By Mike Salk
The 2012 Seahawks have arrived.
I don't mean as a national contender. Yes, the pundits may now start to take notice, but they won't really take this team seriously until it beats San Francisco next Sunday. I'm not sure they'll believe Canadian wins count 100 percent anyway.
No, the 2012 Seahawks arrived because they now know exactly who they are and how they want to win.
They aren't just the gritty, defensive-minded football team that began the year in Arizona hoping to limit possessions and make one extra play in the end. They aren't just the run-first offense that scored as many as 27 points just once in the first half of the year. They're not a dink and dunk offense. They aren't a bend-but-not break defense. Nor are they simply a read-option team or a play-action team.
They are now a complete football team.
In the last two weeks, their offense has scored 87 points. Cool. But their defense has added 14 itself. And special teams came up with seven more.
They've put up 405 yards in the air, 554 more on the ground. And they've allowed just 487 total yards while forcing 11 turnovers.
The Seahawks forced three more turnovers against Buffalo, bringing their total to 11 over the past two games. (AP)
That is what is setting the Seahawks apart. While teams like New England and Green Bay garner press with elite offenses, they struggle on the defensive side of the ball. The Seahawks belong to a small group of well-balanced teams that includes the 49ers and the Broncos.
The Seahawks can beat you in a physical battle. Just ask Chicago and Minnesota, two teams that hit as hard as anyone. They have the big nasties in the trenches to move the pile and the running backs to slide in behind them. They have the big corners and Kam Chancellor. They can beat you by physically dominating you and taking away your spirit.
But they can also win a finesse game. Ask the Bills, who were constantly confused trying to keep track of crossing routes, seams, read options and flea flickers. Russell Wilson picked them apart.
And that truly is the difference. While the defense has shown that it can limit points and even turn the tide with a well-timed turnover, it is more of a question mark than we thought it would be early in the season. But whereas the team that played the first eight games needed its defense to be perfect, the Seahawks can now overcome a few third-down conversions against them.
Wilson has been a joy to watch. There are so many things to love about his game, but what stands out is his poise. There is a moment before each play where he surveys the defense and it just seems to click for him. It looks like he is so confident each time the ball is snapped. It's like he knows the secret the defense is still trying to guess.
Sometimes that means playing read-option games with the over-aggressive pass rushers. Sometimes it's a quick screen, a slant or a play-action fake. But like the great ones, Wilson seems to be playing one step ahead.
Does it mean that they should alter their philosophy? No. And I think Pete Carroll sending out his kicker from the 1-yard line shows that they will always aim to play it safe. They should. It is the way they were built.
But that architecture is starting to morph and mutate. Like the Terminator, it learns more about its surroundings without losing its original purpose.
The 2012 Seahawks may not win the NFC West, may not get a first-round bye, and may have the unenviable task of winning three games on the road to make it to New Orleans. But they have figured out who they are and how they want to win.
And they announced it in Buffalo.