Seattle's defense, not offense, the real test

Percy Harvin, Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch make headlines. The Seattle defense, however, wins games. The stats show just how punishing and limiting the Seahawks defense has been this season and why defense, not offense, has given them the best record in the NFC.

Much of the discussion in the coming days from the Minnesota media heading into the Vikings game Sunday with Seattle will be decidedly offensive.

The word offensive in this case is pronounced "OFF-ensive," not "of-FEN-sive." Thousands of words will be dispensed. Most of them will deal with Percy Harvin, Russell Wilson and the mythical battle between Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch.

But the reason the Seattle Seahawks are flying high at 9-1 has little to do with offense. Seattle has scored 30 or more points just three times in 10 games. For comparison purposes, the Vikings have scored 30 or more points in four of nine games. That isn't the question. The question is how many points do they allow?

The key to Seattle's success has been how few points they have allowed. Through 10 games, they have allowed 159 points – which, in rudimentary math terms means that, given that parameter, the Seattle offense needs to score just 17 points on average to win a game.

Seattle has scored 14 points or fewer in two games – and they won them both. For comparative purposes, the Vikings have scored 14 points or fewer twice – and lost both by a combined score of 58-17.

It has been the Seattle defense that has propelled the team to a 9-1 record. Carolina has scored 30 or more points five times. Against Seattle, the Panthers scored seven. San Francisco has scored 31 or more points six times. The 49ers scored seven against Seattle.

Tennessee's 13 points scored against Seattle is its season low for points in a game. The same goes for Atlanta, which lost by 23 points at home last week to Seattle.

In the modern era of the NFL, anything less than 300 yards of offense during a game is viewed as a failure. Opponents of the Seahawks are averaging 289 yards a game – 73 fewer yards than the Seattle offense.

In 10 games, Seattle has allowed just 13 points in the first quarter – one touchdown and two field goals. Nobody has put a blade to their throat early. The defense hasn't made the offense sweat it out early in any game this season. That can't be overestimated. Even the pee-wee play chart of Bill Musgrave changes when the team is down by 10 points early on. That simply hasn't happened to the Seahawks. Why? Because their defense is that strong.

When it comes to finishing games, nobody rivals the dominance of the Seahawks. When an opponent is one-dimensional, what are called "gravy points" tend to follow. No team has a greater second-half point disparity than the Seahawks. Seattle has a point disparity of 76 points in the second half – more than any other team in the NFL. If you're looking for a closer, it's Seattle and its defense.

When teams play Seattle, they come into games knowing that they're just as likely to kick field goals as score touchdowns. Opponents have scored 32 times against Seattle (30 times against the defense) – 16 touchdowns and 16 field goals.

Seattle's defense is in the top three in eight defensive categories, including yards per game (third), passing yards (second), average yards per pass (first), interception percentage (third), and points per game (third).

"They're a great defense, ranked high in about every category you can be," guard Charlie Johnson said. "It's going to be a challenge. They're great up front, great on every level."

The vast majority of the discussion of the Seahawks this week will center on offensive players – Harvin, Wilson, Lynch, etc. But the reason Seattle is 9-1 is because of its defense. It may not get the headlines, but Vikings fans are going to get a first-hand view of why, as things currently stand, the road to the Super Bowl runs through Seattle. It's not because of Harvin. He hasn't played a down all season. It's not due to a lack of talent on Wilson's part. He's had a very strong season. It's because Seattle plays defense like few other teams and, barring a holiday-season collapse, there is little reason not to think the only way to keep Seattle out of the Super Bowl is to beat the Seahawks on their home field – something nobody has done in two years.

At a time when offense is king in the NFL, the Seahawks are primed for a Super Bowl run because of their defense. Offense gets the headlines. Defense wins games.

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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