By Dave Wyman
The statistics show that the Seahawks have the NFL’s No. 1 defense, but they don’t tell the whole story, either.
The numbers tell us that Seattle’s defense is first in yardage allowed, second in points allowed and second in rushing yards allowed.
The story tells us that this defense has given up just four touchdowns in the past five games against some dynamic offensive players in an era that is built for scoring.
That story will be put to the test on Sunday in a Clash-of-the-Titans matchup featuring that No. 1 defense and the No. 1 offense of Tom Brady’s Patriots.
Before you start worrying about Brady, the rest of the story is that Gus Bradley’s defense has gotten after some accomplished quarterbacks this season.
Tom Brady and the Patriots are averaging a league-best 33 points per game. (AP)
Aaron Rodgers. They sacked last year’s MVP eight times and it took Rodgers more than three quarters to finally score a touchdown with a 1-yard run by Cedric Benson. His two-point conversion afterwards failed thanks to cornerback Brandon Browner – that and a slippery kicker ball, according to Rodgers. I suppose Mike Holmgren must’ve snuck that into the ball bag.
Tony Romo. It’s amazing how many categories Romo leads the Cowboys franchise in considering past quarterbacks like Troy Aikman, Roger Staubach and Danny White. He has the most 300-yard games, the most three-or-more-touchdown games and the most games with a 100-plus QB rating. Yet he threw just one touchdown and failed to mount any other kind of scoring threat here in Seattle.
Sam Bradford. The Rams had to rely on a trick play that won’t be seen in the NFL for the next 10 years and two long-bomb field goals in order to score over 10 points. Bradford, the first overall pick in 2010, didn’t throw a touchdown.
Cam Newton. Last year’s AP rookie of the year threw zero touchdowns as well. The Seahawks sacked, chased and harassed him into a 56 QB rating and a 41 percent completion rate. Newton, who reportedly held up the team bus a week earlier because he was crying like a 2-year-old over a loss to the Falcons, must’ve thrown a full-blown temper tantrum after that one.
All told, this defense has allowed just two passing touchdowns this year. But that’s something that Brady can do in 5 minutes.
Facing the Patriots’ No. 1 offense, Brady and the evil genius that is head coach Bill Belichick will be the biggest test for the Seahawk defense thus far – if not the biggest test the entire season. Brady and Belichick are the winningest quarterback/coach combo in league history. Love him or hate him, Belichick has been scheming defenses since he was 11 years old and usually finds a way to exploit a team’s weakness.
Brady is on a whole different level. He’s the “Neo” (for you Matrix fans) of quarterbacks in that he sees everything. When Brady comes to the sidelines after a series he can recite which player went where, who adjusted their route and what steps every defender took during the play.
The way the Seahawks defense matches up with this offense will be the game within the game on Sunday. Just as the Seahawks have some odd-looking personnel on their defense, the Pats have some interesting personnel, too.
Rob Gronkowski. A monstrous tight end with great hands and Charlie Sheen’s appetite for life.
Wes Welker. A speedy little receiver who makes every catch and looks more like a mail man (no offense, postal carriers) than a professional football player.
Danny Woodhead. A 5-foot-8 playmaker who looks like a guy that took a wrong turn at the X Games but somehow gets it done.
How Seahawks defenders like K.J. Wright, Browner and Kam Chancellor match up with these oddities will be telling, but at the center of it all is Brady. I don’t think he can be rattled, but if he’s on the run or on his back the players around him aren’t worth much.
A lot of questions will be answered on Sunday. But remember this, Seahawks fans: even the 2000 Ravens defense hit a few road blocks. That season, that defense that led Baltimore and its 16th-ranked offense to a Super Bowl title gave up 421 yards to the Jaguars and 524 yards to the Jets. If Brady does get loose on this defense, I promise you the sky won’t fall.
I watch SportsCenter and the NFL Network for a living and I can tell you that Seattle’s No. 1-ranked defense has gone unnoticed by everyone outside of the Great Northwest. If they treat Brady the way they’ve treated Rodgers, Romo, Bradford and Newton, they’ll be impossible to ignore.