Tharold Simon makes it big in Philly:
Earl Thomas expected this.
Michael Bennett didn't. He says the Seahawks didn't expect to give up 139 yards at Philadelphia yesterday. How many did the defensive end figured they'd allow the Eagles?
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"Zero yards," Bennett said, without smiling.
"We don't expect anyone to make a yard. That's just the way we are.
"I don't think anything's changed. I think this is the way we've always played, and people are just taking a little more notice," Bennett said, his voice booming through an emptying locker room at Lincoln Financial Field. "When people said, 'Oh, they are bad,' we were the number-three defense in the league. I mean, teams wish they were number three!
"People were saying, 'Oh, they are playing so bad.' We were number three in the league! Now we are playing like we are No. 1."
Indeed, entering Sunday’s home game against free-falling San Francisco (7-6), Seattle has allowed a total of 20 points and 507 yards in the last 16 days. That’s a mere 169 yards per game in the 19-3 wins over Arizona and at San Francisco in a span of five days, and Sunday’s plundering of Philadelphia in which they gave up just 139 yards.
The scoring drives for the Eagles’ No. 4 offense in the NFL: 14 yards after Jon Ryan fumbled a punt snap, and 54 yards after Seattle’s kickoff team allowed Josh Huff’s 46-yard return.
“I’m not really surprised with anything this defense does,” Thomas said. “We are having the time of our lives.”
The ultra-intense free safety is having it in his own, signature way.
On Saturday in Philadelphia the Seahawks held their walkthrough practice inside a basketball practice gymnasium on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus. After it, Carroll held an impromptu hoops game.
How many NFL coaches would do that the day before a huge showdown atop the NFC standings?
Thomas characteristically took so much pride in beating Carroll in basketball he brought it up, unsolicited, following Sunday’s win.
“This team is so different from every team in this league,” Thomas said. “That is why we are having so much success.
“We take a different approach.”
Carroll noted Monday the All-Pro leader was one of the few Seahawks awake deep into Sunday’s late-night flight across the country. Thomas was studying film.
Of course he was.
What the Seahawks -- specifically their mugging, throw-down defense -- have done these last three games is better than any Seattle team has done in a decade. Yes, including the top-ranked defense the Seahawks had win them a Super Bowl last season.
Seattle has allowed a total of 20 points and 507 yards -- a mere 169 yards per game -- in the last 16 days. That's the 19-3 wins over Arizona and at San Francisco in a span of five days, and the shutdown of Philadelphia while surrendering a mere 139 yards yesterday.
The yards the Eagles managed were the fewest a team has had against the Seahawks since Dec. 11, 2005, when the 49ers had just 118 yards in a 41-3 loss in Seattle. You have to go back 10 years, to the first three games of the 2004 season, to find a Seahawks team that's allowed so few points over three games. Chike Okeafor, Cedric Woodard, Rashad Moore and Grant Wistrom were the defensive line and Orlando Huff was the middle linebacker for Mike Holmgren's '04 Seahawks that won in September 21-7 at New Orleans, 10-6 at Tampa Bay and 34-0 over the 49ers -- man, San Francisco was bad a decade ago.
And the current 49ers suddenly look about as inept. They come to Seattle on Sunday 7-6 and seemingly in complete free fall after losing 24-13 to the previously one-win Raiders yesterday.
There appears to be a huge difference between this defense and those '04 Seahawks. Those guys couldn't sustain their defense past those first three games; they allowed 64 in three consecutive losses immediately after their 3-0 start and finished 9-7 with a wild-card playoff loss at home to St. Louis to finish a 9-8 season. Seattle allowed an average of 23,3 points per game that year.
These Seahawks have already won a Super Bowl and already have proven sustainability and excellence on defense for going on two-plus seasons now.
"It feels good to win here," Bennett said. "But now it's important for us to focus on the 49ers coming up."
Bennett's candor aside, this isn't how the Seahawks have always been playing. They weren't playing this way when Bobby Wagner, Kam Chancellor and Brandon Mebane were out of the middle injured four games ago at Kansas City when the Chiefs rolled 190 yards rushing on Seattle in the Seahawks' last loss.
"This," coach Pete Carroll said last night, "is the way we want to play."
"This" was a dominant, thumping defense yesterday led by defensive backs that attacked receivers to -- and sometimes past -- the border of legality. It was a methodical, persistent running game of Marshawn Lynch boosted by quarterback Russell Wilson trumping an opposing pass rush with more remarkable, improvisational scramble runs and throws.
Sunday -- and the wins over the 49ers and Cardinals before it -- were, in essence, following the blueprint for how the Seahawks won last season's Super Bowl.
Standing in the middle of an emptying visitors' locker room in Philadelphia, Wagner smiled and shook his head.
"We have swagger, man," the vital middle linebacker said.
--Here is video of Carroll from last night:
--Here is our game coverage last night:
*My game story that led with Richard Sherman having more fun with the home team's fans behind the Seahawks' best, as the defense continued to have the last laugh.
*Columnist Dave Boling stating how great the Seahawks have suddenly become after three months mostly in neutral.
*My sidebar story on the newest wrinkle that has revitalized the defense: starting cornerback Byron Maxwell moving inside to nickel when Seattle goes to five defensive backs, and why Carroll and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn made that move.
*Boling's sidebar on the rapidly improved play of the man specifically benefiting from that change, second-year cornerback Tharold Simon, and of second-year defensive tackle Jordan Hill.
*Our Seahawks notebook leading with four-year veteran wide receiver Doug Baldwin making the savvy, tricky play of a 10-year yet for the biggest moment of the game for a Seahawks offense that didn't need many to win, with how good the defense was again.
--Funny (to me, anyway) story: I wrapped up writing in the press box in Philadelphia at midnight Eastern Time last night. Last one in there, after doing video and Twitter and some other work. Cleaning crew working all around and over me, blaring rap music like I wasn't there.
I finally get out of the press box down to the lobby to exit Lincoln Financial Field. There are two sets of doors to exit, one to the left and one to the right. I chose the right.
Wrong. That leads outside into an empty, VIP parking lot with a 25-foot-high, rod-iron fence with spiked spires at the top going around the perimeter. The two gates out of that lot are locked. So is the door I just closed to the stadium. I'm stuck in 20 degrees and wind, staring at the door 15 feet to my left that would have been the choice to exit completely out. So I drag a metal garbage can that was about three-feet tall far over to a part of the fence, scale it with my computer bag slung over both shoulders. I about ripped my overcoat and sports coat on the spikes, bruise my shin on the rod iron and I slide very-not-Matrix style down the other side of the fence. Not sure how I didn't get a Philadelphia cop to come by asking what the Hades I was doing.
Get back to the hotel at 1 a.m. Up at 2:45 a.m. for the flight from Philadelphia to Salt Lake City to Seattle.
See this really is a glamorous life.
--A reminder: Our News Tribune weekly, day-after chat with Seahawks fans everywhere begins at 3 p.m. today here on the blog blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks, after I get back to Renton. It will bleed into Carroll's press conference at the later-than-normal time of 4 p.m. We can keep the chat going through the chat as we have recently, if that works for you all.