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Clayton: The Seahawks’ defense is loaded, and now it’s playing like it

The Seahawks have a Pro Bowl tandem at safety in Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams. (Getty)

After one of the worst defensive performances in NFL history through the Seahawks’ first 10 games, Seattle is finishing the season with one of the hottest and best defenses in the league.

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When the season started, I thought the Seahawks were loaded on defense. I thought they had the best secondary since the Legion of Boom.

They had a Pro Bowl strong safety in Jamal Adams, a Pro Bowl cornerback in Shaquill Griffin and a two-time Pro Bowl alternate in free safety Quandre Diggs. They added cornerback Quinton Dunbar, who Pro Football Focus rated as the second-best cover guy in the league last year. Bobby Wagner is a perennial All-Pro and fellow linebacker K.J. Wright has made a Pro Bowl.

The big question mark was the pass rush, and that question became even bigger when Bruce Irvin blew out his ACL in Week 2.

On Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams, the Seahawks looked like a defense that can contend for the Super Bowl. The defensive numbers have been getting better each week. Against the Rams, the numbers went over the top. For all the critics who were upset with Pete Carroll and pushed for the firing of defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., the Seahawks now look like a high-level defense.

In the last two months, the Seahawks have been giving up less than 16 points a game. They gave up no touchdowns to the Rams in a 20-9 victory and made an incredible goal-line stand.

Three quarters of the defensive plays Sunday were in the Cover One and Cover Three schemes that Carroll prefers. They were able to get a four-man rush on Los Angeles quarterback Jared Goff, picking up three sacks to get their total to 43 on the season. In the first half, they pressured Goff 15 times, the most he’s ever faced in a half in his career.

It didn’t work out with Dunbar, who needs knee surgery and is out for the year. But the waiver claim for D.J. Reed has given the Seahawks one of the most surprising starting cornerbacks in the league. Tre Flowers remained on injured reserve Sunday, giving Reed more time to start, and Ugo Amadi is playing great in the slot with Reed playing outside.

All of the sudden the talent on this team is starting to show. Diggs made the Pro Bowl last week, and the Seahawks now have six defenders who have made a Pro Bowl: Diggs, Griffin, Adams, Wright, Wagner and Carlos Dunlap.

Overall, the Seahawks have 16 players on the roster who have been to the Pro Bowl. Sure, five have made it as special teams players, including Tyler Lockett, but 17 is the current high in the NFL.

DK Metcalf has emerged as one of the best receivers in the league and earned his first Pro Bowl nod. On offense, Metcalf joins Russell Wilson as Pro Bowlers this year. Left tackle Duane Brown has been there before, as has fellow lineman Mike Iupati and tight end Greg Olsen.

The NFC is still wide open for the playoffs. The Green Bay Packers should get the No. 1 seed, but so much of their success has been based on Aaron Rodgers’ MVP season and the easiest schedule in the league.

Considering how the season is ending, the Seahawks are getting a lot of breaks. They play San Francisco on Sunday, and the 49ers’ injuries continue to mount. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t expected to play because of his high ankle sprain. Wide receivers Brandon Aiyuk (high ankle sprain) and Deebo Samuel (hamstring) are out. Trent Williams won’t play at left tackle because of an elbow injury. Cornerback Richard Sherman will finish the season sidelined with a calf injury that has kept him out for a good portion of the season.

And what about the season finale for the Rams and Arizona, the NFC West’s two other teams? They are playing for a playoff spot or two, but Goff broke his right thumb in the second half against Seattle and might miss the game. Arizona QB Kyler Murray may miss the game with a lower leg injury. It could be John Wolford of the Rams going against Chris Steveler of the Cardinals. Amazing.

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