by @SteezyASmith, FTFN Seahawks writer
Fresh off a convincing 28-21 victory over NFC West rival Arizona Cardinals (6-4) on a Thursday Night Football thriller, the Seattle Seahawks (7-3) have once again established themselves as contenders in the NFC. Not only did the much-maligned defense have arguably their BEST performance this season, the ground attack did a great job of providing balance to an offense that Russell Wilson has had to shoulder all season long .Running back Carlos Hyde, making his first appearance since Week 6 (hamstring), rushed for 79 yards on only 14 carries for a healthy 5.6 yards per carry average to go along with a touchdown and two receptions for 16 yards. Not to mention, he also had a critical fumble recovery late in the fourth quarter as rookie Guard Damien Lewis, who was manning the Center position in relief of Center Ethan Pocic, had an untimely mishap snapping the ball.
Now, on to the elephant in the room. The Seattle Seahawks defense. Not only did they hold the NFL’s No. 1 offense to 314 total yards, they also shut down the Cardinals No. 1 rushing attack (at the time, they’re now No. 2) to the tune of 57 rushing yards (157.7 on the season). Kyler Murray rushed for 15. No, that is NOT a typo. Murray, the NFL’s leader amongst quarterbacks in both rushing yards (619) and rushing touchdowns (10), finished with a grand total of 15. While Seattle’s run defense has been one of the best in the league (allowing under four yards a carry), the fact that they also held one of the best receivers in football in DeAndre Hopkins to only 51 receiving yards WITHOUT starting corners Shaquill Griffin and Quinton Dunbar in addition to three sacks on the day speaks volumes about the defense’s turnaround. Mid-season trade acquisition Carlos Dunlap has been HUGE ever since he was acquired for the measly cost of a seventh-round pick and third-string lineman BJ Finney before the trade deadline. Not only did he have the game-saving sack of Murray on fourth down in the closing seconds, but since he’s arrived in Seattle, the Seahawks have been getting after the quarterback with relative ease. In Seattle’s first seven games, they compiled 12 sacks. In three games with Dunlap spearheading the D-line, the pass rush has a total of 13 sacks in ONLY three games.
Look, I get it. Statistically, the Seahawks defense has been historical in that they’re setting records. All of the wrong ones, actually. Now, if you sprinkle in some context, you’ll start to see why that might be a bit misleading. Superstar Jamal Adams has played in six of a possible 10 games. Starting defensive end Benson Mayowa has also played in six of a possible 10 games, as has Griffin. Quinton Dunbar has been playing injured all season long, hence his placement on short-term injured reserve. You get the point. Seattle has been one of the league’s most injured teams. For a top heavy roster (at least on the defensive side of the football), that isn’t ideal. Not being able to apply adequate pressure on the quarterback also isn’t ideal. When your defense is unable to make life harder for opposing quarterbacks in the pocket, that makes the job of the guys in the secondary that much harder. Essentially, no pass rush=a weakened secondary.
Now, on paper, the Seahawks have the talent to AT LEAST be a decent defense in the National Football League. You have superstars on every level of the defense, beginning with Dunlap on the defensive line, the game’s best linebacker in Bobby Wagner leading the linebacker corps, and Adams in the backend. With guys finally starting to get healthy, (Chris Carson is set to return in Week 12 in Philadelphia, barring a setback) along with the pending return of Griffin and Ethan Pocic, things are finally starting to look up for Seattle.
Most non-12’s have been quick to shut down Seattle’s Super Bowl chances this season because of the much-maligned defense, but why don’t we all wait to judge this team once they’re fully armed with their ammunition at the end of the season? While I’m doing a terrible job of following my own advice, I’ve seen enough from Russell Wilson and the offense to know that they’re capable of going toe-to-toe with any anyone. All they need is a little bit of help from the defense.
No one is asking for the defense to perform like a top 5 unit, but if they can stay healthy (big if), they don’t need to be. They only need to make key stops in key moments of football games as well as come away with a few takeaways and the offense can handle the rest. Let’s not forget, Seattle’s defense is still tied for fifth in the league in takeaways. Combine that with Hyde and Carson and the imminent return of Rashaad Penny, the depth at running back will be key heading into the final stretch of the season in giving Seattle a balanced offensive attack.
Add in much-improved offensive line play, and you have the recipe for a Super Bowl folks, especially now that Seattle has a pass rush.
Remember, through the first ten games of the season last season, the reigning defending Super Bowl champs, were 6-4. Yes, Patrick Mahomes missed a few games, but the Chiefs were 6-4 because their defense was amongst the league’s worst. Going into the final six games of the season, they were able to turn it around and become a top 10 defense in the league en route to a championship. No one is saying that the Seahawks will be this year’s Chiefs, but if the last two games are any indication, the Seahawks defense is in for a HUGE turnaround in the final stretch of this season. Not only do the ‘Hawks have the remainder of the NFC Least on their schedule, they also have the winless Jets before finishing the season with rematches against division foes Rams and 49ers. Sometimes, it’s not always the most talented team that wins the Super Bowl. Ask the ’07 Giants or even the ’11 Giants, it’s about the HOTTEST team that enters the playoffs. With a schedule that screams cakewalk, it isn’t a stretch to think that Seattle could make a Super Bowl run this season. Especially if the defense of the last two games is the defense that shows up for the remainder of the season with a favorable schedule on tap.
Let me know in the comment section below, am I way off in my assessment? Don’t forget to get at me on Instagram @SteezyASmith, on YouTube @SteezyASmith, on Facebook at the same handle, and be sure to show some love to my fellow Seahawk content creators as well at @NorbCam & @DjSquabo. Go Hawks and I look forward to connecting with you guys all again!