By Danny O’Neil
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The coach found a quiet moment on what will be the league’s biggest stage.
Pete Carroll walked onto the field at MetLife Stadium, stopped at the edge of the end zone and just stood there for a few seconds, hands in his pockets as he looked into the fully lit, now empty stadium.
The game was over, his Seahawks had beaten the New York Giants 23-0. His press conference had ended, Carroll describing what was the team’s most complete defensive performance in his four years as coach. And as Carroll stood at the edge of the field in his long-sleeved T-shirt, it was impossible not to wonder if the coach was letting his mind wander for just a moment, picturing Met Life Stadium seven weeks from now when it will be the site of the Super Bowl.
Sunday was that kind of game, not only inspiring day dreams about the league’s ultimate prize, but a victory that brought Seattle one step closer to that destination.
The Seahawks were not perfect, they were something even better: totally and unapologetically dominant on defense. Seattle picked off five passes, forced eight punts and gave up only 73 yards of offense over the first three quarters. The Giants didn’t run a play in the Seahawks’ half of the field until the final 7 minutes.
It was utterly remarkable, a defensive performance so good that it didn’t matter that Seattle’s offense seemed suddenly allergic to third-down conversions even as it continued to commit drive-killing penalties.
Russell Wilson deserves to be praised for winning his 23rd start – most of any NFL quarterback over his first two seasons – but the defense is the foundation of the team. A defense that allowed the fewest points in the league a year ago, and one that was wounded by the way it gave up the lead in the fourth quarter at San Francisco last week.
Four sacks and five interceptions of Giants quarterback Eli Manning contributed to the Seahawks’ most complete defensive performance of the last four seasons. (AP)
“When we have bad performances like that, of course it hurts,” said safety Earl Thomas, whose interception ended the Giants’ only real scoring chance. “It hurts hard, but that doesn’t define us, and we know that. That’s why we came back and we won like we did.”
There was nothing fancy to their approach Sunday. They stuffed the run, strong safety Kam Chancellor being especially active near the line of scrimmage, and forced the Giants to challenge outside, where Seattle’s cornerbacks were waiting.
It was as one-sided as a game gets in the NFL, and while these Giants had no playoff possibilities left to play for, that’s still a team with a lot of professional pride and one that had won five of its last seven games. It has been a bad season for Eli Manning, and the Seahawks made it worse by intercepting him five times.
The defense gave Seattle’s offense all the room it needed to keep plugging away even as it failed to convert eight of its first nine third-down plays.
“Four years ago we would have lost this game,” fullback Michael Robinson said. “We started slow. We really kind of felt like we just couldn’t get out of our own way early in the first half. But guys just weren’t worried.”
The Seahawks took a typically conservative approach, valuing field position above all else, twice punting on fourth-and-short near midfield. And when they did go for it on fourth-and-goal in the third quarter, Marshawn Lynch’s score was negated by a false-start penalty.
New York had possession after possession end with either a punt (there were eight of those) or a pick (five of them), and it would have gotten a little boring if it wasn’t so enjoyable to watch when a defense renders an opposing offense impotent.
Anyone still wondering how the Seahawks would respond to that loss in San Francisco?
More coverage of the Seahawks’ Week-15 win over the Giants at MetLife Stadium.
|• Recap | Stats | Photo gallery | Postgame interviews||• O’Neil: What We Learned||• Chalk Talk: Huard breaks down Lynch’s TD run||• Henderson: Wilson sets NFL record with 23rd win||• Henderson: Cornerbacks Maxwell, Lane emerging||• The Pete Carroll Show: ‘They didn’t have a chance’|
“It’s a reflection of how we’ve been all year,” defensive end Red Bryant said. “We don’t get too high or get too low. We know what the end goal is, and we put ourselves in great position to accomplish goals so we looked at this game for what it was: Another opportunity to go out there and get better. I feel like we got better.
“We enjoy the day and move forward tomorrow.”
Now all Seattle must do now is win one of its final two games at home in a stadium where it hasn’t lost in two seasons and the Seahawks won’t have to play again on the road unless they reach the Super Bowl.
And as Carroll stood at the edge of the field in the hour after Sunday’s game and looked out, it was impossible not to wonder if he was thinking what it will be like if the Seahawks get back there in February.