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Was 2012 defense best in franchise history?

Posted Feb 15, 2013

The Seahawks set a franchise record for average points allowed in 2012, and in 2013 the defense will be looking to rank among the Top 10 in the NFL for a club-record-tying third consecutive season.

Cortez Kennedy was incredulous. Or at least as disbelieving as the Seahawks’ affable Hall of Fame defensive tackle can be.

It was the day of the Seahawks’ wild-card playoff game against the Redskins near the nation’s capitol, and someone on the TV in the pregame meal room at the team hotel had just said the Seattle defense that would take the field that afternoon was the best in franchise history.

“Can you believe that?” Kennedy said. He then turned to former Pro Bowl running back Chris Warren and offered, “Chris, they just said this defense is better than our defense was.”

That would be saying something, because the Kennedy-led units in 1990-92 were the only ones in the league to rank among the Top 10 in each of those three seasons – and the only Seattle defense to rank in the Top 10 prior to that had been in 1984, when the Seahawks also led the NFL with a club-record 63 takeaways.

Warren cocked his head and smiled before saying, “Well.”

Kennedy just harrumphed.

But the 2012 Seahawks did finish fourth in average yards allowed, the highest a Seattle defense has ever ranked. They also allowed a league-low 245 points, the franchise record for a 16-game season – and only 224 of those were scored against the defense. And this unit was the second in club history to rank among the Top 10 in average yards allowed rushing (10th) and passing (sixth), as well as total yards.

This after the Seahawks ranked No. 9 in the league is average yards allowed in 2011, and there’s every reason to believe that this defense will be a Top 10 unit again in 2013 – tying the run of those defenses that featured Kennedy.

But you make the call: Which defense is the best in franchise history?

To aid in your decision, here are some rankings and statistics from the seven Seahawks defenses that have ranked among the Top 10 in the league:

1984
Regular-season record: 12-4
Playoff performance: beat the Raiders in wild-card round; lost to the Dolphins in divisional round
Defensive ranking: No. 6; 6th against the run, 10th against the pass
Average yards allowed: 310.2
Points allowed: 282 (247 by the defense)
Coordinator: Tom Catlin
Leaders of the pack:
Tackles – LB Shelton Robinson 93; LB Keith Butler 89; LB Greg Gaines 88; DT Joe Nash 82
Interceptions – SS Kenny Easley 10; CB Dave Brown 8
Sacks – DE Jeff Bryant 14.5; DE Jacob Green 13
Pro Bowl players: Easley, Brown, Nash
Number to know: 63. The Seahawks forced that many turnovers (38 interceptions, 25 fumble recoveries), which ranks No. 2 in NFL history behind the 1961 Chargers (66).

1990
Regular-season record
: 9-7
Playoff performance
: did not qualify
Defensive ranking
: No. 9; 10th against the run, 11th against the pass
Average yards allowed
: 288.1
Points allowed
: 286 (244 by the defense)
Coordinator
: Tom Catlin
Leaders of the pack
:
Tackles
– SS Nesby Glasgow 83; FS Eugene Robinson 82
Interceptions
– Robinson 3, CB Dwayne Harper 3
Sacks
– Jacob Green 12.5
Pro Bowl players
: none
Number to know
: 11. The Seahawks held opponents to 17 or fewer points in that many games.

1991
Regular-season record
: 7-9
Playoff performance
: did not qualify
Defensive ranking
: No. 8; 15th against the run, 10th against the pass
Average yards allowed
: 293.9, the franchise record for a 16-game season
Points allowed
: 261 (240 by the defense)
Coordinator
: Tom Catlin
Leaders of the pack
:
Tackles
– LB Terry Wooden 105; FS Eugene Robinson 91
Interceptions
– Robinson 5; CB Dwayne Harper 4
Sacks
– LB Rufus Porter 10; DT Cortez Kennedy 6.5; DE Jacob Green 6
Pro Bowl players
: Kennedy
Number to know
:  27. Porter (15) and Kennedy (12) combined for that many passes defensed.

1992

Regular-season record: 2-14
Playoff performance
: did not qualify
Defensive ranking
: Tied for No. 10; 20th against the run, 4th against the pass
Average yards allowed
: 286.4
Points allowed
: 312 (263 by the defense)
Coordinators
: Tom Catlin and Rusty Tillman
Leaders of the pack
:
Tackles
– FS Eugene Robinson 94; DT Cortez Kennedy 92; LB Rufus Porter 90
Interceptions
– Robinson 7
Sacks
– Kennedy 14; Porter 9.5
Pro Bowl players
: Kennedy, Robinson
Number to know
: 10. The offense scored 10 or fewer points in 10 games, and was shutout in
back-to-back games.

1997
Regular-season record
: 8-8
Playoff performance
: did not qualify
Defensive ranking
: No. 8; 12th against the run, 14th against the pass
Average yards allowed
: 303.1
Points allowed
: 362 (327 against the defense)
Coordinator
: Greg McMackin
Leaders of the pack
:
Tackles
– LB Chad Brown 104; FS Darryl Williams 93; MLB Dean Wells 92
Interceptions
– Williams 8
Sacks
– DE Michael Sinclair 12; DT Sam Adams 7; Brown 6.5
Pro Bowl players
: Sinclair, Williams
Number to know
: 29. The turnovers forced by the ’97 team were the fewest of the seven
Seahawks defenses that have ranked among the Top 10.

2011
Regular-season record
: 7-9
Playoff performance
: did not qualify
Defensive ranking
: No. 9; 15th against the run, 11th against the pass
Average yards allowed
: 332.2
Points allowed
: 315 (294 by the defense)
Coordinator
: Gus Bradley
Leaders of the pack
:
Tackles
– MLB David Hawthorne 115; SS Kam Chancellor 94; FS Earl Thomas 92; LB Leroy Hill 89
Interceptions
– CB Brandon Browner 6; CB Richard Sherman 4; Chancellor 4
Sacks
– DE Chris Clemons 11
Pro Bowl players
: Thomas, Browner, Chancellor
Number to know
: 10. Other than Clemons’ 11, the number of sacks produced by the rest of the linemen combined.

2012
Regular-season record
: 11-5
Playoff performance
: beat the Redskins in the wild-card round; lost to the Falcons in the divisional round
Defensive ranking
: No. 4; 10th against the run, 6th against the pass
Average yards allowed
: 306.2
Points allowed
: 245 (224 by the defense)
Coordinator
: Gus Bradley
Leaders of the pack
:
Tackles
– MLB Bobby Wagner 140; LB K.J. Wright 96; SS Kam Chancellor 91
Interceptions
– CB Richard Sherman 8
Sacks
– DE Chris Clemons 11.5; DE Bruce Irvin 8
Pro Bowl players
– FS Earl Thomas
Number to know
: 24. The combined points the Seahawks lost their five games by, after losing nine games by an average of 21 points in 2010 – their first season under coach Pete Carroll.

Game Rewind: Seattle Seahawks