Say so long, Seahawks. What exactly is The Patriot Way? And good news for Bears and Bengals fans (well, at least Bears fans—and anyone brave enough to coach the Bengals). All that and more in this week's 10-Point Stance.
1. Goodbye, Boomtown
There is a word that should rarely be used in football, one that should be limited to describing soldiers, first responders or other heroes. But there might be an exception when it comes to the Seattle Seahawks.
The word? Warriors.
This is what the Seahawks have been on defense throughout the Pete Carroll era—or at least as close to warriors as modern sport will allow. The only defense I've covered that approached football with their level of ferociousness and fearlessness was the 2000 Baltimore Ravens.
The Legion of Boom, and the Seattle defense overall, has been the model of a group that leaves everything on the field.
And now, it's likely over.
"I was stunned at how easy it was to push them around," one Rams player texted me after they beat the Seahawks 42-7 on Sunday. "It was like playing the Browns."
Even those not on the field noticed.
"Going out to Jacksonville [last week] and getting physically dominated, taking that long trip, coming back ... it just seems like they got exposed with the injuries and everything they've gone through," Rodney Harrison said on NBC's Football Night in America. "They could not physically compete with either the Jacksonville Jaguars or the Rams."
That is something I never thought I'd hear uttered by any human—that the Jaguars and Rams were too physical for Seattle. The Seahawks were the Klingons of the NFL. Now they are something entirely different.
The worst-kept secret in football is that the Seahawks are going to make massive changes to the defense this offseason. Not even a group of warriors can defeat two hardened opponents: Father Time and the salary cap.
Don't be distracted by the beef between Earl Thomas and Bobby Wagner or the blowout loss to the Rams. Those are the shiny objects. The Seahawks have argued before and been beaten badly before (though maybe not that badly—I get it).
The larger issue is the age of and wear on the defense. It can't play at the level it once did. And it's unfair to ask it to. The human body isn't built to play with the kind of aggression under which the Seahawks thrived. At some point, things break—even the bodies of warriors. Seattle knows this, and it's why we aren't going to see this unit together like this next season, many in the NFL believe.
Richard Sherman will be 30 next year. His salary cap number will be $13.2 million, and he'll be coming off a torn Achilles tendon. Safety Kam Chancellor will also be 30 next year and suffered a neck injury this season. He may never play again.
Cliff Avril will be 32. Michael Bennett is 32. Earl Thomas will be 29 next season.
Already, Seattle has surrendered more points this season than it had since 2011, and there are still two games left. It brings me no pleasure to declare the end to the Legion of Boom. The organization has been fun, brilliant and talented. It's been one of the best things to happen to the NFL, both on and off the field.
But it's over. And it's obvious.
2. Crown Him
After injuries the past two weeks took out Carson Wentz and Antonio Brown, the ranks of MVP candidates have thinned. And while there are some good options such as Todd Gurley II, Jared Goff and Cam Newton, Tom Brady likely has the award locked up. Book it. It's his. Crown his ass.
Going to Pittsburgh and beating a good Steelers team, and a good quarterback, in the most competitive and exciting game of the year, essentially sealed it for Brady.
Argue with that premise all you want. Hate Brady all you want. This is how it works. Big performances in big moments are what get you the MVP.
3. The Niners Appear to Have Found Their Man
From the NFL's research arm comes a statistic that should warm the hearts of Niners fans this holiday season:
The 49ers' trade for Garoppolo might end up as the most significant move they have made in a long time. And assuming they keep him in free agency, it's possible they've found their quarterback for the next 10 years.
4. 'I Don't Want Them to Be Forgotten'
I've written before about former running back Justin Forsett and his company, which invented an athletic body wipe called ShowerPill. I've always found him to be one of the more remarkable people I've met, someone who considers life beyond the game. What he did recently yet again demonstrated that.
Last week, Forsett went to Puerto Rico to distribute some of his ShowerPill body wipes. He's committed to sending 20,000 wipes and 1,000 bags of snacks to the island. Fifteen percent of the company's proceeds from the month of December will go to aid recovery efforts in Puerto Rico.
This isn't the first time Forsett has taken his product to disaster-torn areas. With clean water hard to come by in Flint, Michigan, Forsett sent his wipes there. When a storm or other natural disaster makes fresh water temporarily nonexistent, Forsett thinks the wipes can allow people to at least have some type of cleansing option.
Forsett was saddened by the destruction he witnessed in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria hit Sept. 20 but also inspired by seeing the island's citizens taking care of each other.
When Forsett arrived last week, what he saw was stunning. "It's one thing to hear about it," he said in an interview with B/R. "It's another to see it."
Forsett said when he got to San Juan, there were still occasional power outages, but it was when he went farther inland that he saw true devastation. Many of the towns he visited still had no clean water or power months after the storm.
"There were still people living in houses with no roofs," he said. "They had blue tarps as roofs."
As Forsett moved from house to house, and city to city, he and his team donated some of their product and whatever cash they had in their pockets. In one instance, a man told them not to worry about him but to look after a man in a residence behind his.
Inside the dwelling was a 60-year-old in a house without power, electricity or a toilet. When Forsett asked the man if he wanted the group to purchase a toilet, he said no. He instead asked them to buy the materials for one and said he'd build it himself.
"He didn't want a handout," Forsett said.
"There are thousands and thousands of people there still suffering," Forsett noted. "These are our fellow Americans, and it's out of sight, out of mind for a lot of people. But I don't want them to be forgotten."
5. A Ray of Sunshine in the Midwest
I recently asked a scout to pick a team he believes has one of the brightest futures. He didn't hesitate. He picked the Bears:
"When you watch [Mitchell] Trubisky, he has some big-time throws. Once you bring in a [new] coach for him, someone more offensive-minded, the Bears could be really solid. They already have a good running back, some pieces on defense; I could see them being next year's Rams."
What will have to change is Trubisky's penchant for throwing into double coverage—and sometimes triple coverage.
If he can do that, the scout may be proved correct about Chicago and the good times ahead.
6. The NFL's Shaquille O'Neal
When Shaquille O'Neal dominated the NBA, he was so good and so powerful the refs allowed defenders to beat the crap out of him without being called for fouls. It was the only way to slow O'Neal down. Just cheat.
We are seeing the same thing happening now with Rob Gronkowski.
When the Pats tight end inexcusably slammed the head of the Buffalo Bills' Tre'Davious White two weeks ago, leading to a one-game suspension, he did so out of frustration. Gronkowski spoke afterward about how he was being held. As wrong as his reaction was, he wasn't wrong that he was being held.
Against the Steelers, Gronkowski was treated as he is in almost every other game he plays. He was held constantly, almost blatantly, on most passing routes. Gronkowski pushes off—a lot—so maybe the officials figure they'll just let things go to even it out.
Gronkowski is so good, though, that he can fight through the holding and light teams up, as he did against the Steelers on Sunday with a career-high 168 receiving yards.
Hold him—he's unstoppable. Don't hold him—he's invincible. So teams figure, Screw it, might as well hold him.
Still doesn't work. Nothing does.
7. The Packers Made the Right Choice
It was a no-brainer in every way. Why risk the franchise now for a couple of meaningless wins when next year awaits?
Everything I'm hearing is that Rodgers is fine and he'll be the same Rodgers once training camp opens.
As logical a choice as this was, there are still some franchises that would force the issue and have one of their stars play for nothing. And for avoiding that, the Packers deserve credit.
8. Band of Brothers
The phrase The Patriot Way has been used a lot to describe what Bill Belichick and New England have accomplished. It's taken on some murky undertones in some cases, but it's still a driving force in the New England locker room. Safety Devin McCourty explained how about as well as anyone ever has after the Patriots' last-minute win against the Steelers:
"It's crazy sometimes what you speak about before the game and how a game plays out exactly to it," McCourty told reporters. "All week we had talked about playing for the man next to you, playing together, not worrying about AFC, first place, division—just playing for the man next to you. [Linebackers coach Brian Flores] said it yesterday: When you play in these type of games, it's about the next play—good or bad."
They are like robots, the Patriots, and I mean that in a positive way. They let nothing get to them. That is The Patriot Way.
9. Cincinnati Dreamin'
Marvin Lewis is planning to leave his position as Bengals head coach at season's end, per a report by ESPN's Adam Schefter. According to one scout, that opens up one of the best jobs in football.
"Whoever gets that job will have almost unprecedented leeway," an NFC scout told B/R. "It takes a long time for [owner] Mike Brown to ever fire anyone. You'll get a guaranteed three or four years even if you lose. If you win, even a little, you can stay there forever."
10. Marvin Lewis by the Numbers
Like many things in life, Lewis' legacy is complicated.
While the Bengals have lost nine games in each of the past two seasons, it's easy to forget Lewis took over a horrible franchise. As the New York Daily News' Chuck Modiano noted on Twitter:
Lewis changed a losing culture, and that's much more difficult than many fans understand.
But changing that culture came at a price. Lewis brought in some hardcore bad guys and enabled others like Vontaze Burfict.
Lewis won, but it came at quite a high price.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.