July 6, 2012

Top 5: The Best Defenses in Seahawks History

What began as a hushed, conspiratorial whisper is growing louder every day among Seahawks fans: "Seattle might have the best defense in the NFL in 2012." That unit was among the league's top 10 last season, and appears primed to make the leap into the NFL's stratosphere. That got me thinking- What are the best defensive units in Seahawks' history?

Here's my top 5, along with a couple of honorable mentions. The stats are taken from Pro Football Reference, and I put slightly more weight on comparisons of these defenses with the rest of the NFL that year than on comparing the stats of these Seattle defenses to each other (make sense?).

Honorable mentions: 1982, 1992 and 2005.
Up until 1982, the Seahawks were known for Zorn, Largent and Special Teams trickery. In the Jack Patera era, the defense lagged behind the offense BADLY, finishing in the NFL's bottom 5 in points allowed EVERY season from 1976 to 1981. Patera was fired during the 1982 player's strike, and replaced by interim coach (and full-time GM) Mike McCormack. Under McCormack, a young defense with a LOT of names that would become very familiar (Easley, Green, Nash, Bryant, etc) held opponents under 17 points in 5 of the season's last 7 games, and finished 5th in the league in points allowed (a feat only matched by the 1984 team).

The 1992 defense is legendary and you could make a strong argument they should be in the Top 5, given that they were weighed down by the worst offense in NFL history. Cortez Kennedy's performance was one of the greatest individual seasons in Seattle's annals (and earned him NFL DPOY honors), but there's a limit to how much we can grade this unit on a curve- They were still in the bottom half of the NFL in terms of takeaways and points allowed.

The 2005 defense has the opposite problem: They put up some impressive numbers, but they also undeniably got a huge assist from the NFL's best offense in 2005. They were good enough to finish 7th in points allowed, but also only forced 27 turnovers (18th the league).

#5: 2011
Points Allowed: 315 (7th in NFL)
Points Scored: 32
Takeaways: 31 (5th in NFL)
Sacks: 33
Notable players: Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Chris Clemons
Signature Performance: Seahawks 22, Ravens 17 

The 2011s were notable for a secondary cobbled together from 1st round picks and a bunch of players who didn't fit the traditional mold for DBs. Players like Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner emerged from obscurity to help lead a defense that finished 6th in passing TDs allowed and 4th in total interceptions. Beyond the numbers, the 2011s played with an aggressiveness that had been lacking from Seattle defenders for far too long. Their finest outing was against a Baltimore team that would nearly reach the Super Bowl- They would contain Ray Rice, force three Ravens turnovers, and deliver Seattle's most satisfying victory of 2011.

#4 1999
Points Allowed: 298 (8th in NFL)
Points Scored: 12
Takeaways: 36 (6th in NFL)
Sacks: 37
Notable Players: Cortez Kennedy, Shawn Springs, Chad Brown
Signature Performance: Seahawks 27, Packers 7

The 1999s are forever remembered for an epic tumble from 8-2 to 9-7 (and their inability to keep a hobbled, aged Dan Marino from engineering one last 4th quarter comeback in the AFC Wild Card Game), but this was still an impressive defensive unit. No other NFL team snagged more interceptions than Seattle did in 1999, including 4 interceptions of Brett Favre in a memorable MNF victory at Lambeau Field. Hell, even Tez had 2 interceptions in 1999.

#3 2007
Points Allowed: 291 (6th in NFL)
Points Scored: 14
Takeaways: 34 (6th in NFL)
Sacks: 45
Notable Players: Patrick Kerney, Marcus Trufant, Lofa Tatupu
Signature Performance: Seahawks 35, Redskins 14

Until their complete collapse in that Lambeau Field snowglobe, the 2007s were a top-flight defensive unit. Free-agent acquisition Patrick Kerney racked up 14.5 sacks and terrorized enemy QBs all season, while Marcus Trufant had the finest campaign of his career- climaxing with a Wild-Card-win-sealing pick-6 against DC. The 2007s allowed the fewest passing TDs in the NFL that season. Sadly, snow was apparently their fucking kryptonite. Fucking Farve.

#2 1991
Points Allowed: 261 (8th in NFL)
Points Scored: 12
Takeaways: 39 (4th in NFL)
Sacks: 36
Notable Players: Cortez Kennedy, Eugene Robinson, Rufus Porter
Signature Performance: Seahawks 13, Broncos 10

What Seahawks defense gave up the fewest points over a 16-game schedule in team history? The 1991s, yo! They also led the league in rushing TDs allowed, only allowing FOUR enemy touchdowns via ground all season. Over one 5-game midseason stretch, they gave up a TOTAL of 4 touchdowns. This was Cortez Kennedy's first dominant season, and the last Seattle campaign for Jacob Green- who went out with a very respectable half-dozen sacks. The 91s' proudest moment was a 13-10 win over the AFC title-game-bound Broncos, in which they held Denver's offense without a TD, sacked Elway five times and intercepted him twice.

#1 1984
Points Allowed: 282 (5th in NFL)
Points Scored: 50(!)
Takeaways: 63 (1st in NFL)
Sacks: 55
Notable Players: Kenny Easley, Jacob Green, Jeff Bryant, Dave Brown
Signature Performance:  Seahawks 13, Raiders 7

This wasn't a remotely close call- The 1984s were a truly dominant unit, and it took 1984 DAN MARINO, in all of his glory, to finally defeat them in the AFC Divisional Playoffs. As I said in this space once before:

Kenny Easley won Defensive Player of the Year honors, and led the greatest defense in franchise history. How good was the defense? In one four-game stretch Seattle's defense OUTSCORED the opposition 26-20! This included the amazing 45-0 win over the Chiefs that featured FOUR interception returns for touchdowns by the Hawks, and a safety scored in a win against Cincy. In four weeks, the defense allowed only two touchdowns and pitched two shutouts. It shouldn't be any surprise this was the best D in team history, given that it starred three eventual Ring of Honor inductees (Easley, Jacob Green and Dave Brown), and other notables like Jeff Bryant, Joe Nash and John Harris. 

That 45-0 erasing of the Chiefs was fun, but the 1984s blindingly shined in the AFC Wild Card Game against the defending World Champion Los Angeles Raiders- They shut out Al Davis' minions until late in the 4th quarter, punished Jim Plunkett with 6 sacks, and forced three turnovers.

What do you think, sirs? What did I miss here? Will the 2012 defense crack this Top 5?


rabidlemur said...

Great post. That 1984 team was slightly before my time, would have loved to.see them play.

richardfg7 said...

Joe Nash's name needs to be mentioned also. So many guys were directly involved especially in the secondary. But those three guys up front set the stage. That was truly a wonderful thing watching those guys and I really believe the stage is set for an even better showing in the next few years.

Zem said...

Disagree with 1992 not making it on the list and 1999 being on the list. The 1999 defense was at the bottom of the league in a lot of categories including yards given up. I'd argue that considering the awful spots the 1992 defense was put in because of the horrible field position and turnovers the offense gave them, the points they gave up were really not on them, they should definitely be on this list.