They are better than they were last year.
The 2013 Seahawks boasted one of the most dominant defenses of all time. The special teams? Also historically outstanding. The offense was a battering ram at one end and a bazooka at the other, pummeling the enemy into submission and then exploding for big plays to put away those dazed opponents. They beat former Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees in the divisional playoffs, outlasted a fearsome San Francisco side in the NFC Championship Game, and pulverized Peyton Manning and the favored Broncos to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
This team is better.
Six weeks ago, Seattle was 6-4 and staggering into what appeared to be an unsurvivable gauntlet: Arizona, Santa Clara, Philly, Santa Clara, Arizona. Without Brandon Mebane and Max Unger, analytic sites like fivethirtyeight.com projected the Seahawks to miss the playoffs.
Today fivethirtyeight is talking about how the Seahawks could go down as (analytically speaking) the best team in NFL history. What the heck happened?
Those five games? The Seahawks won all of them, and by an aggregate score of 114-33. Each foe limped away fundamentally broken, too. Santa Clara and Philadelphia haven't won a single game between them since falling to Seattle, and both have sunk into the abyss and out of playoff contention. Five weeks ago, the Arizona Cardinals were 9-1, and three games ahead of Seattle in the NFC West Standings. Today they are 11-4 and a long-shot to win the division. Yes, they'll make the playoffs, but they've been tenderized by the Emerald Empire. If they somehow can win a Wild Card game with some rando under center, their prize will likely be a trip back to Seattle to face a team that just drew and quartered them TWICE within a month. A divisional round trip to Seahawks Stadium to face a team that waylaid you 54-9 over that brace of contests? That's a suicide mission.
We've seen dominant 5-game stretches by this franchise before. The 1986 Seahawks ended the season as the hottest team in the NFL, going 5-0 and beating their opponents 167-74. In 2012, the Hawks sprinted through the tape over the season's final month, going from 6-5 to 11-5 while outscoring the enemy 193-60. The frightening thing about THIS Seahawks squad? Not only is the defense giving up less than seven points a game over the last month, but in Glendale on Sunday, against an "elite" defense, Seattle's offense went so thermonuclear I half-expected Edward Teller to rise from the grave just to exclaim "Fuuuuuuuuck."
596 yards of offense (the most allowed by the Cardinals since 1958). 35 points (which is more than Seattle's defense has allowed over the last five games). Russell Wilson accounted for 427 of those yards and three touchdowns, making his Pro Bowl snub this week seem particularly laughable (But who gives a shit? He won't be playing in the game anyway. He'll be prepping for XLIX). The Hawks posted a head-spinning succession of "explosives." An 80-yard TD pass to Luke Wilson. A 55-yard run by RW3. A 49-yarder to Angry Doug Baldwin. And that run... BeastQuake II.
The media can't stand Marshawn Lynch. The bobbleheads in the league office in New York disapprove of his actions. To most neutral fans, he's at best bewildering and at worst despicable. Judging by media reports, even PCJS are fairly desperate to move on. But to Twelves? Beast Mode is, as Stephen King wrote about a character once, a "fifth-rate god." Does ANYONE in the Twelve Army care that he missed the first quarter with an upset stomach? Hell no. His 79-yard 4th quarter touchdown run once again proved that MoneyLynch is a "God-Damn One-Man Slaughterhouse."
No, it wasn't as spectacular as his run against the Saints in the 2010 NFC Wild Card Game, but it was a close second in a career defined by maximum effort and near-psychotic aggression. Someday, he'll have a statue outside Seahawks Stadium. Propriety will dictate that it'll be Lynch stiff-arming Tracy Porter during the original BeastQuake, but in your hearts you KNOW it should be Marshawn in midair. Ball held aloft in one hand and his... ahem... business... in the other. If his Seattle tenure ends after this season (NO NO NO NO NO), his honored place in franchise lore is already secured.
Only St. Louis stands between Seattle and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. Yes, the more cautious among us are playing up the threat the Rams pose to our playoff dreams... But in this moment, the WolfGreys will not fail. What I see in this team is astounding. Watch Marshawn's TD again. Watch Ricardo Lockette SPRINTING downfield to get in one last block. Watch Earl Thomas III jump into the end zone celebration like a high school kid. Watch the utter, unhinged JOY on the sidelines from Kam Chancellor and Pete Carroll. Whatever issues existed in the locker room at midseason seem resolved. Not only are the Seahawks the most talented team in the NFL, they are the most tightly-knit and the most intense. They understand what is at stake, what is sitting there in front of them for the taking: Immortality. A real chance at not just winning another Super Bowl, but also to be remembered as the greatest team that has ever played America's Game. In a league that is structured to prevent multi-year dominance, they are 4 wins away from forging a link in a historical chain that goes Packers-Dolphins-Steelers-49ers-Cowboys-Patriots-Seahawks.
Right now, the question doesn't appear to be about the existence of an Emerald Empire, but about how long it will reign. How long will the other 31 NFL kingdoms be reduced to peasant fiefdoms under Renton's brutal rule?
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