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Rost’s 5 Seahawks Takeaways: Who on the defense deserves attention

Rookie linebacker Jordyn Brooks led all players in solo tackles Sunday. (Getty)

The Seahawks took home the NFC West crown for the first time since 2016 with their 20-9 win over the Los Angeles Rams in Week 16. But there’s plenty of football left to play – and plenty left to prove – for Seattle.

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Here are a few takeaways from their most recent win.

The Seahawks’ defense will still be questioned, but it has proven plenty.

If there’s one consistent thing about Seahawks games, it’s that they’ll always surprise you – and the same is apparently true at team headquarters, where head coach Pete Carroll and defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. have produced one of the most surprising in-season turnarounds I can remember.

The Seahawks were on pace to shatter the 2011 Saints’ record for most yards surrendered in a single season. It didn’t help that pass rush issues lingered from the year prior. In Weeks 1-7, this defense registered just nine sacks and was giving up 479 yards per game.

Then came an accountability meeting. Or maybe healthier players. Or coaching. Or a combination of all three. Because in Weeks 10-16, the Seahawks racked up 24 sacks while surrendering just 302.1 yards per game.

Their performance against the Rams was the most impressive of the bunch. While Los Angeles has been hot and cold on offense, the group was still eighth in yards per game entering Week 16. This group rattled quarterback Jared Goff (before and after his broken thumb) and held the Rams out of the end zone entirely, becoming the first team to do so this season to LA.

In fact, the Seahawks have held opponents to 17 points or fewer in each of their last five contests. Not helping Seattle’s case, though, is the track record of those opponents. Nevermind the great games against Sam Darnold or Carson Wentz. Critics will ask how the Seahawks would fare against Aaron Rodgers. How about against Alvin Kamara and the Saints’ offense? Tom Brady and Mike Evans? What about the top shelf teams in the AFC?

Honestly, those are fair questions, but I’m not a fan of the moving target mentality when there has been genuine progress. The Seahawks will obviously have a harder time against the league’s best offenses, but that doesn’t negate what this coaching staff and defensive leaders have been able to accomplish over the last several weeks.

Weekly reminder that points matter.

A win is the greatest accomplishment coming out of any game, but Seattle’s offense will have to put up more than 20 against the league’s best teams.

That doesn’t always hold true. The Falcons held the Chiefs to 17 points this weekend, and 20 points just might just be enough to beat a banged-up Rams’ offense should these two teams meet again in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. But the NFC’s best offensive weapons are going to test this defense as much as they can, and Seattle’s offense will need to find some of its early season fireworks to stay in games. That’s been missing these past few weeks. Outside of their blowout win over the Jets, they haven’t scored more than 28 points since Week 9.

Now, I say that, but give credit where it’s due. This offense faced the league’s top passing defense and the league’s top overall defense in back-to-back weeks and came out with a win both times.

It didn’t feel like it in the first half, but the offense had a solid game on third down.

This game felt like a battle between two solid defenses, with both offenses stumbling through the first half. But Seattle’s offense, which is averaging 40% conversions on third down this season, did enough in the final two quarters to finish the night 8 for 17 (47%) on third down.

Those pivotal conversions included a 45-yard bomb from Russell Wilson to David Moore on third-and-8, a quick pass for what became an 18-yard gain by Carlos Hyde on third-and-9, an 8-yard pass to DK Metcalf on third-and-7, and a 13-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Hollister on third-and-4. All of those plays were on a scoring drive.

Seahawks rookie LB Jordyn Brooks continues to look stellar.

It’s never easy living up to the expectations of being a first-round pick, especially a first-round pick by a team that rarely makes them, but rookie linebacker Jordyn Brooks has continued to make a real impact. He’s not been seeing a ton of snaps but was a huge part of Seattle goal line stand Sunday. He was credited with a tackle or an assist on all but one play (excluding Jamal Adams’ touchdown-saving tackle of Malcom Brown on second down) and led both teams with seven solo tackles.

Seahawks safety Quandre Diggs is the king of the ugly interception.

OK, I should clarify that what I mean is that he’s been making great, heads-up plays on some ugly passes. Diggs scooped up his fifth interception of the season, a total that leads the team, on an ill-timed pass from Goff that was a little reminiscent of another interception by Diggs earlier this season of Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.

Follow Stacy Rost on Twitter.

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