If there were any lingering doubts about the top of the NFC, the Seattle Seahawks put them to rest on Sunday Night Football.
Taking down the San Francisco 49ers 29-3 would be impressive almost any way one slices it. Yet, the way in which head coach Pete Carroll and the Seahawks dismantled the 49ers at CenturyLink Field made the beatdown even more concrete, earning them the No. 1 spot in Matt Miller's power rankings (regardless of what goes down Monday night in Cincinnati).
The 49ers are physical? The Seahawks played them even more physically. The 49ers have speed? The Seahawks were faster. The 49ers have a talented dual-threat quarterback? The Seahawks shut him down and showcased their own young passer. The 49ers have a savvy, wily coach? The Seahawks' elder statesman showed him how it's done.
As complete and deep a team as the 49ers may be, the Seahawks outclassed them in every way possible in Week 2.
Best-Laid Plans...Thrown out the Window
One of the most impressive pieces of the Seahawks' success thus far is how the coaching staff has been able to refashion themselves from 2012. After having one of the most active offseasons in the entire NFL, the Seahawks also had to deal with more than their fair share of injuries and suspensions.
Now, the 'Hawks are not the only team with offseason hardship, but the teams that best deal with said hardship often find themselves in the cat-bird seat when it comes to things like winning divisions and high playoff seeds.
Wide receiver Percy Harvin isn't just any receiver. His unique skill set gives his team a valuable weapon, but he also demands a certain amount of specialization in the playbook. To move on from that in his absence isn't just a shift in strategy—it's a fundamental change in the way this offense wants to conduct its business.
Seahawks get Percy Harvin healthy, Bruce Irvin and co back? LOADED— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) September 16, 2013
Most importantly, the absence of Harvin means the Seahawks go from three dynamic playmakers back down to two. Against a team like the 49ers, who can quickly neutralize an opponent's running game, only having a couple gamebreakers can be the death knell.
Then again, it's one thing to move on from one's own best-laid plans, and it's another to make a talented team like the 49ers move on from theirs. As Mike Tyson once said: "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face."
That's the magic of the Seahawks week in, week out, and especially in the win against the 49ers. This is a team that steps up and wins individual matchups across the board, taking away anything their opponents really want to do.
The Seahawks faced two opponents with pretty clear talent at the quarterback position the first two weeks—Carolina's Cam Newton and San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick. The other similarity between the Panthers and the 49ers is a reliance on their respective No. 1 receiving targets. For the Panthers, that's always been Steve Smith. For the 49ers, it looks as though Anquan Boldin will take over in Michael Crabtree's absence.
Let's take a look at how the Seahawks defense held up:
|Week||Team||Rushing Yards||QB Rushing Yards||Receiving Yards||No. 1 Receiving Yards|
|2||San Francisco 49ers||100||87||127||7|
One begins to run out of descriptors when the Seahawks continue to put up defensive performances like that. At the very least, the tone of the conversation starts to sound a lot more like ringside chatter at a WWE pay-per-view. It's that kind of physical drive that sets the Seahawks up for success.
It Helps to Have Elite Talent Where it Counts
Let's be honest with ourselves, here. It's possible to be incredibly impressed with a team like the Seahawks and still admit that they have big roster holes—this is an age of NFL parity after all.
The offensive line could be much better, especially once a talent like left tackle Russell Okung goes down (carted off with a foot injury at the end of the first quarter). The receiving corps has a couple of nice pieces, but doesn't have that aforementioned playmaker that the injured Harvin will eventually bring to the table.
With question marks like that, it's good to have answers like running back Marshawn Lynch. Against the 49ers, Lynch rung up 98 yards rushing, 37 yards receiving and three total touchdowns. That's an incredible performance even considered in a vacuum. In the context of facing the Niners defense, it's even more remarkable.
Of course, a big part of Lynch's offensive totals is the need for opponents to commit defenders to (attempting to) stop Wilson. Although Wilson's numbers weren't as gaudy as Lynch's Sunday, he amassed over 170 yards of offense and a touchdown. Moreover, the threat of the option meant that the 49ers had to "force" either Lynch or Wilson to beat them. They picked Lynch and he was too much to handle.
The area where the Seahawks' talent stands out the most, however, is in the defensive backfield, where safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman all picked off passes against Kaepernick.
How important is a shutdown corner like Sherman? Here are Boldin's numbers in Week 1 and Week 2:
|Targets||Catches||Rec. Yards||Touchdowns||Longest Catch|
Without Boldin's contribution in the passing attack, it was difficult to move the ball. That's understating the case, though, as shutting down Boldin wasn't a matter of needing to game-plan for him or switch up coverages. No, it is a function of Sherman being the best cover corner in the entire league.
Are the Seahawks the Best Team in the NFC?
With the No. 1 receiver locked down and a couple of elite and physical safeties over the top, it means that any errant throw has a real chance of going the other way.
Right now, it's difficult to imagine a team more talented or better prepared to win in the NFC than the Seattle Seahawks. They have elite talent where it counts, depth at a number of key positions, and are both well coached and fundamentally sound.
They're the class of the NFC and could end up improving even more over the course of the season. As the 49ers just found out, the Seahawks are a force to be reckoned with.
Michael Schottey is the NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff at The Go Route.