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Silverman: Seahawks Show Defense Is NFL Priority Once Again

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Cliff Avril. (Getty Images)

Cliff Avril. (Getty Images)

By Steve Silverman-
(CBS) The Seattle Seahawks did more than win a Super Bowl championship when they trounced the Denver Broncos, 43-8, on Sunday at MetLife Stadium in the 48th of the roman numeral games.
They made a case that a team with a relentless defense could still put its imprint on the NFL. The Seahawks had the top-ranked defense in points allowed, yards allowed and the modern metrics, and they were backed up by the San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers. Both of those teams also came with the same kind of speed and violence on defense that allowed the Seahawks to put their signature on the 2013 football season.
But the Seahawks played that type of defense best of all, and they shockingly stopped the best offense in its tracks. The Denver Broncos weren’t just a good team that was favored to win the Super Bowl. They had one of the best offenses the game has ever seen. No team ever scored more points (606) than the Broncos, and quarterback Peyton Manning (a record 55 touchdown passes) gave them a patina that few teams ever achieve.
The Seahawks’ domination against such an accomplished opponent will help their performance grow in significance from a historical perspective.
The performance was eye-opening and is likely to have long-lasting implications. The trend had been that it was vital to have a dynamic offense to win in the NFL. The evidence had been compelling. Rule changes that limited hitting, protected quarterbacks and favored offense gave a huge edge to those that had the ball.
Just go back to the 2011 regular season. That was the year that the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints and the New England Patriots had virtually eschewed defense and had depended on their quarterbacks to light up the scoreboards.
The Packers went 15-1 that season, while the Saints and Patriots went 13-3. They had the top three passing offenses in the league and it was a virtual certainty that one of those teams was going to win the Super Bowl.
However, the 9-7 New York Giants got hot in the postseason and defeated the Packers in Green Bay, while the San Francisco 49ers upset the Saints. The Giants emerged in the NFC and found a way to shock the Patriots, 21-17, in the Super Bowl.
The Giants had the worst running attack in the league during the regular season, but they rediscovered the running game in the postseason. That allowed them to take time off the clock in the wins against the Packers and Patriots and may have set in motion a return to defensive play.
Look at the way this year’s Seahawks were built. Russell Wilson is an excellent quarterback who plays with poise and can rocket the ball around the field. However, coach Pete Carroll is not asking him to throw for 300-plus yards and three touchdowns.
The same holds true for Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco and Cam Newton in Carolina.
All three teams use their running attacks to punish opponents. Marshawn Lynch in Seattle and Frank Gore in San Francisco are mirror images of each other because they attack when they run. The Panthers’ combination of DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert was only slightly less effective than the running attacks in Seattle and San Francisco.
Defense is the pride and joy in Seattle, and only slightly less so in San Francisco and Carolina. Teams had been gravitating toward a pass-first, defense-last philosophy because the NFL had invoked so many rule changes that favor the offense.
Don’t expect the NFL’s competition committee to bail out the offense in the foreseeable future. There are rules that protect defenseless players from head shots and equally abusive blows to the knees already in place. There’s nothing left to do.
The Seahawks built a relentless defense based on speed, aggressiveness and athleticism. Carroll and general manager John Schneider found marauding players like Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Byron Maxwell and Bobby Wagner, and they brought the pain in the Super Bowl.
That unit is the new gold standard in the NFL, and that’s what the rest of the league is going to keep in mind as teams prepare for the 2014 season.
It may be an ancient concept, but it appears that defense once again wins championships in the NFL.

Follow Steve on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his columns here.

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