defenses, but it is unclear exactly how they compare to the legendary 2000 Ravens, 1985 Bears, the vaunted Pittsburgh Steel Curtain and others. One-by-one, I will examine the 2013 Seahawks versus titans of years gone. We will look at numbers that compare apples-to-apples as best as we can across generations and rule changes. It is not clear where the Seahawks stand as we begin. The goal is to be objective and to enjoy the battle. Next up, Jack Lambert and the 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Battle Of The Best: 2013 Seahawks Defense vs. 1969 Minnesota Vikings

There have been many stories about what defense stands as the best in the history of the NFL. This series intends to trump them all. The 2013 Seattle Seahawks defense belongs in the conversation for all-time great defenses, but it is unclear exactly how they compare to the legendary 2000 Ravens, 1985 Bears, the vaunted Pittsburgh Steel Curtain and others. One-by-one, I will examine the 2013 Seahawks versus titans of years gone. We will look at numbers that compare apples-to-apples as best as we can across generations and rule changes. It is not clear where the Seahawks stand as we begin. The goal is to be objective and to enjoy the battle. Next up, the 1969 Minnesota Vikings. The Purple People Eaters.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Different Measures Of Greatness

The Battle Of The Best series has spurred a bunch of conversation on and off this site. That is always good to see. Football Outsiders was promoting their own measure of the all-time great NFL defenses on their site today.  The differences between their results and mine thus far illuminate the differences in what each is designed to measure. They have the 2002 Bucs ahead of the 2013 Seahawks, and the 2000 Ravens do not even make the top twenty. Which rankings are better? Neither. And here is why.

Battle Of The Best: 2013 Seahawks Defense vs 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

There have been many stories about what defense stands as the best in the history of the NFL. This series intends to trump them all. The 2013 Seattle Seahawks defense belongs in the conversation for all-time great defenses, but it is unclear exactly how they compare to the legendary 2000 Ravens, 1985 Bears, the vaunted Pittsburgh Steel Curtain and others. One-by-one, I will examine the 2013 Seahawks versus titans of years gone. We will look at numbers that compare apples-to-apples as best as we can across generations and rule changes. It is not clear where the Seahawks stand as we begin. The goal is to be objective and to enjoy the battle. Next up, Warren Sapp and the 2002 Tampa Bay Bucs.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Battle Of The Best: 2013 Seahawks Defense vs. 1985 Chicago Bears

There have been many stories about what defense stands as the best in the history of the NFL. This series intends to trump them all. The 2013 Seattle Seahawks defense belongs in the conversation for all-time great defenses, but it is unclear exactly how they compare to the legendary 2000 Ravens, 1985 Bears, the vaunted Pittsburgh Steel Curtain and others. One-by-one, I will examine the 2013 Seahawks versus titans of years gone. We will look at numbers that compare apples-to-apples as best as we can across generations and rule changes. It is not clear where the Seahawks stand as we begin. The goal is to be objective and to enjoy the battle. Next up, Mike Singletary and the 1985 Chicago Bears.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Battle Of The Best: 2013 Seahawks Defense vs. 2000 Ravens Defense

There have been many stories about what defense stands as the best in the history of the NFL. This series intends to trump them all. The 2013 Seattle Seahawks defense belongs in the conversation for all-time great defenses, but it is unclear exactly how they compare to the legendary 2000 Ravens, 1985 Bears, the vaunted Pittsburgh Steel Curtain and others. One-by-one, I will examine the 2013 Seahawks versus titans of years gone. We will look at numbers that compare apples-to-apples as best as we can across generations and rule changes. It is not clear where the Seahawks stand as we begin. The goal is to be objective and to enjoy the battle. First up, Ray Lewis and the 2000 Baltimore Ravens.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Seahawks Free Agency Round-Up: State Of the Defense

These are the weeks Twitter was made for. The avalanche of free agent news coming down across the league was captivating. Rumors and theories became confirmed reports and signed deals. Players re-signed. Players moved. Players agreed to terms, and then found themselves back on the street after the team got cold feet. Seattle has yet to add any new names to the roster, while a number of familiar faces have moved on. That has a few Seahawks fans squirming. This is a good time to take stock of where the Seahawks roster is still strong, and where it would be wise to augment it. We will start on the defensive side of the ball.

Monday, January 27, 2014

SUPER BOWL: Projecting Peyton Manning Vs The Seahawks

Peyton Manning is a master of his trade. Nobody plays the quarterback position better. He identifies and exploits defensive weaknesses better than anyone who has ever played the game. His mental acuity is so great that he is setting league records even as his physical abilities are on the decline. Everyone wants to see how he will match up against the best defense in the NFL and a secondary that some believe deserve to be mentioned among the greatest of all-time as well. Of course, playing the game is the only way to know for sure, but we can have a little fun looking at some clues beforehand.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Seahawks 2013 Defense Historically Great

Back in June and July, I published some research on some of the best defenses in the history of the NFL. The goal was to go beyond raw statistics, and try to measure defenses relative to the era and season they played in. The Steel Curtain is among the most famous defenses ever, but benefitted greatly from playing during the lowest scoring stretch of seasons in NFL history. As good as the Seahawks defense was last year, leading the league in opponent scoring (15.3) and finishing third in the NFL in opponent passer rating (71.8), the findings of my research indicated they had a long way to go before deserving mention with the all-time greats. Fourteen games into this season, the distance has closed.

Greatest Scoring Defenses

Scoring has reached an all-time high this season

My assumption when I started the research was that there would be a gradual rise in scoring throughout NFL history. Not so. The 60s had their share of points, but offenses went to pot in the 70s. ColdHardFootballFacts.com calls this the "dead ball" era of the NFL. Things picked up in the 80s with the advent of the West Coast Offense, but stayed relatively flat until a couple years ago. There are plenty of guesses to be made about why scoring has picked up recently, but for our purposes, the only thing that matters is that scoring is going way up.

That matters because just taking a snap shot of the defenses who have help opponents to the lowest totals in history tells a tainted story.


Note that six of the top ten scoring defenses played in the 70s. To factor in the context for what types of offenses these defenses faced, I calculated the standard deviation for scoring in each season. Having that number allows us to see just how exceptional a defense was relative to the amount of scoring that was going on that year.


You can see from these numbers that a team like the 2002 Bucs jumps way up the charts because their accomplishment stood out more given the scoring that was happening that season. The mix of defenses from different decades is far greater when looking at things through this lens. 

The 2012 Seahawks, despite playing in one of the highest scoring seasons in NFL history, were only -1.6 standard deviations off the norm. That is a solid showing, but not necessarily hanging with the best. The 2013 Seahawks defense has allowed 14.6 ppg through fourteen games. The league is scoring more than it ever has. Those two things combine to put Seattle at -2.2 deviations from the norm. That puts them right around the top ten in NFL history, and just a skosh behind the famous 1985 Chicago Bears (-2.3). 

16 of the top 30 scoring defenses in history made it to the championship game (even before it was the Super Bowl), with 12 coming away victorious
No team has ever allowed fewer points per game than the Seahawks current 14.6 in a season when the average league scoring was 22.5 or greater.

Greatest Pass Defenses

The Seahawks Legion of Boom gets plenty of publicity, and deservedly so. Each starter has either made the Pro Bowl or All-Pro team, and the three corners that come in as substitutions have proven themselves worthy of starting roles. There are plenty of advanced stat gurus that dismiss the classic passer rating as a flawed statistic. It does not take into account situation, rushing yards or sacks. The QBR stat that has become popular lately, does not go back far enough to be useful for this exercise, so passer rating will have to do.


Once again, offenses are on a tear. Passer rating follows a much more predictable and consistent climb as teams mastered the forward pass. It should come as no surprise, then, that any team that could field a great pass defense after 1980 stands a pretty good chance to rank among the greats in pass defense when factoring in standard deviation. The ugly chart below includes those results.



Seattle would have finished 44th on this list in 2012, as they were -1.52 deviations below the norm. Decent, but not great. This season's defense has made a sizable climb in the ranks at -1.70 deviations below the norm. That puts them just outside the top 30 at #32. Still not elite, but when added to the scoring numbers, it becomes clear that mentioning them with some of the all-time greats is not absurd.

The 2013 pass defense would rank far higher if not for what is the largest standard deviation (11.5) of any season in the NFL. The difference between the best passing teams and the worst passing teams has never been greater, and that makes it harder to separate yourself from the pack. If the deviation was the same 7.9 it was last season, this Seahawks unit would rate as one of the five best pass defenses in history.

Finishing Strong

Seattle has two games remaining, and can improve their standing in both aspect of their defense. If the Seahawks were able to hold the Cardinals and the Rams to 17 points combined, they would lower their points per game to 13.8, and push their rank near the top five in history in terms of standard deviations from the league average. 

They could realistically lower their opponent passer rating near 60, and climb into the top ten, and possibly even the top five in NFL history. 

People respect this Seahawks defense, and most refer to it as the best in the NFL this year. More people need to start recognizing their place in NFL history.

Monday, September 30, 2013

When 476 Yards Is a Great Performance On Defense

Everybody knows the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. They are widely considered to be one of the best defenses in the history of football. They were so good, Trent Dilfer could play quarterback and they could win a Super Bowl. The Seahawks defense has started to be discussed as one of the great units in the NFL, and potentially even historic. The immediate reaction to seeing they surrendered 20 first half points and 476 yards of offense to the Texans is that they are not as good as advertised. There is a case to be made that their performance should raise expectations, not lower them.

Even that Ravens defense had days like what the Seahawks saw on Sunday. The second game of the 2000 season saw the Mark Brunell-led Jacksonville Jaguars pile up 421 yards and a 17-0 lead. The final game of that season had Vinny Testeverde throw for 481 yards while his team piled up 524 yard total and take a 14-0 lead. The Ravens won both of those games. A defense that allowed just over 10 ppg, gave up 20 or more three times that year. Baltimore won all three.

The Seahawks defense had moments of trial just a year ago. Five times, the team had a slim fourth quarter lead on the road. Four times, they could not pass the test. A team that prides itself on finishing was not living the words. The point could not have been driven home any more painfully than seeing their season end in such a manner.

Twice so far in 2013, the Seahawks have needed to hold their opponent down at the end to win the game. Twice they have succeeded. Sundays win over Houston could not have been a more emphatic statement that this defense is no longer a late-game liability. They went beyond proving that point and notched their first true defensive win.

Of course there are three parts of each team, but their contribution to victory varies from week-to-week. Take a look at what Seattle's defense did against the Texans:


  • Red zone interception (3-7 points)
  • Forced fumble and recovery deep in Texans territory (3 points)
  • Interception return for touchdown to tie game (7 points)
  • Held Texans to 53 yards on 16 carries for a 3.3 YPC in the second half and OT
  • Held Texans to 99 yards passing, including all four of their sacks for -30 yards in the second half and OT
  • Held Texans to 152 total yards for a 3.6 yards per play average in the second half and OT
  • Kept Houston from scoring on eight straight possessions after halftime
  • Got the crowd to boo their own team while they were still ahead
Pete Carroll loves to talk about how important the finish is, and to put less emphasis on the start. Never has a better case been made to illustrate his point. The 324 yards in the first half and the ugly 476 yards of total offense said so much less about this defense than what they did after the half. If getting torched by an opponent on the road results in 20 points, Seahawks fans should rejoice. Only seven teams allowed an average of less than 20 ppg in 2012. 

Seattle may need to win with their defense again. The offense is pock-marked with injuries, and has yet to find a stride. The offense, though, has proved that it will come back if given the opportunity. It was the defense that needed to prove their mettle. Not prove it to fans or pundits. Not even prove it to coaches or their teammates on offense. They needed to prove it to themselves. The difference between confidence and hope is proof. Seahawks defenders no longer need to hope they can hold down a good offense in the clutch. They have done it. 

It was also a good reminder for defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. 'Tis better to lose with a sword in your hand than a shield. He traded zone coverage and four-man pressure in the first half for man coverage and more blitzes in the second. He has hunters now. They are only useful when set upon their prey. 

This week may well see the first time that Bruce Irvin, Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril, and Michael Bennett are all able to take the field. Jordan Hill should be back soon and provide some rotational value. Clinton McDonald is a man possessed. The best defense in the NFL is getting closer to full strength, and now they know how to close out a game in hostile environments. You can take your 476 yards of offense and 20 first-half points. We will take the best defense in football.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Hawk Blogger 2013 Season Preview Part V: Defense & Special Teams

HAWK BLOGGER 2013 SEASON PREVIEW PART V: Breaking Down The Defense & Special Teams


Defense – Starters

Red Bryant – 5-Technique DE (over TE)
Brandon Mebane – 1-Technique DT
Tony McDaniel* – 3-Technique DT
Chris Clemons/Cliff Avril/O'Brien Schofield – LEO
Bruce Irvin/Malcolm Smith* – SAM (Strongside Linebacker)
Bobby Wagner – MIKE (Middle Linebacker)
K.J. Wright* – WILL (Weakside Linebacker)
Brandon Browner – RCB
Kam Chancellor – SS
Earl Thomas++ – FS
Richard Sherman++ – LCB

* New starter or new position
+ Pro Bowl
++ All-Pro

Defense – Running Game

Pete Carroll's first two significant moves on defense when he arrived was to put Red Bryant on the edge as a defensive end and to put Aaron Curry right night to him as a SAM linebacker. One player earned a hefty new contract. The other recently retired. Both moves were done with an eye on slowing the opponent run game, priority one in any defense. The results were initially dramatic. Seattle became one of the toughest teams to run on in the NFL early in 2010 until injuries to the defensive line crippled them. The formula appeared sound, though, and played out terrifically in 2011 when Seattle finished 4th in the NFL in opponent yards per carry. That run dominance coupled with an emerging secondary set the team up for a great 2012, but a terrific start decayed to some of the worst rush defense performances of the Carroll era. Opponents averaged a soul-stomping 162 yards rushi
ng per game and 5.9 yards per carry during one four game stretch. Allowing opponents to run roughshod over your defense is not generally considered a wise strategy if winning is the goal. Yet, Seattle did exactly that in 2012. They lost only one game in the last eight, despite inferior run defense.

In fact, the Seahawks miraculously surrendered fewer points (16.1 ppg) in games when they allowed opponents to rush for more than 4.0 yards per carry than they did (16.6 ppg) when opponents averaged 4.0 ypc or less. The odds are against that phenomenon continuing. Seattle's run defense is the biggest question mark on the team, not the pass rush as many would default to. The team had trouble defending the run last season, and have only added Tony McDaniel to the mix in a role that would have impact on run defense along the defensive line. No aspect of this team has a wider spectrum of possible results. Seattle could finish with a top five run defense, or it could be what keeps them from contending. Teams like San Francisco and Houston will surely test the middle. Look for the front office to continue tinkering at defensive tackle to find a player who can stand up at the point of attack.


Defense – Passing Game

Only a secondary as talented as this one could have held opposing quarterbacks to a 71.8 passer rating (3rd in the NFL), and 6th-fewest passes over 20 yards (40) last year given the mediocrity of the pass rush. It was a truly elite performance. The 2010 squad gave up an 89.7 passer rating and a 31st-ranked 71 pass plays. Gone are the days when Seahawks fans needed to cover their eyes when tall receiver lined up across from Seattle cornerbacks. The team took a page out of their run defense approach and took players that normally would be found roaming the middle of the field, and put them on the outside to lean on receivers. The result has been stunning. All four players are Pro Bowl-caliber, and each has All-Pro potential. The only thing holding this group back from completely dismantling opposing offenses is a consistent pass rush. The front office made numerous moves with an eye on improving that part of the team. Results were mixed in pre-season. The goal here should be a Top 10 finish in sacks, and the best opponent passer rating in the NFL (likely sub-70.0).


Defensive Line

Red Bryant is due a $3M roster bonus in 2014, according to Overthecap.com. He better plan on earning it this year, because it is far from a given at this point. He is the closest thing to a dominant player on this line when he is at his best. The wreckage he causes in the run game is Justin Smith-esque. He was not the same player last season, but has looked great in practice so far this year. Pre-season games were not as encouraging. His partner in crime, Brandon Mebane, was dominant early in 2012, but wore down considerably as the season went on. There is questionable depth behind him at nose tackle this year, so that will be something to watch again. McDaniel could be a monster addition if he can stay healthy, something he has not done much in his NFL career. Should McDaniel go down, this run defense may go down with him. Seattle traded for D'Anthony Smith from Jacksonville late, so there is no way to evaluate his ability to help the team.

Michael Bennett was a surprise free agent signing, and immediately becomes the most disruptive player on the line. He can play LEO or 5-tech, but his most impactful position is 3-technique in the nickel defense. He is lightning quick off the ball and tenacious. He should be the biggest different in generating pressure along the line. Cliff Avril is a speed edge player, but has been injured. He only rushed from one side of the line in Detroit, so his lack of practice rushing from both edges in training camp is a concern. He knows how to get to the passer, and appears to be a pro in terms of preparation and technique. Chris Clemons coming back quickly from his knee injury last season is a huge bonus. It is not hard to argue that Clemons return is a bigger gain to the defense than losing Percy Harvin was a loss to the offense. Jordan Hill is a try-hard interior lineman that has great hands, and should assist in pass rush rotations. Benson Mayowa is a talented diamond in the rough that flashed in the pre-season, but needs to prove he can make an impact versus NFL starters. The embarrassment of riches in terms of edge rushers and disruptive interior players means the pass rush can only improve.


Linebackers

Remember when half of the defenses cap number was dedicated to Lofa Tatupu, Leroy Hill and Aaron Curry? The combination of Malcolm Smith or Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright make around $2M combined. Wagner has the look of a guy that is going to make a major step forward after nearly winning the defensive rookie of the year last season. He had 11 "impact" plays in 2012. I define an impact play on defense as tackle for loss, interception, forced fumble or sack. It would not be shocking to see that number climb to 18 or more this year. Wright is in a key season where he seems to have plateaued as a solid, but not Pro Bowl-caliber, linebacker. His contract can be extended after this season. I doubt that happens if his play does not show a marked improvement. Wright looked primed for a breakout season last year, but it never materialized. He is in a prime position to put up big numbers as the WILL this year, but has not looked comfortable there so far.

SAM is the town bicycle of this defense. Everyone is taking it for a ride. Bruce Irvin is the presumptive starter, but Smith will get a lot of snaps there, as will O'Brien Schofield. Irvin looks promising, but his tendency to follow the ball instead of maintaining the edge to contain cutbacks could prove his undoing in run defense. Schofield looks like a great get off waivers, and should factor into the game plan at both SAM and LEO regularly.

There may never have been better depth at linebacker than what Seattle breaks camp with this year. Allen Bradford is a starting caliber MIKE. John Lotulelei will be one of the best special teams players on the squad, and may be an eventual starter at WILL. Mike Morgan can backup all three linebacker spots and play LEO.


Secondary

There will be no free passes against this secondary. They are smart, fast, physical, and oozing with confidence. The only thing closer to NFL wide receivers than their new Nike jerseys will be these cornerbacks. Do yourself a favor and spend a few plays following each of these corners, regardless of where the ball goes. They are both influencing the outcome of more snaps than most realize. Brandon Browner looks ready to return to the Pro Bowl, and Richard Sherman has a real shot at defensive player of the year honors. Earl Thomas is the most valuable player on the defense. He has the potential to be the best safety in all of football, and earned 1st team All-Pro honors last season to prove it. The missing ingredient is impact plays. He has effected the game largely by eliminating throws from quarterbacks. It is hard to truly shine when teams throw away from you. The great ones find a way. Thomas enters his fourth season needing to up his game to the elite level. Kam Chancellor made a ton of plays in 2011, but faded last year. His impact plays were down. The hope is that surgery for bone spurs in his ankles in the off-season will help him return to form. Walter Thurmond III represents the single biggest upgrade at any position on the team, offense or defense. He is replacing Marcus Trufant as the nickel corner, and has greatness ahead of him. Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane are starting-caliber corners for many NFL teams. Just not this one.


Special Teams – Coverage & Kicking

Special teams will be the Seahawks secret weapon in 2013. Steven Hauschka has been nails all training camp, and Carroll appears more willing to let him kick field goals beyond 50 yards. Jon Ryan is always dependable, and the coverage teams look stellar after being among the best in football last season. This group could be the difference in a very tightly contested NFC West. 


Defense – Overall 2013 Outlook

Savor every moment this defense takes the field. It already belongs in the conversation with the best this franchise has ever had to offer, and has the potential to be the best in the NFL. They were, by almost any measure, a top five defense last year. They return with significant reinforcements, experience, and added confidence. Repeating as the best scoring defense in the NFL should be the goal, with an improved performance in pass pressure and takeaways. The Achilles heel for a seemingly impenetrable unit has been quick, ball-control, passing games. Disruptive pressure up the middle will be key to interrupting that rhythm, as will effective press coverage on the outside. Teams will struggle to go over the top with big plays. It will require discipline over the full length of the field to end up with points, and the length across the board will make red zone offense even more challenging. Defensive line play will determine the upside. If Irvin, Schofield, Clemons, Avril, Bennett, Hill, McDaniel and others can wreak havoc with a four-man pass rush, the sky is the limit. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Seahawks Secondary Remains Underrated

Seattle has the best secondary in the NFL. The evidence continues to mount that this is a unit that no quarterback wants to face, even if the national recognition remains elusive and the local attention is inconsistent.

Many Seattle radio stations have belittled the last two Seahawks secondary efforts, as they came against questionable competition. Christian Ponder is just a second year player, and Mark Sanchez is a disaster, right? All Ponder did the week after his loss to the Seahawks was go 24-32 for 221 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions in a 34-24 win over Detroit. The week before the game against Seattle, Ponder threw for 251 yards and a touchdown. Sanchez followed his game against the Seahawks by going 15-20 for 178 yards, 1 touchdown and zero interceptions for a 118.3 rating. Elite secondaries punish weaker opposition. Ponder and Sanchez are more than capable of rising up and winning a game. The fact that the did not do that against Seattle deserves praise, not indifference.

The Seattle secondary has not just prayed on the weak. They have faced three of the top four rated passers in the NFL in Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Alex Smith. Rodgers and Brady had their lowest-rated games of the year against Seattle, and Smith had his second-lowest. Brady had another stellar game yesterday when he threw for another three touchdowns with zero interceptions. He has thrown one interception all season when playing teams not named Seattle. The Seahawks intercepted him twice, and certainly should have had at least one more when Earl Thomas dropped a pick-six in the end zone. Brady's touchdown-to-interception ratio against the rest of the NFL is 19:1 this year, and was 2:2 against the Seahawks. His passer rating is 106.6 against the rest of the league, and was 79.3 versus Seattle.

Rodgers has 27 touchdowns on the year, for an average of 3.0 in games against the rest of the NFL. He had a goose egg in Seattle. Say what you want about the Golden Tate touchdown at the end of that game, but it there was nothing controversial about the Seahawks shutting Rodgers out of the end zone. His rating against Seattle was 81.5. It is 110.5 against the rest of the NFL, including 93.3 against the 49ers, 85.3 against the Bears, and 133.8 against the Texans.

Smith is completing 71.1% of his passes against the rest of the league, but managed just 61% versus the Seahawks. His rating was 74.5 when facing the Seahawks, and 107.6 against the rest of the NFL.

This Seahawks secondary is worth every ounce of hype they had going into the season, and deserve more recognition for what they have done. The one element that has been missing has been more takeaways, and there is reason to believe quarterbacks like Ryan Tannehill, Jay Cutler, Ryan Fitzpatrick and John Skelton/Ryan Lindley/Kevin Kolb will be in a giving mood in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Defense To Be Proud Of

The headline read "Seahawks defense showing signs of decline," in the Seattle Times sports section today. Danny O'Neill wrote a factual article that described how poorly the Seahawks defense has performed against the run in the last ten quarters, when compared to the first six-and-a-half games of the season. Mike Salk has been leading the "this defense is not elite" charge on the radio since last weeks loss in Detroit. It is understandable. Seattle set a high bar. You may be surprised, however, how impressive Seattle's results are when additional context is layered into the picture. People are tossing the "elite" label out the window far too soon, and far too easily.

It is true that Seattle is giving up more yards rushing in the last three games than any other team in the NFL. It's also true that Seattle has faced the #1 and #5 rushing offenses in the NFL during that span. One might wonder whether Seattle's defense helped their opponents rise to those lofty rankings. The 49ers rushed for 175 yards against Seattle, only six yards over their season average. The Vikings are averaging over 7.0 yards per carry in their past three games. Seattle clearly got beat on rush defense in the Vikings game, even with context added. They also got beat by the best running back in football, who is playing the best he has in years. The total picture is important to examine as well in those games. The 49ers game, in particular, seems to be chalked up to a bad game for the defense. That bad game resulted in 13 points, on the road, to an offense that had been ranked #1 in the NFL only six days earlier. The Vikings scored a disputed three points after halftime, and finished with less than 290 yards of offense, fourth-worst in the NFL this week. Even the Lions game, where the defense played poorly by almost any measure, there seems to be a lack of respect among Seahawks fans for a Lions offense that ranks #2 in the NFL in yards per game. They got beat on the road by a great offense. It happens.

Further, look at where Seattle ranks after nine games in key defensive measures. They are #3 in opponent points/game, #4 in opponent yards/game, and #6 in yards/play. They have reached those ranks despite played some of the top offenses in football in the first nine games. Seattle has gone up against the #1, #9, #12 and #14 offenses in points/game, the #1, #2, #6, and #13 offenses in yards/game, and the #2, #7, #9, #10, and #11 offenses in yards/play. Those top five defensive rankings for Seattle have not been earned against patsies.

Those performances have put Seattle in position to end the season as the #1 defense in football. Take a look at how the rankings compare for opponent offense from the first nine games versus the final seven:



The best offense Seattle faces in the last seven games of the year is San Francisco at home. The Bears score a lot of points, but a significant chunk of that is coming from their defense. Seattle only faces one of the Top 13 scoring teams in the last 7 games of the year. They play two of the Top 14. The rest rank 18 or lower. The top-ranked opponent the rest of the year in total yards is #13 (SF). All the others rank #21 or worse.

If the Seahawks rank #3 in scoring defense and #4 in opponent yards/game after their schedule through nine games, it stands to reason they will climb higher in those rankings with their final opponents. Seattle has also managed these rankings while getting almost no takeaways (~1 per game) and supporting a struggling offense. Things could look very different if Seattle's offense continues to improve and the takeaways start to come. The defense could even play worse on a per play basis, but see their overall numbers improve if the offense and takeaways are keeping opponents off the field.

It is logical to be disappointed with aspects of the Seahawks defense the last few games. It is far too early to write them off as merely "very good." There is a reasonable path to a #1 overall rank for this defense in 2012, and that's plenty elite for me.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Great Defense Unfamiliar To Green Bay Offense

The research for this article started with the premise that the Green Bay Packers offense is irrepressible. Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback, and possibly best player, in the NFL. The wide receiver corps is stacked from top-to-bottom. Jermichael Finley is a tight end with rare talent. Anyone that has seen Rodgers operate knows he specializes in back-shoulder throws that appear almost impossible to defend. He also can defeat good coverage by running the ball himself. The running game has been modest, but it is hard to be critical when there is touchdown potential in every single throw. There is plenty of evidence to support just how dominant this offense is, but how does it perform against top-flight defenses? It was surprising to see how few great defenses have lined up to try and stop the Packer attack. The few times it has happened have resulted in less-than-explosive results.

Green Bay scored over 30 points eleven times in 2011 and over 40 points six times. They averaged 35.0 points per game. Insane. Were the results the same when facing a Top 10 defense? They did not face one. They did not go up against any of the Top 10 teams in opponent scoring. They did not face a Top 10 team in opponent yards per game. They did not face a Top 10 team in yards per play. The best two defenses they faces were the Chicago Bears and Kansas City Chiefs.

The Bears ranked 14th in yards per play, 14th in points against, 17th in yards against. The Chiefs ranked 11th in yards against, 12th in points against, and 15th in yards per play. One important place where the Chiefs and Bears did rank in the Top 10 was opponent passer rating, where the Bears ranked 8th and the Chiefs were 7th.

Green Bay and Chicago played twice last season, and once already this season. The Packers won all three games by an average of 12 points, or slightly less than their seasonal average of thirteen. The Packers scored an average of 28 points in those games.

The Chiefs were the one team to beat the Packers in the regular season. Kansas City was one of only two teams to hold the Packers under 250 yards passing in 2011. The other, San Diego, lost by one touchdown in a game when they lost the turnover battle 3-0.

Moving into this season, the Packers faced their first true Top 10 defense in the 49ers. San Francisco's 2011 defense was 6th in yards per play, 2nd in points against, 4th in yards against, and 5th in passer rating against. The Packers lost. It should be noted that the 49ers and Chiefs were the only two teams in the last twenty-six Packer games, dating back to 2010, to go without a turnover. Good defense and low turnovers should sound familiar to Seahawks fans.

The Seahawks ended 2011 with a defense that was 7th in yards per play, 7th in points against, 9th in yards against, and 6th in opponent passer rating. It should be noted that the team's opponent passer rating number was even better after Richard Sherman entered the lineup.

Still, watching the Aaron Rodgers run that Packers offense makes stopping it seem impossible. Rodgers has started 71 games since 2008, including the post-season. His passer rating has been over 95.0 in all but 23 of those games. Only six quarterbacks in the NFL (Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Tony Romo, Mathew Stafford, Matt Schaub) had a passer rating over 95.0 last season. Two of those 23 sub-95.0 games for Rodgers came in the first two games of this season. The Packers have gone 9-14 in those 23 games.

Rodgers only had two such games in 2011. Guess who they were against? The Bears and the Chiefs. This year, they were against the Bears and the 49ers.

It is hard to imagine slowing down this Packers offense, but there are some signs this Seahawks defense may be well-equipped to take on the task.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Seahawks Defense Must Dominate

Imagine the way discussion leading up to Sunday's Seahawks vs. Cardinals game would be different if it was the Steelers, 49ers or Ravens defense stepping on the field instead of the Seahawks. There would still be all the same questions about Russell Wilson starting his first game and whether Marshawn Lynch would be healthy enough to play, but would anyone really doubt the outcome? Not likely. Those defenses are the best in football and no matter how dysfunctional the offense was, the Cardinals would never score enough points to win the game. The Seahawks defense wants to be mentioned in the same breath with best. Step one will be winning this game on Sunday on their own.

Understand this is not assuming the Seahawks offense will be a disaster this weekend. Instead, it is about the Seahawks defense growing up and suffocating an opponent unable to fight back. Seattle enters the game with a healthy defense and faces an offensive line that is wracked with injury and inexperience. John Skelton may prove to be an acceptable quarterback, but will certainly not be one of the top ten players this defense faces at the position this season.

Eleven of the twelve Seahawks starters on defense played the same role on the team a season ago. There are new additions to the pass rush that must show up immediately. Jason Jones, Bruce Irvin, and maybe even Jaye Howard (with Greg Scruggs) need to get theirs this game. People want to believe great pass rushers get their sacks evenly across the season. They often get them in bunches against overmatched opponents. This is one of those games.

The Cardinals will almost certainly run max protection on many pass plays where they keep in a tight end and a running back to help block. Their hope will be that Larry Fitzgerald will be able to make up for the loss of receiving options, and it is a fair bet. Seahawks fans have become accustomed to seeing a quarterback sit back in the pocket patting the ball and scanning the field until someone finally comes open. Gus Bradley may choose to drop a bunch of players into coverage from the get-go. This will be another area the team needs to show growth.

I have not been able to find a site that tracks how many sacks a team got when rushing only three men, but Seattle had to have been near the bottom. Rushing three men should mean it is harder to get to the passer, and may take longer. It should not mean the quarterback gets indefinite time to make a throw. Jones will be a major part of combating that issue.

The Cardinals were 28th in the NFL in turnovers, 24th in scoring, and 24th in rushing yards last season. There is no credible case to be made for why they should be better this year. The Seahawks did not lose a game last season when they held the opposing quarterback under a 70.0 passer rating. Skelton should not sniff that if the defense does its part.

An acceptable outcome would be 9 points or less, 270 total yards or less, six quarterback hits, and at least two turnovers. It is time for this defense to eliminate the hope of victory from opponents. If Wilson or Lynch are the storyline on Sunday, than the defense has not done its job.





Monday, September 3, 2012

Seahawks 2012 Season Preview Part V: Breaking Down The Defense & Special Teams

HAWK BLOGGER 2012 SEASON PREVIEW PART V: Breaking Down The Defense & Special Teams

Defense – Starters

Red Bryant – LDE
Brandon Mebane – DT
Alan Branch – DT
Chris Clemons – RDE
K.J. Wright – SAM (Strongside Linebacker)
Bobby Wagner* – MIKE (Middle Linebacker)
Leroy Hill – WILL (Weakside Linebacker)
Brandon Browner** – RCB
Kam Chancellor** – SS
Earl Thomas** – FS
Richard Sherman – LCB

* New starter or new position
** Pro Bowl

Defense – Running Game

Many coaches will say the most important element for a defense in any game is to stop the run first. Seattle built an entire defense with that premise in mind. It has been two years of dominant run stopping for the Seahawks when the defensive line has been healthy. The basic premise has been simple. Instead of the typical two boulders in the middle of the line, Seattle decided to add a third. Right tackles and tight ends around the league are not accustomed to facing what is essentially a defensive tackle. This has allowed the Seahawks to seal the edge with regularity and force most runs back into the teeth of the defense. Seattle's front seven returns six starters from a group that finished 4th in the NFL in rush defense (as judged by yards per carry). That finish could have been even higher if the offense and pass defense were not as suspect early in the season. Even great run defense wear down. A more capable offense that holds onto the ball for longer and puts up more points will give this defense a chance to be the best in the NFL defending the run.

Defense – Passing Game

Only a secondary as talented as this one could have held opposing quarterbacks to a 74.8 passer rating (6th in then NFL), and 2nd-fewest passes over 20 yards (43) last year given the mediocrity of the pass rush. It was a truly stunning performance. The 2010 squad gave up an 89.7 passer rating and a 31st-ranked 71 pass plays. Gone are the days when Seahawks fans needed to cover their eyes when tall receiver lined up across from Seattle cornerbacks. The team took a page out of their run defense approach and took players that normally would be found roaming the middle of the field, and put them on the outside to lean on receivers. The result has been stunning. All four players are Pro Bowl-caliber, and each has All-Pro potential. The only thing holding this group back from completely dismantling opposing offenses is a consistent pass rush. The front office made numerous moves with an eye on improving that part of the team. Results were mixed in pre-season. The goal here should be a Top 10 finish in sacks, and the best opponent passer rating in the NFL (likely sub-70.0).

Defense – Defensive Line

Fans, by now, know the names Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane, Alan Branch and Chris Clemons. They started almost every game last season and mauled opposing lines and running backs. They should match that performance again this year. The upside to this group comes with the new weapons that can mixed in at appropriate moments. Jason Jones should be the most disruptive interior lineman the Seahawks have put on the field since John Randle. Bruce Irvin is a nuclear missile that is having a guidance system installed while in flight. His physical gifts and motor are fantastic. He enters the season with the potential to eclipse 10 sacks even while still learning how to play at this level. Greg Scruggs looks like he could be another John Schneider diamond found in the late rounds of the draft. He is all about getting up-field, and did it regularly in pre-season. Jaye Howard was another draft choice in the interior that started emerging as the pre-season wound down. Irvin will get a lot of attention as a compliment to Clemons on the edge, but the additions of Jones, Scruggs and Howard may end up having the greatest impact. This group needs to find a way to get pass pressure on first and second downs without the benefit of a blitz. They were near the bottom of the NFL in that category last season. That will be the key to unlocking the full potential of this overall defense.

Defense – Linebackers

Remember when half of the defenses cap number was dedicated to Lofa Tatupu, Leroy Hill and Aaron Curry? Those days are behind the franchise, but identifying top-shelf impact linebackers remains a work-in-progress. K.J. Wright had a promising rookie season, and can play both middle and SAM linebacker. The team loves him at SAM, and he was among the most impressive players in training camp. He returned bigger, more confident and hungry. He wants to be great, and has the tools to do it. This may be the year Wright breaks out. Bobby Wagner is a physically gifted rookie who takes over for David Hawthorne. He is surrounded by experienced players, so the hope is that he can focus on finding the football. His best talent may be in coverage where he can get exceptionally deep drops due to his speed, and can also break on the ball in a blur. He needs to prove he can stuff running plays in the hole. Making tackles 3-5 yards down the field will not cut it. Hill returns as the capable veteran. Do not be surprised if you see younger players like Malcolm Smith get some reps to insert more speed on the field. Smith and Mike Morgan add some speed to the back-up corps, and Heath Farwell is a special teams ace who made strides at middle linebacker. Wagner is setup to have a solid rookie season. If he can be better than that, it would be a bonus to an already stacked defense.

Defense – Secondary

There will be no free passes against this secondary. They are smart, fast, physical, and oozing with confidence. The only thing closer to NFL wide receivers than their new Nike jerseys will be these cornerbacks. Much was made of the penalties incurred by Browner and Sherman. What many people never saw was the pass routes that never materialized because of the physical play from these guys. The TV will not show players tangled up that are not involved with the action. Do yourself a favor and spend a few plays following each of these corners, regardless of where the ball goes. They are both influencing the outcome of more snaps than most realize. Browner finished the year 2nd in the NFL in interceptions and 1st in passes defensed. Sherman was 32nd in interceptions and 11th in passes defensed, despite only starting for just over half a season. Earl Thomas is the best player on the entire team. He has the potential to be the best safety in all of football. The missing ingredient is impact plays. He has effected the game largely by eliminating throws from quarterbacks. It is hard to truly shine when teams throw away from you. The great ones find a way. Thomas enters his third season needing to up his game to the elite level. Kam Chancellor made a ton of plays last season, and will continue this year. He will force fumbles, intercept passes and cover tight ends like a glove. Expect to see Byron Maxwell get more playing time, potentially as the slot cornerback. Marcus Trufant is the early slot corner, but Maxwell is better suited for the physical interior.

Special Teams – Coverage & Kicking

Special teams fell off terribly last season after a stellar 2010. Coverage teams were mediocre, at best, and return teams were not much better. Steven Hauschka and Jon Ryan were fantastic. It was the guys around them that needed to improve. Team speed was an issue last season that is much improved this year. Expect a major rebound in this part of the team. 

Defense – Overall 2012 Outlook

Savor every moment this defense takes the field. It already belongs in the conversation with the best this franchise has ever had to offer, and has the potential to be the best in the NFL. They were, by almost any measure, the 7th best defense in football last year. They return with significant reinforcements, experience, and added confidence. Finishing this season in the Top 5 in points allowed would be a major accomplishment given the quality of opposing offenses lining up against the Seahawks this year. The Achilles heel for a seemingly impenetrable unit has been quick, ball-control, passing games. Disruptive pressure up the middle will be key to interrupting that rhythm, as will effective press coverage on the outside. Teams will struggle to go over the top with big plays. It will require discipline over the full length of the field to end up with points, and the length across the board will make red zone offense even more challenging. Defensive line play will determine the upside. If Jones, Howard, Scruggs, Irvin, Clemons, and others can wreak havoc with a four-man pass rush, the sky is the limit. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Chunk Plays: Seahawks Defense Stingy Versus Big Runs

Pete Carroll will reveal an area of emphasis from time-to-time in his interviews. In between the platitudes, he will mention something worth paying attention to. Chunk plays, or explosive plays, are defined by most as passes over 20 yards and runs over 10 yards. Getting those plays on offense and limiting them on defense is a key focus point for the Seahawks coaching staff. This is the third in a series of short articles exploring where the team is their pursuit of being explosive on offense and defusing on defense.

I. Stopping Chunk Passes
II. Getting Chunk Passes
III. Stopping Chunk Runs
IV. Getting Chunk Runs

Chunk runs are generally considered those of 10 yards or more. NFL.com only has historical data on runs of 20+ yards, so we will use that for reviewing the Seahawks progress. One of the intriguing aspects of doing the research for this series has been seeing the overall trends in the NFL. For example, the Seahawks allowed the same number of 20+ yard runs (12) from 2007-2009, yet their ranking in the NFL in that category fell precipitously. Run defenses across the board were improving in these areas, or NFL offenses were less focused on getting big runs. Either way, the Seahawks were relatively porous in this fashion. Pete Carroll's first year made things worse. The team gave up 16 explosive runs, and fell near the bottom of the NFL in stopping them. The 2011 Seahawks halved that number to 8 such runs, and saw their ranking climb well into the Top 10.




Those following this series now know the 2011 Seahawks defense ranked 2nd in opponent explosive pass plays and 6th in opponent explosive run plays. Carroll is building a defense that forces opponents to string together a long series of shorter plays in order to move the ball. Grabbing big chunks of yardage is not easy against this group. They did this without a strong pass rush last year. The pass rush should be stronger this year, even if it is not as strong as some of us are hoping for. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Chunk Plays: Seahawks Secondary Shows Astounding Improvement

Pete Carroll will reveal an area of emphasis from time-to-time in his interviews. In between the platitudes, he will mention something worth paying attention to. Chunk plays, or explosive plays, are defined by most as passes over 20 yards and runs over 10 yards. Getting those plays on offense and limiting them on defense is a key focus point for the Seahawks coaching staff. This is the first of a series of short articles exploring where the team is their pursuit of being explosive on offense and defusing on defense.

I. Stopping Chunk Passes
II. Getting Chunk Passes
III. Stopping Chunk Runs
IV. Getting Chunk Runs

Emphasizing an area of the game and actually producing results are very different things. Carroll's first season with the Seahawks was a disaster when it came to yielding big plays in the air. His defense finished 31st in the NFL in that category, giving up a whopping 60 pass plays of 20+ yards to opponents. His predecessor, Jim Mora Jr. managed a rank of 17 in the same category a year earlier. Everything changed last year.


The Seahawks secondary limited opponents to the 2nd fewest chunk pass plays in the NFL in 2011. Not bad for the first season of playing as NFL starters for Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner. The ability to pull this off while being a mediocre and inconsistent pass rush team is all the more impressive. How much better can this get if the pass rush improves this year? Long pass plays take longer to develop, and are most susceptible to sacks. If the defensive line plays up to its ability this season, the Seahawks have a good shot at leading the NFL in limiting long pass plays.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Top 5 Fun To Watch Seahawks Defenses

John Elway tried calling out the signals. He really did. The Kingdome crowd was doing its best to play defense through endless waves of sound, and it often worked. Rufus Porter stood along the edge in an upright sprinting stance. Elway was going to unwittingly fire the starting gun of a race where the finish line was his face. Somewhere in the din, the Broncos quarterback yelled, "Hike!" and the race was on. Porter has taken two steps before the lineman moves to block him. It's too late. Porter is running the perfect parabola around the blocker and is closing quickly on his target. Boom.

The late 80's, early 90s Seahawks defenses that featured players like Porter, Jacob Green, Jeff Bryant, Eugene Robinson, Joe Nash was fun to watch. They were more effort than flash, but Porter provided his fair share of excitement with arguably the best speed rush in franchise history. Green was still posting big sack seasons (12.5 in 1990) in his early 30s, but was more likely to beat a lineman with his hands or a move than run right around him. Porter became one of my favorite Seahawks of all-time. His presence was a big part of why that era of Seahawks defense makes my Top 5. Here they are in descending order:

Note: I became a Seahawks fan in the mid-80s, so I never saw arguably the best defense in franchise history in 1984.


#5 - 2005 Seahawks 
To understand the appeal of the 2005 Seahawks defense, one first needs to appreciate the frustration of the 2004 squad. While Shaun Alexander was running for 1,700 yards and 16 TDs, partnering with Matt Hasselbeck to lead a potent Seahawks offense to lofty offensive rankings, the Seahawks defense was starting players like Chike Okeafor, Isaiah Kacyvenski, Rashad Moore and Cedric Woodard. They finished 22nd in the NFL in scoring defense and 26th in the NFL in yards allowed. Then came Lofa Tatupu, Leroy Hill, D.D. Lewis, Chuck Darby, Andre Dyson, and even Marquand Manuel. Seattle's 2005 squad was disciplined and sure-handed. It felt like no tackle was ever missed. Tatupu famously was seen re-arranging the defensive lineman pre-snap to put them in the best position to succeed. For the first time, Seattle's defense seemed smart and a step ahead. It helped to have the franchise's best offense possessing the ball and scoring the 2nd most points in the NFL, but the defense was vastly improved. Marcus Tubbs was the Red Bryant of that squad. A major difference maker who had only one great season before succumbing to injury. The overall rankings showed 7th in points against and 16th in yards allowed, but it was the Red Zone defense that was memorable. Few teams exited with touchdowns.

#4 - 1996 Seahawks
This team won't show up on many lists outside of this one. They finished last in the AFC West, and did not enjoy many top rankings. What they lacked in overall effectiveness, they made up for in pass rush. No Seahawks defensive line has ever been this dominant. Michael Sinclair put up 13.0 sacks, Michael McCrary put up 13.5, Cortez Kennedy had 8.0, and a young Sam Adams had 5.5. Those four players accounted for 40 of the team's 48 sacks. They spent so much effort getting off the ball to chase the quarterback, that they were one of the worst run defenses in the NFL. Still, a ton of fun to watch whenever the opposing quarterback dropped back to pass.


#3 - 2011 Seahawks
Nothing is more emasculating as a football fan than when opponents can run at will. It is a hopeless feeling. The 2011 Seahawks started by stopping the run. Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane, Alan Branch and Chris Clemons made up one of the best run-stopping lines in franchise history. They were supported by thumpers like Kam Chancellor, Hill, David Hawthorne and K.J. Wright. Earl Thomas darted in and around the opposing line to pull down backs before they got started. Opponents who tried to pass were faced with the most physical secondary in the NFL with Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman. Tackling was superb, and the youth made it feel like every new game was going to be better than the last. The only thing holding this defense back from being the most fun to watch was an inconsistent pass rush and an offense that failed to possess the ball for the first eight games. The linebackers were largely ordinary as well. If only they could add a speed rusher, an interior rusher, and some quicker players at the linebacker position...


#2 - 1992 Seahawks
Only a historically terrible Seahawks offense could obscure what very well could have been the franchise's best defense. Kennedy was the most dominant player Seattle had seen on that side of the ball. Jacob Green and Kenny Easley were fantastic, but their positions made it impossible to control a game the way Kennedy did from the middle of the line. He was a wrecking ball slamming into opposing lines snap after snap, and the lineman looked like bowling pins getting knocked every which way as they bounced off of him. Nobody blocked Kennedy that year. Nobody. He registered 14.0 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and an astounding 92 tackles from the DT position. Kennedy wrecked the interior while Porter crashed the edge for 9.5 sacks. Robinson took advantage to the tune of 7 interceptions. Opposing quarterbacks rarely had a chance. Seattle was ranked 4th in passing yards allowed and 1st in passing TDs allowed. Their lower ranks in rush defense were a direct result of opposing offenses being on the field for nearly the entire game due to the inept Seahawks offense. The fact that this crew ended the season ranked 10th in the NFL in total yards allowed was miraculous. Even a league-average offense would have made this defense best in the NFL.

#1 - 1998 Seahawks
Surprise! Most Seahawks fans remember the 1998 season for the Vinny Testeverde "helmet-gate" play where Seattle was denied a playoff spot when Testeverde's helmet was mistaken for the football and declared a touchdown. What people forget is Jim Johnson bringing the most entertaining brand of defense seen around these parts. Blitzes came from everywhere and everyone. Turnovers popped out of opponents hands and found their way back to their endzone at a dizzying pace. There were eight, EIGHT, defensive touchdowns that season. Darrin Smith and Shawn Springs had two apiece. Willie Williams, Anthony Simmons and Adams each had one. Chad Brown was a revelation at linebacker, putting up 7.5 sacks and making plays literally all over the field. Watching Brown make open-field tackles was like watching Picasso paint the Mona Lisa. He never missed a tackle, no matter how much green field was around him. No other defender has matched his skill on the outside in that way. Springs picked off seven of the teams 24 interceptions, and did it with flare. Sinclair added 16.5 sacks and Phillip Daniels chipped in 6.5. Heck, even Matt LaBounty had 6.0. It was honestly disappointing when the Seahawks offense would come out on the field because the defense was so much fun to watch. Johnson was the mastermind, and letting him go became one of Mike Holmgren's worst decisions. Eagles fans got to watch his defenses punish opposing quarterbacks for a decade after he left.

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