By Danny O'Neil
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The defense left no doubt.
Not about the outcome of Seattle's game against the Giants on Sunday nor about the trajectory of this season.
That's not just because the defense led Seattle to a 23-0 shutout victory, but because of the way the defense did that. The Seahawks picked off five passes, forced seven punts and didn't let the Giants' offense cross midfield until midway through the fourth quarter, and even that came courtesy of a penalty.
It was quite simply one of the very the best defensive games in this franchise's history as the majority of the Giants' total offense was racked up in the fourth quarter after Seattle led 23-0. It was Seattle's first shutout this season.
Richard Sherman had two of Seattle's five interceptions and a hand in another. (AP)
Seattle's final two games are against Arizona and St. Louis and should the Seahawks win one of those two, their next road game – if they get there – will be back at Met Life Stadium: the Super Bowl.
The significance: The Seahawks won their sixth road game of the year, setting a new franchise record. They now must only win one of their next two games to clinch the division and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
Play of the game: Russell Wilson's first-quarter throw to running back Marshawn Lynch was remarkable. No, wait. It wasn't the pass itself that was as amazing as the fact he got it off, evading multiple pass rushers before lobbing a throw to Lynch near the sideline for a 22-yard gain.
Turning point: The Giants had the ball at their own 44 in the final minute of the first quarter, first down and trailing by three points. Quarterback Eli Manning threw deep only to have cornerback Byron Maxwell outmuscle receiver Victor Cruz in leaping up for the interception. It was Maxwell's second interception this season.
Player of the game: Not only did Lynch have twice as many rushing yards as the Giants' entire team in the first half, but he had more yards receiving at halftime (73) than New York totaled as an offense over the first two quarters (54).
The good: Cornerback Richard Sherman picked off two passes and assisted on a third interception, tipping a ball free safety Earl Thomas picked off in the end zone in the fourth quarter to preserve the shutout. Sherman's two interceptions occurred in the second quarter, his fifth and sixth of the season. It ended a stretch of five consecutive games without an interception for Sherman, the longest draught since he became a starter in 2011. Maxwell – Seattle's other starting cornerback – also picked off two passes. He has three interceptions in three starts this season. Receiver Doug Baldwin caught six passes for 70 yards and scored a touchdown for the third time in the past four regular-season games. Steven Hauschka kicked a 49-yard field goal with 8:33 left in the first quarter, the first of three field goals he made in the first three quarters. He has converted 22 straight field goals since having an attempt blocked at Indianapolis. It's the second-longest streak in franchise history. For the 10th time in 14 games, Seattle has scored first. Lynch caught six passes in the first half for 74 yards.
|• Recap | Stats | Photo gallery | Postgame interviews||• O'Neil: Big win inspires Super Bowl dreams||• O'Neil: What We Learned||• Henderson: Wilson sets NFL record with 23rd win||• Henderson: Cornerbacks Maxwell, Lane emerging||• The Pete Carroll Show: 'They didn't have a chance'|
The ugly: The first quarter was an eyesore that could be summarized like this: punt, punt, field goal, punt, punt, pick. The Seahawks failed to convert any of their first four third-down opportunities.
New York Giants: OT James Brewer suffered a left ankle injury; WR Victor Cruz left the game in the third quarter after suffering a concussion and a sprained knee; RB Peyton Hillis left the game to be evaluated for a concussion.
Seattle: WR Percy Harvin, RB Christine Michael, CB Brandon Browner, LB K.J. Wright, OL Michael Bowie, OL Caylinn Hauptmann, DE Benson Mayowa.
New York Giants: QB Ryan Nassib, CB Corey Webster, S Cooper Taylor, LB Allen Bradford, G Stephen Goodin, TE Adrien Robinson, DE Jason Pierre-Paul.