SEATTLE — What we're seeing with the Seattle Seahawks isn't them making a case for best defense of the week. Or month. Or even season. What we are seeing with this team—despite some stinging but smart criticism Thursday night from a potential Hall of Famer—is a defense pulverizing, obliterating, punishing and pounding its way into the best-ever conversation.
No, it's not too early for that chat. At all. Last season, the Seahawks destroyed NFL offenses (273.6 yards per game and 14.4 points per game, both best in the league).
This year, in Thursday's season opener, the Seahawks showed nothing has changed. They battered and confused Aaron Rodgers, maybe the best all-around thrower in the sport, and yet again that defense was the catalyst for a win, a 36-16 victory over Green Bay at CenturyLink Field.
This statistic says a great deal about what Seattle is doing: In the past two games, the Seahawks have played maybe the best two quarterbacks in Peyton Manning and Rodgers. Seattle held them to a total of 24 points combined.
Last season, Seattle allowed just six fourth-quarter touchdowns all year. So when offenses are getting tired, the Seahawks are just getting started. And here they go again.
The Packers had difficulty just making basic plays on offense. It was remarkable to see an offense so vibrant look so impotent. Yet that is what the Seahawks do. They forced the Packers to make extraordinary plays, and no team, no quarterback, can do that for the entire contest.
"To keep Aaron down like that…I'm really excited about that," Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said.
He should be. Rodgers threw for just 189 yards with a long of 23.
Is it too soon to put this defense in the same sentence with the 1970s Steelers, the Cowboys' Doomsday Defense, the undefeated Dolphins, the 1985 Chicago Bears (probably the best ever) or the 2000 Baltimore Ravens? In the same sentence, too soon, yes. Can it be argued the Seahawks are beginning to stake a claim? Absolutely. Hell yes.
What's most impressive about Seattle is it is shutting down teams in an era when offenses have every conceivable advantage. When defenses cannot use physicality as a form of intimidation the way, say, the Steelers or Bears did. The Seahawks are playing in a hands-off era and still destroying people.
It is true this Seattle offense is increasingly dangerous, and that helps the defense, obviously. Marshawn Lynch looks just as brutish and talented as he did last season. One of the more interesting things to come out of the Seattle locker room was Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett saying it looked like Packers defensive players were afraid to hit Lynch.
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"I saw supposedly some of the best players in the league not want to tackle Marshawn Lynch." -- Seahawks DE Michael Bennett9/5/2014, 4:34:03 AM
Wide receiver Percy Harvin showed why when healthy he's one of the NFL's more frightening offensive players. Harvin being used on bubble screens and other types of plays near the line of scrimmage will give defensive coordinators nightmares.
"We don't believe in the whole Super Bowl hangover thing," said Wilson.
Yet the Seahawks continue to show what makes them special is that defense. It's a combination of top-level athleticism and splendid scheme.
There is one potential issue the Seahawks defense might face, and it was thoroughly discussed by Hines Ward, the former Steeler who one day could make the Hall of Fame.
Ward said in pregame comments on NBC that all-universe corner Richard Sherman is good, but not only is Sherman not the best corner in football, he isn't even the best defensive back on his own team; safety Earl Thomas is.
In a halftime interview with Bleacher Report, Ward pointed to a potential problem for Seattle's defense. In the Seahawks' scheme, Sherman stays on one side of the field, meaning unlike other top corners in football like Darrelle Revis or Patrick Peterson, he doesn't follow the best wide receiver, one-on-one, all over the field.
Ward said based on his film study, the Packers were one of the first teams to exploit how the Seahawks use Sherman, by putting their third receiver, Jarrett Boykin, on the side of the field where Sherman plays. This basically nullified Sherman and kept him from covering Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb.
Ward made it clear he believes Sherman is a talented player but "he's not the best, because he doesn't do what a Revis or Peterson do, and that's cover the best."
"Sherman is on the cover of Madden, and he spent tonight covering Jarrett Boykin," Ward said. "That's not the matchup you want to see. How can you be best when you're on a nobody? Sherman takes himself out of the game by not covering the best receiver. Sherman is top three, but he's not in the class with the best.
"Sherman is very good, but the Packers showed how to play him. They put Boykin on that side of the field, and Sherman covered him. The best DBs cover the best wide receivers. Sherman covered Boykin. Who is Boykin? You think Darrelle Revis would cover Boykin?
"A lot of players I talk to around the league do not consider Sherman the best. They think he's very good but not the best. I'm not knocking Sherman. I never said he sucked. He's just not the best at what he does."
Ward added: "I don't understand why more teams don't attack Seattle the way Green Bay did. Why doesn't San Francisco do that? Arizona?"
Good question. My guess is, more teams will study the Green Bay film and duplicate what the Packers did.
"He had his impact on the game," said Carroll of Sherman, though, actually, Sherman didn't.
The Packers did throw to that side of the field. They just didn't throw at Sherman covering Boykin.
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Richard Sherman must be bored #GBvsSEA #NFLKickoff http://t.co/zk1ZlKLgVH9/5/2014, 3:32:16 AM
When asked if he threw at Sherman, Rodgers explained: "You have to look at the film, but if we did, it wasn't that many."
Sherman was jokingly asked if he has to give money back after teams don't throw his way. "I give it back in fine money," he laughed.
Don't hate on Ward. His comments are thought-provoking, and he joins a growing chorus who are starting to take a hard look at Sherman's abilities, which are formidable.
In some ways, though, in today's sports world we rank everything. It truly doesn't matter who the best corner is; the Seahawks say all that matters is who wins, and the Packers' strategy of using Boykin as a decoy failed.
Right now, this Seattle defense is unstoppable. When you win a Super Bowl and obliterate Manning and Rodgers in back-to-back games, you are doing great things.
You are starting to make history.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.