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Is Seahawks’ defense best ever?

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Updated: February 3, 2014 4:21PM



EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — In today’s NFL, where offensive minds are coveted and quarterbacks are valued beyond comparison, the Seattle Seahawks’ defensive performance in Super Bowl XLVIII shined like cornerback Richard Sherman in postgame interviews.

The Seahawks proudly declared that defense still can win championships — and did so against one of the best quarterbacks of all-time in the Denver Broncos’ Peyton Manning.

The Seahawks had the best defense this season, and it made them the best team in the end. They thumped the favored Broncos 43-8 at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.

Hard hits.

Pressure.

Turnovers.

Points.

The Seahawks’ victory was the type that would make Lovie Smith beam with pride. It was everything he preached as Bears coach. And it’s everything the Seahawks did Sunday.

They forced four turnovers — two interceptions and two fumbles — and should have had more. The Seahawks’ defense actually accounted for more points (nine) than the Broncos’ record-setting offense (eight).

The Seahawks held the Broncos’ running backs to 27 yards on 13 carries and did more than enough to bother Manning, who completed 34 of 49 passes for 280 yards, a touchdown and a 73.5 passer rating.

It was an elite performance that put the Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom” defense into the conversation for the best of all-time, joining the 1985 Bears, the 2000 Baltimore Ravens and the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Considering the Sea-hawks were No. 1 in total defense, passing defense and points allowed in the regular season during an era of offensive domination, they have a very strong case.

They might just make defenses cool again.

“I certainly hope so,” Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. “We were fast and physical, and we played the game on our terms.”

The Seahawks’ success started with a botched snap from center Manny Ramirez to Manning on the first play from scrimmage. Manning said it was a “cadence issue” caused by noise during an audible. It resulted in a safety for the Sea-hawks 12 seconds into the game. It marked the fastest points scored in Super Bowl history, passing Devin Hester’s game-opening kickoff return for a touchdown 14 seconds into ­Super Bowl XLI.

There were plenty of highlights for the Seahawks’ defense. Safety Kam Chancellor had a tone-setting hit on receiver Demaryius Thomas over the middle on the Broncos’ third snap. Chancellor also intercepted Manning late in the first quarter. Linebacker Malcolm Smith (the most valuable player of the game) intercepted a pass deflected by defensive end Cliff Avril and returned it 69 yards for a touchdown.

But it was what the Seahawks did to Manning that stood out.

The narrative was set up perfectly for Manning. It was his Super Bowl — his John Elway-like moment — fresh off a remarkable comeback from multiple neck surgeries and a record-setting season.

Instead, the Broncos’ offense —the same one that helped the team become the first to surpass 600 points in the regular season — was reduced to using wide-receiver screens for a running game and short crossing routes.

Avril and the rest of the defensive front forced Manning to move. Manning wasn’t just missing open receivers. He was failing to read the defense and realize who was open.

“They have an excellent defense,” Manning said, reciting a phrase he said more than once. “They executed better than we did. Give Seattle a lot of credit.”

Even when things went right for the Broncos, they failed. Manning found Thomas for a 10-yard completion, but cornerback Byron Maxwell knocked the ball loose and Smith recovered it in the third quarter.

“The ‘Legion of Boom,’ baby,” Sherman said. “I hope we etched our names in the history books.”

They undoubtedly did.

“This is one of the best defenses ever to play the game, statistically,” defensive lineman Michael Bennett said. “We’re the best defense since the ’85 Bears.”

Email: ajahns@suntimes.com

Twitter: @adamjahns



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