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Originally published January 7, 2015 at 6:09 PM | Page modified January 9, 2015 at 2:36 PM

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We don’t need to wait to appreciate this defense

With the work of performance art that is the Seahawks’ defense, it is possible to marvel at their dominance in real time.

Seattle Times columnist


Maybe it’s true, as Richard Sherman and others have said, that this Seahawks defense will be best appreciated in retrospect.

That is the case with many great creations. It can take the passage of time to clarify just how unique and groundbreaking they were.

But with the work of performance art that is the Seahawks’ defense, it is possible to marvel at their dominance in real time. Michael Bennett has called it the greatest of all time, which might be, if not an outright exaggeration, at the very least a premature boast.

But there’s little question that this unit will be remembered beyond the playing days of its stars, just as the great Vikings, Steelers, Bears and Ravens units of the past, among other elite defenses, still resonate years, even decades, later.

It is increasingly clear we are seeing history in the making in the trenches of CenturyLink Field and beyond, and that is something to savor.

While the rightful focus is on the Seahawks’ ongoing pursuit of a second Super Bowl title, which proceeds on Saturday against Carolina, there should be an interlude to appreciate just what magic is being performed here.

That this is a Seahawks defense of extreme accomplishment is well-documented, statistically and anecdotally. They are, once again, No. 1 in the NFL in total defense and scoring defense, the latter feat for the third straight year, accomplished previously by the Vikings of 1969-71.

But the Seahawks defense is perhaps best appreciated aesthetically. There is a discernible personality to this group, a whole that is not only greater than the sum of its parts, but flashier, too. And that’s saying something, considering the personalities involved.

En masse, Seattle’s defense has flair and style and panache. The Legion of Boom is the most prominent entity, but its greatest strength is the synergy of all the parts.

It is a testament to the team-building ability of Pete Carroll and John Schneider that many of the key pieces were cultivated from obscure locales. Sherman and Kam Chancellor were fifth-round draft picks. Brandon Browner, the since-departed cornerback, came out of the Canadian Football League, while his replacement, Byron Maxwell, was a sixth rounder.

“The only first-round guy that anyone ever knew about was Earl (Thomas),’’ Sherman said. “Now everyone is like, ‘Oh, you guys have this big-time secondary, you guys are cheating.’ Where were you guys at in 2011 — when no one knew us from nobody?”

The Seahawks, furthermore, are doing their damage in an era when many elements of a defense’s aggressiveness have been legislated out of commission, both for the safety of players and to foster the crowd-pleasing elements of freewheeling offensive play.

But even with those restrictions — further tightened after last season in what was widely perceived as a direct reaction to Seattle’s dominance — the Seahawks have found a way to forge an intimidating persona by pushing the rules to their utmost limit.

Still, Sherman can’t help but wonder how these Seahawks would have fared in the rugged old days, when much more defensive contact was allowed.

“I’d love to see us back then,’’ he said. “I’d love to see us have a chance. I have no idea how we’d play. We might be terrible back then. They may rough us up and run us out the building, but I’d love to see us have a chance back then with the rules the way they were.

“No illegal touching, no defensive holding, no roughing the passer. Oh, man ... Kam Chancellor would not be fair for a lot of people. He stays in a dark place, and I don’t know if enough people can bring the flashlight.”

The flashlight is becoming a bright spotlight as the Seahawks begin the postseason. It’s not the time to be focusing on legacy, because it will diminish if they falter on the way back to the Super Bowl.

“I don’t think we think about our legacy, but we do recognize what we’re doing right now is pretty good,’’ linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “Our job is to keep that going and give you guys a lot to talk about. As long as we stop putting points on the board, you all can keep talking about us.”

“We won’t really know how good we are until 10 years from now, when we sit back and really compare ourselves,’’ added linebacker K.J. Wright. “But right now, that’s the last thing that’s on our minds. We’ll probably retire and sit on our rocking chair and be able to brag to our grandkids about it. But right now, it is what it is.”

Here’s what the Seahawks’ defense is: The trademark of the league’s most prominent team. Seattle’s has already assured that it will be thrown out in future conversations of the best of this era. How far up the ranks it will be is the ongoing story being played out as we speak.

“I think if we put a couple more championships up there, we have to be considered,’’ Wagner said of Seattle’s claim to Bennett’s declaration as the best defense ever. “So that’s the plan: More championships.”

Scoring lows
The Seahawks are only the third team in history to lead the NFL in scoring defense for three straight seasons:
YearsTeamPPG averages
1953-57*Browns13.5, 13.5, 18.2, 14.8, 14.3
1969-71**Vikings9.5, 10.2, 9.9
2012-14Seahawks15.3, 14.4, 15.9
*12-game seasons; **14-game seasons

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or On Twitter @StoneLarry

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