Simply The Best: Making The Case For The Seattle Seahawks’ Defensive Greatness

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 14: Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons runs the ball agianst Richard Sherman #25 of the Seattle Seahawks at the Georgia Dome on January 14, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Denial is not a river in Egypt. Despite dominant defensive play by the Seattle Seahawks year after year, many doubters still refuse to recognize their greatness. Many analysts dislike the flamboyant and aggressive playing style of Seattle’s secondary, known as the Legion of Boom. The refusal to recognize the Seahawks’ defensive greatness is more a product of likeability than misinformation. Most so-called experts realize the Seahawks belong in the pantheon of all-time great defenses. They are just unwilling to admit it. The statistics demonstrate that Seattle’s defensive greatness is simply undeniable.

Simply The Best: Making The Case For The Seattle Seahawks’ Defensive Greatness

One statistic more than any other proves this point. The Seahawks have allowed by far the fewest points per game over the last five seasons. Since 2012, Seattle has allowed an average of 15.6 points per game. The elite New England Patriots and divisional rivals Arizona Cardinals tie for a distant second at 19.8 points per game. That is more than 4 points per game fewer than one of the greatest teams of all time, the dynastic Patriots.

Taken on a yearly basis, the Seahawks finished third in points allowed this season, after finishing first each of the previous four seasons. The team allowed 18.6 points per game this season, third only to a resurgent New York Giants defense and AFC champions, the New England Patriots.

The team would have finished higher this season if not for injury and fatigue to many of its star players late in the season. The defense needed to compensate for a struggling offense that left the defense in precarious predicaments. The offensive line struggled mightily this season, and this shortcoming allowed many three-and-outs, resulting in a large deficit in time of possession. The defense was also at a disadvantage in field position because of the team’s offensive struggles. Even with these disadvantages, the defense still managed to hold their opponents to field goals most of the time.

The Best Offense Is A Great Defense

During the past five seasons, the Seahawks have also led the league in a complex metric known as DVOA, or Defense-adjusted Value Over Average. This category is a highly complicated measurement, similar to slugging percentage in baseball. The metric takes into account yards allowed in different situations. For example, allowing three yards on third and five is weighted more heavily than allowing three yards on first and ten. Despite its complexity, the category is illustrative of the Seahawks’ dominant defensive play. Because this measure takes yardage into account, it shows how the defense also helps their offense by improving field position. Holding opponents to fewer yards enables quarterback Russell Wilson and his squad to score more points.

While the secondary receives most of the acclaim, the defensive line can claim much of the credit for the team’s success. Over the last five seasons, the Seahawks have also led the league in sacks and quarterback pressure. Pro Bowl defensive ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril are two of the best defensive linemen in the game.

What’s Good For The Bee Is Good For The Hive

The Seahawks excel defensively on an individual basis as well. The league attaches an official value to defensive players known as AV, or approximate value. This metric is also complicated, but demonstrates the Seahawks star players are rightfully highly rated. Cornerback Richard Sherman has reached the zenith in this category four times, while safety Earl Thomas and linebacker Bobby Wagner have peaked twice each. The majority of teams have no players who have accomplished this feat even once.

Statistics are important, but the Seahawks are simply phenomenal to watch. The defensive line swarms the quarterback, while the secondary bats down and intercepts errant passes. In an era renowned for its great quarterback play, the Seahawks have managed to shut down great quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees. The 1985 Chicago Bears, 2000 Baltimore Ravens and the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers dynasty are widely recognized as the greatest defenses to ever play the game. The 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers also possessed an underrated defense. The statistics demonstrate, and game winning success proves, the Seahawks defense belongs alongside these teams. Yes, they are aggressive; yes, they are flamboyant; and yes, they are one of the greatest defenses in the history of football.