Seattle Seahawks

Dominant Seahawks defense rewriting team history

Michael Bennett has a way with words.

Ones he said in the locker room Sunday night in Philadelphia might make Mrs. Bennett take notice.

“All the wins feel exactly the same, just like the first time I kissed my wife. Just exactly the same,” the Seahawks defensive end said after he had one of three Mark Sanchez sacks in the 24-14 humbling of the NFC East-leading Eagles.

Those must be some kisses.

What the Seahawks — specifically their mugging, throw-down defense — have done these last three games is better than any Seattle team has done in at least a decade, if not ever. Yes, that includes the top-ranked defense that won the Seahawks a Super Bowl last season.

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. 

Seattle spent the first half of the season beset by injuries and among the worst in the league on third down, allowing opponents to convert 50 percent of them. Its last three foes are just nine of 34 (26.5 percent) making good on third downs.

On Monday, coach Pete Carroll again cited the unity and trust on that defense.

“You can feel it,” Carroll said.

So could Philadelphia. And Arizona. And San Francisco. The scoring drives for the Eagles’ No. 4-ranked offense: 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,” safety Earl Thomas said. “We are having the time of our lives.”

The ultra-intense Thomas is having it in his own signature way.

On Saturday in Philadelphia the Seahawks held their walk-through 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 few yards the Eagles did manage on that film 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.

And one could argue this is the best three-game stretch of defense the Seahawks have ever produced.

Those three foes the Seahawks shut down in 2004 weren’t nearly the quality of this season’s Cardinals, (albeit wobbling) 49ers and Eagles. Those three have a combined record of 26-13 and include two division leaders. Those ’04 opponents Seattle stymied were awful, finishing a combined 15-33. San Francisco was 2-14 that year.

The current 49ers suddenly look almost as inept. They will arrive in Seattle this weekend 7-6 and seemingly in complete disarray, from coach Jim Harbaugh’s future through Colin Kaepernick’s quarterback play after losing 24-13 to the previously one-win Raiders on Sunday.

There appears to be another huge difference between this defense and those ’04 Seahawks: sustainability.

Those guys couldn’t keep up their defense past those first three games. They allowed 64 points in three consecutive losses immediately after their 3-0 start. They finished 9-7 with a wild-card playoff loss at home to St. Louis. 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 two-plus seasons now. 

“This,” Carroll said Sunday night, “is the way we want to play.”

“This” was a dominant, thumping defense led by defensive backs that attacked receivers to — and sometimes past — the border of legality on Sunday. 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 at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field Sunday night, middle linebacker Bobby Wagner smiled and shook his head.

“We have swagger, man,” he said.

EXTRA POINTS

Carroll said reserve DE Demarcus Dobbs “has a legit ankle sprain that we will be dealing with; we will figure it out here in the upcoming days.” Dobbs got hurt Sunday at Philadelphia. Carroll said another former 49er, 285-pound fullback and part-time defensive end Will Tukuafu, “might take some work over there for us. That will help us out a little bit and the rest of it, we will figure it out. We don’t know yet.” … Carroll said CB Tharold Simon “is fine” after dislocating his finger Sunday. … C Max Unger, who hasn’t played since sustained a high-ankle sprain and twisted knee four games ago at Kansas City, will try to practice this week. So will TE Cooper Helfet (sprained ankle). Carroll said Helfet is a bit ahead of Unger in recovery. … Nickel defensive back Jeremy Lane, out the last two weeks with a gluteus injury, is ready to return this week. With Byron Maxwell playing so well the last two weeks at nickel inside and Simon emerging at cornerback outside, Carroll said the Seahawks now have “flexibility” at nickel depending on matchups. The coach didn’t specify whether Maxwell or Lane would be the primary fifth defensive back against the 49ers.

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