Last night the highest-scoring offense in the NFL came in to MetLife Stadium and got clobbered, bruised and humiliated by the Seattle Seahawks defense. The first completion of the game for the Broncos went to Wes Welker, who was immediately pounded by Kam Chancellor. That hit set the tone for the rest of the evening which ended in an ugly 43-8 slaughter.
How does that make you feel, Earl Thomas?
Excellent. While Thomas and the rest of Seattle’s secondary has gotten most of the press this season, last night it was the front seven that did the damage.
Linebackers Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, and Super bowl MVP Malcom Smith put on a tackling clinic, racking up 27 combined tackles and limiting the Broncos to a pathetic 27 total rushing yards.
Clinton McDonald, Cliff Avril, Brandon Mebane, Chris Clemons and company were able to get pressure on Peyton Manning on command, forcing him to rush his throws; two of which ended up being picked off.
There is no question that during the 2013 season the Seahawks defense was the most dominant in the NFL. They surrendered the fewest points and yards and forced the most turnovers. At times when the offense was sputtering, those turnovers became the team’s biggest weapon. Last night the unit had arguably its best performance of the year. They peaked at the right time.
Speaking of time – the Seahawks are now inevitably going to be compared to the greatest defenses in history. Here’s a helpful list of some of the most dominant defenses that the league has ever seen, compiled by SB Nation:
The conversation about the greatest defenses usually begins and ends with the 1985 Bears, but as you can see that’s not really a fair assessment. If we’re going purely by the numbers then the teams from the 70s were all superior to the rest, however we have to take these stats in context. For one, those teams only played 14 games so the total numbers are skewed. Also, football in the 1970s looked very different than the football that is played in today’s NFL. Teams relied on running the ball because receivers were fair game for maulings before, during and after the catch, so it was imprudent and impossible to run up the score like we see now.
Chicago in 1985 was very similar to today’s Seahawks in that they were famous for hard hits and a cocky attitude. They also excelled at interceptions. While the league was undergoing a transformation, it was still about pounding the ball and stopping the other team, hence their defensive stats also deserve an asterisk.
So, where do we rank? In 2013, the Seahawks gave up 4,378 total yards – which is far and above more than any of the teams on that list. Their 28 interceptions would be second only to Ditka’s Bears. With only 20 forced fumbles they’re not really in the conversation there either. Of course, again, we have to take this in context. Today’s Seahawks are playing in a league that is setting new scoring records almost every year. However, if we’re being really honest I don’t think that we can call them the greatest of all time.
If you ask me the most impressive defense the NFL has seen in a single year was the Ray Lewis-led 2000 Baltimore Ravens. They forced more fumbles than anyone, and only gave up 165 points in a season when the average team scored around twice that many. You can also see they only surrendered 970 rushing yards for the entire season. That’s absolutely crazy.
The good news is that the Seahawks defense has at least one more shot at it: the only major contributor who was set to become a free agent, Michael Bennett, will be re-signed. Sherman, Thomas, Chancellor, and the linebackers will all likely return next season.
This team could be a dynasty in the making.