Over the years, the Legion of Boom put fear into quarterbacks, receivers and coaches across the NFL. They were the heart and soul of a daunting Seahawks defense. But as the years have gone on, teams are no longer afraid to attack them.
The Seahawks defense is still one of the best in the league. But as the Legion of Boom age, they have become the weaker part of the defense. That was noticeable in the NFC Divisional Playoffs when Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons accumulated 338 yards and three touchdowns through the air. But the Seattle defense was able to hold the Atlanta run game to only 99 yards on 29 attempts.
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The run defense was not better than the pass defense in just this game. Throughout the 2016 season, the Seattle run defense was more dominant than the pass defense. The Seahawks run defense ranked first in the league in yards per attempt, only giving up 3.4 yards per attempt. The pass defense gave up 6.2 net yards per pass attempt, coming in at 15th in the NFL.
Compare these passing numbers to the two years prior. In 2015, they held teams to only 5.8 net yards per attempt, which came in at fifth in the league. Then in 2014, the defense only gave up 5.5 net yards per attempt, which was third in the league.
This is not just a reflection on the defensive backs. The linebackers need to be able to drop into coverage and the defensive line needs to get to the quarterback. But in years prior, opposing offenses would not even test the Seattle secondary. They understood that Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas were going to shut down nearly the entire field.
For this Seahawks defense to carry this team to a Super Bowl, they need the Legion of Boom to return to their old form and stop teams from gaining big chunks through the air. Sherman needs to get rid of the trade distractions and become the shutdown corner he was in years prior. Thomas needs to return to training camp in shape and ready to perform as the ball hawk playmaker over the middle after his recovery from the leg injury. And Chancellor needs to be able to continue to be the enforcer over the middle of the field.
If the Legion of Boom does not return to their old form, teams will be more than willing to throw the ball on early downs. Instead of taking chances of getting pinned into second and long or third and long situations against a stout run defense, teams may have better chances of getting chunks of yards throwing the ball.
If the Seahawks want to rely on their defense to get them deep into the playoffs, the Legion of Boom will need to play better than they did in 2016. If they do not, this could be the last year that they will be together, ending an era in Seattle.