The next time the Seahawks are in New York, in about seven weeks, they will play a better team than the Giants club they embarrassed 23-0 on Sunday. But the way the Seattle defense is playing, the result figures to be the same — another win.
Sure, it’s a little presumptuous to anoint the Hawks as NFC champs and put them in the Super Bowl, but they’re only one win away from having home-field edge, which would make them nearly unbeatable, and the Super Bowl has been their destiny since their disappointing loss in Atlanta last postseason.
The defense has come a long way since that game, which was lost after the Hawks let the Falcons move within field goal range in the final 25 seconds.
That was Gus Bradley’s defense — a unit that was without a decent pass rusher after Chris Clemons tore his ACL in the wild-card playoff game at Washington the previous week. That unit also did not have nearly the depth up front that this one does and had turned into a terrible run defense with Red Bryant and Kam Chancellor playing injured.
Cut to 2013. Dan Quinn’s defense is healthier, deeper, more experienced and more aggressive. And that is why it has been even better than Bradley’s crew, which ranked fourth overall and set a team record for fewest points.
Quinn’s unit leads the NFL in fewest points and yards after holding the Giants to just 181 yards. On a day the league set a record with 763 points (per Elias Sports), the Hawks’ defense did not let the Giants contribute a single point to the record total.
The Seahawks have given up 205 points and can beat the record they set last year if they hold Arizona and St. Louis under 40 total points. Considering teams are averaging just 14 points in the home of the 12th Man this season, that is very doable. (The top three scoring defense seasons in Seattle history: 245 in 2012, 261 in 1991, 271 in 2005.)
After intercepting five passes Sunday, the Hawks also lead the league with 22 picks and are second with 33 takeaways (two behind Kansas City).
If the Seahawks can overtake the Chiefs in the turnover race, they could finish first in the league in the three biggest defensive categories — and that would be a good omen.
The 1985 Chicago Bears, 2000 Baltimore Ravens and 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers all finished in the top two in yards, points and takeaways — Chicago and Tampa swept the categories — and they all won the Super Bowl.
“I feel like thatÂ’s a huge accomplishment thatÂ’s out there for us,” Bryant told The Seattle Times. “When you think of great defense, you think of the 1985 Chicago Bears and the Baltimore Ravens and Tampa 2. We want to be revered like that. WeÂ’ll see.”
The Hawks also had four sacks Sunday, and their 40 this year are already four more than they had last season (tied for ninth in the NFL).
In other words, the defense has been everything the Hawks could have hoped.
“To come back a couple of years in a row and to keep the points down like we have and press this consistent defense and get the football and all that, thatÂ’s really good that weÂ’re able to do that,” Carroll said Monday. “And we did that transitioning to a new coordinator as well. Dan has done a fantastic job.
“The way that weÂ’ve adjusted our style in some regards, but the fundamental aspects of it, playing the deep ball real well, playing the running game real well and getting after the football has been there again,” Carroll said, “and I think that weÂ’ve improved our pass rush this season, too. So weÂ’ve gotten better. Statistically, we were pretty sharp last year too. So weÂ’re in pretty good shape there.”
After the shutout of the Giants and all of his postgame responsibilities Sunday, Carroll walked back out onto the field at MetLife Stadium for one more look. It’s not too hard to guess what he was thinking.
In about seven weeks, the Hawks very likely will be back to play for the Super Bowl. And the way the defense is playing, it’s easy to see them winning there again.