The Morning After: Seahawks ascendancy continues, trounce 49ers 42-13
Mike Tyson rose to boxing fame in the 80s. He was such a vicious fighter that the most popular bet in Vegas was whether or not his opponent would last through the first round. Sixteen of his first twenty-six victories came by way of first round knockout. His most famous win may have come when he knocked out previously unbeaten Michael Spinks in 91 seconds. Nobody wanted to face Tyson in his prime. You were guaranteed a loss, humiliation, and a whole lot of pain. The Seahawks are the NFL’s Mike Tyson right now, and anyone that steps on the field with them is Glass Joe. Pete Carroll preaches finishing strong, but this team is knocking out teams mere minutes into each game. Seattle got out to leads of 14-0 (SF), 14-0 (BUF), and 10-0 (ARZ) in the last three games and halftime scores of 28-6, 31-17, and 38-0. Those are haymakers thrown from the outset, wobbling knees, and sending stars spinning around opponent eyes. Ask Vernon Davis what it feels like. There is no hiding from this team. The offense will pin an opponent in a corner and deliver a flurry of blows, then tag out and let the special teams or defense resume the pummeling. Respect is earned, but the Seahawks have gone well beyond earning respect. They are feared.
The best team in football is the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks. Proclamations mean nothing. Accomplishments mean everything. No team in the NFL has the Seahawks resume. Not only are they 6-1 against teams with winning records, but no team has beaten them by more than seven points. They are now in the conversation for best team in franchise history, and they should get better, much better.
These games are so indulgent that it is becoming hard to appreciate the subtle performances that are woven together to create these astounding outcomes. Jeremy Lane blew me away last night. He looks like he creates his own weather system when he breaks on a ball. The Flash is calling, and wants his speed back. Lane missed a couple chances to intercept passes, but he is gaining confidence with every snap. His combination of athleticism, attitude and instincts make him the latest in a series of mind-blowing draft choices from John Schneider. Phillip Adams outplayed Lane early in training camp, and is now making some great plays for the Raiders. Lane is showing why the Seahawks invested in him.
Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas are stepping forward and leading this defense. Both are making impact plays that were missing early in the year. Thomas is getting tackles for loss and intercepting passes. Chancellor forced a fumble and made sure nobody left the game thinking the 49ers are tougher than the Seahawks. The defense is designed to allow those guys to make plays, and the fact that they are doing it now is a big part of why the defense is accelerating into the post-season. They are now the #1 scoring defense in the NFL, by a sizable margin. Much was made of how the team would fall apart without their starting cornerbacks, but people fail to understand how safety-oriented this scheme is. Thomas can make things a lot easier for corners.
Richard Sherman is the best defensive player in the NFL right now. He is toying with opponents. Only two players in NFL history have had at least 7 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles and 2 touchdowns in a season. Those two players were Ed Reed (2004) and Charles Woodson (2009). Not bad company.
K.J. Wright turned in his second straight outstanding game. He had a couple tackles for loss and the only Seahawks sack of the night. He is combining with defensive rookie of the year, Bobby Wagner and speedy Malcolm Smith to create the most under-rated aspect of the NFL’s best defense. Smith is the de facto starter at weakside linebacker now. Leroy Hill is in there for obvious short-yardage run situations, but Smith is demanding more snaps with his play. Teams had started to target Hill on passing plays as his speed has diminished, but they are unable to do that with Smith. These three young guns finished 1, 2, 3 in tackles against San Francisco. There is simply nowhere to go for opposing offenses.
The same Seahawks defense that was criticized for much of the last half of the season is on pace to shatter the Seahawks record for fewest points allowed in a season. They have allowed 232 points, 29 points shy of the 1991 squad that allowed 261. This is the best defense in football, and among the best in franchise history. Just imagine what they would look like if they could manage some pass pressure.
It is fun to talk about this team averaging 50 points over the last three games, but this about more than three games. The team is averaging 34.5 points/game over their past eight games. That’s half a season, for the math challenged. The defense is allowing just under 16 points/game during that same span. That is historically dominant stuff.
Russell Wilson has become a problem teams won’t be able to solve in 2012. They may figure out a scheme in 2013, but good luck with that. He is making great decisions, and has the full compliment of options at his command. He will run on a pass play, run on a run play, hand it off to the best running back nobody really appreciates, behind the best offensive line nobody really appreciates, or throw to stable of receivers and tight ends that continue to make spectacular plays. There is nowhere for a defense to attack without leaving themselves vulnerable to a counter-punch.
Try and blitz this team. You could find Marshawn Lynch busting through the gap for 50 yards, or Wilson delivering a precision pass on time to a hot route, or Wilson scrambling around your pass rushers for a positive gain. Stack the box to stop the running game and make the Seahawks beat you with the pass. Uh…Wilson is the top-rated quarterback in the NFL for the past 2.5 months. He is one touchdown shy of tying Peyton Manning’s rookie passer record. Try and take away the quick passes, and he will happily throw deep. Take away the deep throws, and he will happily take the underneath routes. He will beat you on third down, in the red zone, in the clutch. Just give up already.
He is going to lead the Seahawks to a decade of dominance. This team is going to become the New England Patriots of yesteryear. They are young at almost every position, and already the best team in football. They may not lose a regular season game next year. They may not lose another game this year. This team has now added belief to tremendous talent.
Seattle has nothing left to prove. They have won the regular season. They will beat the Rams next week, and then must take their game to the post-season. Everything they are doing now translates perfectly to the playoffs. No fan base is more deserving of what is about to happen. Legends are made in the playoffs, and the Seahawks have a roster full of players ready to etch their names on history’s ledger.