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Seahawks Defense Embracing High Expectations

Members of Seattle's loaded defense knows the expectations are high for them this season, and they're just fine with that.

Seahawks players on both sides of the ball, as well as their coaches firmly believe an offensive outburst is coming, be it this weekend in Tennessee or in some other game. There's too much talent on that side of the ball, and too much history of success under Darrell Bevell and Tom Cable to not expect big things from that unit that has been one of the most efficient and explosive in the NFL since 2012.

Soon, Russell Wilson will have a huge game, Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham will put up Pro Bowl-caliber numbers, and the running backs will have a big game. And yes, at some point the offense will have to carry the team in a game where the defense gives up a few more points than usual, that's just the nature of the game. But while everyone is expecting that to happen soon, nobody on the defensive side of the ball has a problem with the idea that the pressure is on them to be dominant until the offense plays up to its potential.

After all, as cornerback Richard Sherman noted after Sunday's 12-9 win over the San Francisco 49ers, the Seahawks have more experience, more continuity, and yes, more money invested on that side of the ball, so why shouldn't expectations be high for a unit that has been one of the best in the NFL for half a decade.

"It is something that is just kind of unspoken," Sherman said earlier this week. "We've got a lot of moving parts on offensive line, obviously some new faces. The running back situation is still figuring itself out. Last week, we had a rookie (Chris Carson) run for 93 yards and 20 carries and did a fantastic job, but they are still working themselves out. And while they are still working themselves out, we got a lot of the same faces. We have a lot of continuity on our defense and a lot of guys who have played a lot of high quality and high level football. So we would expect it to be on our backs. There is a lot of leaders on the defense. There are a lot of guys who have played championship winning football, and we would expect nothing else."

In other words, if you're trying to find a rift between offense and defense, look elsewhere. Seattle's defense knows it has eight Pro Bowlers in the starting lineup, and expects to produce accordingly, regardless of what's happening on offense or special teams.

"We're such a great defense, that we pride ourselves on being the best," linebacker Bobby Wagner said on the NFL Network. "Our mindset is, if you give us three points, we should be able to win the game. It has nothing to do with the offense, it's just a defensive mentality that we've had since I've been here.

"We have such a high standard in our room and with our defense that we don't necessarily pay attention to what happens on the other side of the ball. We've got to control what we can control—we're not in high school, none of us are going to go over there and play offense. We know they're going to do their thing, they're going to start clicking and doing everything like that, so we're focused on us."

Of course, defense is more fun when playing from ahead. Pass-rushers get more chances at sacks, and defensive backs have more chances to make plays, but you won't hear the Seahawks defenders complaining if they're asked to help the team win a low-scoring game.

"You definitely want them to score, especially for myself so we can get after the quarterback, but at the end of the day, this is what the defense is built off of," defensive end Cliff Avril said. "Control what you can control—that's my motto, that's what I tell guys, 'Hey, control what you can control, and that's what we do out here. Keep giving them the opportunity to score.' We're built for this, so we'll keep chopping away, and when they get things going—and they're going to get them going—we'll be that much better of a team.

"They've got so many weapons over there on offense. It's all about people just jelling and getting better. We'll continue to get better as a team; they'll get better, we'll get better, and all around we'll be a problem for a lot of teams."

That put-it-on-us attitude is exactly what Seahawks coach Pete Carroll would hope to hear out of his veteran defense, which has allowed just 26 points in two games despite facing one of the game's best quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers, in Green Bay.   

"They've had that mentality for, I don't know, five years, six years, whatever it is, it has been a really long time," Carroll said. "That's just the way they've been thinking all along. They're just telling you that that's what it feels like to be part of this team. Yeah, I really like it. I think it's a great mentality, and they're very responsible about it and willing to hold themselves accountable, as hopefully everybody is on this team. That's just kind of the normal thinking for our guys."

And while the Seahawks expect to play better in all phases of the game going forward, it shouldn't be overlooked just how well the Seahawks defense has played thus far, and how good that unit just might end up being when the dust settles. Rodgers and the Packers managed just 17 points, and their two touchdowns were hardly the result of the defense being overwhelmed by a likely future Hall of Famer. Green Bay's first touchdown came after the Seahawks turned the ball over at their own 6-yard line, and the second came when Rodgers caught the Seahawks with a quick snap as they were trying to substitute, one of his specialties. It was a great play by Rodgers and the offense, to be sure, but also one that perhaps no other team in the league would have pulled off against Seattle. A week later, San Francisco manage only three field goals and 248 total yards, and converted 2 of 12 third-down attempts. San Francisco quarterback Brian Hoyer passed for just 99 yards, averaging 3.7 yards per pass attempt, and if not for two lapses in the running game accounting for 88 yards, it would have been a truly dominant effort.

Going back to the start of training camp, Carroll has raved about the talent level and depth of his team, and that was before the addition of Sheldon Richardson, a former defensive rookie of the year and Pro-Bowl defensive tackle with the Jets. With eight Pro Bowlers on defense—and that doesn't include Frank Clark, who had 10 sacks last season, and plenty of quality depth on all three levels, this defense has a chance to do some special things this season.

"It could be really good," Wagner said. "After two games it's hard to tell if the defense is going to be great or not, but I'll have a better answer for you come week 15 or 16."

Added Avril: "I mean, on paper we have the potential to be one of the best defense since I've been here, but we've got to go out and make it happen. But the potential is there, we have a lot of experienced guys, a lot of guys who make big plays. So the potential is there, we've just got to go make it happen."

The Seahawks and Titans face off on Sunday, Dec. 24, 2023. Kickoff is set for 10 a.m. PT. Take a look back through history at the Seahawks' matchups against the Titans.

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