The Seahawks are not just playing their best football of the season. This might be as well as they’ve ever played.
Their three-game winning streak, capped by a 24-14 win over Philadelphia on Sunday, is a string of dominance that matched anything they showed during their 2013 regular-season run toward the Super Bowl.
They held the Eagles to a historically low offensive output, with one of Philly’s pair of touchdowns the result of a short-field possession after a turnover.
Even with that, opponents have scored only 20 points in the past three games.
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They’re the best defense in the NFL, and the throttling of the potent Eagles offense proved it. The Eagles came in averaging 31.3 points a game and 416 yards of offense.
“It was a very similar rhetoric, wasn’t it? We’ve heard that before, and it doesn’t intimidate us at all,” said cornerback Richard Sherman, making an obvious reference to the last time the Seahawks took on an offense that was operating at historic efficiency: the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl.
Instead of 31 points, the Eagles got 14. Instead of 416 yards, they got 139. Instead of their average of 73 offensive snaps, they had 45. And instead of winning their 11th consecutive home game, the Eagles fell to 9-4.
“All week you hear about how explosive their offense is and how fast they are, so for us to come in and do what we did shows how good we are,” said linebacker K.J. Wright. “I wasn’t surprised at all. As we watched film, I noticed they do a lot of trick things to get your eyes off motion, but when it comes down to it, they run basic plays, stuff that we see all the time.”
Wright said the defense was on top of every Eagles offensive indicator, and they communicated it across the field from player to player.
“The way we prepare for teams, we had 10 days between games; you give us 10 days to get ready for somebody, it’s hard to beat us,” Wright said.
Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner wouldn’t go for the theory that the Hawks looked assignment perfect, saying that only a shutout could be considered perfect.
Still, holding Eagle back LeSean McCoy to 2.9 yards per carry on 17 attempts has to grade highly once they look at the videos of this game.
“We just wanted to make sure every time he got the ball, somebody hit him,” Wagner said. “You watch the film, you see he jukes a lot of people — but he didn’t juke anybody today.”
In consecutive 19-3 wins over Arizona and San Francisco, the Hawks were hardly threatened. But the Eagles presented a different challenge for the defense.
“They took this challenge very much to heart,” coach Pete Carroll said. Again, he stressed, the performance wasn’t about the scheme or the game plan or the assignments.
“(It’s) the guys playing it, playing it with intensity and energy,” Carroll said “It’s not just the scheme at all, it’s really Kam (Chancellor) and Earl (Thomas), Michael Bennett and K.J., and Bobby (Wagner) and Sherm — everybody. They will just not back off this station we’ve acquired in terms of intensity and focus. They get it and they’re going to try to ride it all the way to the end of this thing and see what happens.”
Asked how well the defense is playing relative to the league, Wright allowed they were one of the best in the NFL, before wagging his finger and adding: “No, we are the best in the NFL, and we’re peaking at the perfect time.”
The Eagles were the fourth division leader the Seahawks have beaten this season, following defeats of Green Bay, Denver and Arizona.
Sherman nodded and added a “yep” when asked if this is as well as the Seahawks defense has ever played.
“We shouldn’t have given up that many points,” Sherman said of the 20 they’ve allowed in the last three games. “You have to be critical of yourself in this league in order to be where you want to be.”
The team’s confidence never wavered, even during a midseason stretch when the division race seemed to be getting out of reach.
“We know what team we are,” Sherman said. “We have a champion’s mentality and a champion’s pedigree, and that never leaves.”