For four years in a row, the Seattle Seahawks have stymied opposing offenses in unprecedented fashion, allowing the fewest points in the league every season. Seattle is the first team to do such a deed since the Cleveland Browns in 1953-57, back when the NFL had a 12-game season, no free agency and no rules against hard hits. While the feat is remarkable, the players mostly met the news with a shrug.
DE Cliff Avril said he didn’t even know the title was on the line in Sunday’s 36-6 win in Arizona, against the NFL’s highest-scoring offense. The Seahawks gave up 277 points (17.3 points a game), two fewer than the Cincinnati Bengals and 10 fewer than Kansas City. They led the league in 2012 with 15,3 ppg, 2013 with 14.4 and 2014 with 15.9.
“I had no idea about it until afterwards, to be honest,” said Avril Wednesday. “Someone like (Richard Sherman) knows stats, he probably knew about it, but I didn’t hear about it until afterwards.
“I don’t think that at any point in the season we thought about the scoring title or anything like that. Our objective each week is not to give up touchdowns and give the offense the ball as many times as possible. If we get the scoring title, then obviously that’s a good thing. But not one time this season have I heard anyone talk about it.”
LB Bobby Wagner had similar thoughts.
“We take a lot of pride in that,” said Wagner. “It just goes to show—the whole year everybody questioned the defense—to show how consistent we’ve been.”
And how do they talk about the benchmark among themselves?
“We don’t. We just let it take care of itself.”
“Show, don’t tell,” have been the defense’s watch-words for four seasons.
The Seahawks haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher since Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles in Week 11 of 2014. Six times this season, opponents have scored 10 points or fewer. In a points-happy era of the NFL, those numbers aren’t just impressive, they’re mind-boggling.
The news of the scoring title didn’t surprise them. It’s what they’ve come to expect.
Avril said the casual attitude didn’t mean dominance comes easily. Avril said that the most common way the mark was discussed in the locker was as a motivation to keep improving.
“Don’t take it for granted, especially the young guys that just got into the system,” said Avril. “It’s a lot of hard work that goes into it. It’s a lot of mental preparation that gets you to that level. You can easily take it for granted if you get here for a few years and it’s just happening.”
CB Richard Sherman said it was personalities that spurred the drive to dominate.
“(Drive) is really important,” said Sherman. “It’s a bunch of alpha males out there, and it’s not always going to be pretty . . . it’s like a pack of male lions — it doesn’t really work like that in the wild — but you have to make it work.
“Guys take a tremendous amount of pride in what they do individually and what we do collectively. That kind of standard is difficult to uphold for so long, because you have your peaks and your valleys. To make 11 guys play like one is very difficult to do over time. I think guys have found a way to motivate one another and to play for one another; to understand that you’re sacrificing, and that it means more to the guy next to you. It’s worked out well.”
Equally impressive is that the feat was accomplished under three defensive coordinators: Gus Bradley, Dan Quinn and current coordinator Kris Richard.
Sherman said the defense was Pete Carroll’s masterpiece.
“I think (Carroll’s) done a great job implementing his system and his philosophy,” said Sherman. “He’s created a Ferrari and just kept handing the keys off.”
Success has taken Bradley and Quinn to NFL head coaching jobs, which is another feather in Carroll’s cap. And Carroll and GM John Schneider continually find players, many undrafted, who fit Seattle’s sustainable prototype of overlooked talents who are eager to prove naysayers wrong, as well as eager for coaching that helps reveal and refine them.
“That’s the challenge: Trying to figure out the guys when you’re going through thousands of guys, trying to figure out who’s who,” Carroll said. “The combine tells you a lot of stuff you can write down on paper. But then it’s the interviews and the conversations that are so crucial.
“We’re on year six; this is a culmination of all of that kind of decision-making. I think John has always been kind of at the lead of figuring that out.”
Despite a splendid benchmark unreached by the 1960s Rams, the 1970s Steelers, the 1980s Bears or 2000s Ravens, Carroll met the news with the same sort of shrug as his players, saying historical significance would be something to admire later.
“This is one of deals that you look back at,” said Carroll. “Right now, it’s cool . . . we’re all proud to be part of that. Then, ‘OK, let’s go, next week.’”
History is a great off-season indulgence, but not when you’re attempting to make more, such as being the first team in NFC annals to make the Super Bowl three times in a row.