Buzzing on Yahoo Sports:

Seahawks' defense much more than L.O.B

The SportsXchange

NEWARK, N.J. -- Legion of Boom, the fan-generated label for the vaunted secondary of the Seattle Seahawks, would be doomed if not for the true heart of the NFL's top-ranked defense.

"We have talent everywhere," said middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, whose 15-tackle performance in the NFC Championship game was washed out by the postgame attention garnered by All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman. "There's no defense like us. You compare us to other defenses, there is no defense like ours."

The Pro Bowl trio of Sherman and safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas does set the Seahawks apart. But the supporting cast, including nose tackle Brandon Mebane and versatile linemen Michael Bennett -- he lines up at end and tackle -- and Red Bryant, a second starter who slides along the line, scoops up far more responsibility than credit. In Wagner's 15-tackle showing, defensive line coach Travis Jones was overwhelmed by Mebane's dominance.

"It don't bother us," Mebane said, eyebrows raised. "As long as we accomplish our goal."

Teammates are not overlooking the front seven and the stout center of Seattle's one-gap scheme.

"Everyone wants to talk about L.O.B," Thomas said of media and fans rushing to credit the secondary for all things holy in Seattle. "But I believe we have one of the best d-line groups in the league. Especially Brandon Mebane, at nose tackle, he can take over a game."

Mebane's statistics do not smack of stardom. Like many of his teammates, his path to the NFL did not portend greatness, either. Mebane was a third-round pick out of Cal in 2007. He played behind Rocky Bernard for two seasons and missed several games with a calf injury in 2010.

He clicked with coach Pete Carroll and is the senior-most player of the four veterans remaining from the pre-Carroll era in Seattle. The way Carroll views it, Mebane and Bryant passed on free agency to stay with the Seahawks and are being paid back for their investment and self-sacrifice.

Mebane is pulled in many passing situations for Bennett, one of two "Leo" defensive ends signed to modest free agent contracts in the offseason. Bennett was not offered a contract by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but knew defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and trusted Seattle was the right place for him.

He nailed it, leading the team with 8.5 sacks in the regular season, just ahead of Cliff Avril, who left the Detroit Lions for a two-year contract worth up to $14 million and had eight sacks as a specialized pass rusher. Avril declined a three-year, $30 million deal with the Lions in 2012.

"It's not all about that for me," Avril said Tuesday. "I can't complain at all."

Avril's unique trait -- a stunning first step off the ball and a knack for timing the snap -- made him coveted by the Seahawks. His presence, and willingness to accept a lesser contract than he expected on the open market, allowed Quinn and Carroll to move 2012 first-round draft pick Bruce Irvin into a hybrid pass-rushing role.

"Bruce deserves credit there," Quinn said. "He put in the work and was willing to (move). And that's Coach Carroll's approach -- to use players in the position that will best serve the team. We had the abundance of Leo personnel."

Irvin, now at left outside linebacker, and Thomas are the only first-round picks on the two-deep defensive depth chart. There is only one second-rounder -- Wagner. The rest of the mob of defenders evaluators dubbed misfits -- including fifth-round picks Sherman and Chancellor and a sixth-rounder, right cornerback Byron Maxwell -- are in that shutdown secondary.

"Some players are selfish and are going to do whatever they can to get their stats," Sherman said. "... Then you have your guys that are going to take on the double team like Brandon Mebane does and hold that so that the linebackers can run through the gaps and get the stats. Big Red Bryant is going to hold the edge and make sure they don't get around there. He may never make a tackle, but he's going to hold the edge and do his job effectively the way our defense needs it done.

"Our whole front line does a lot of dirty work that you never hear about, that you never see, that never shows up in the stats sheet that is incredibly unselfish, and we appreciate it."

What shows up on the stat sheet is the Seahawks led the NFL in scoring defense (14.4 points per game), takeaways (39), yards per play (4.42), passing yards per play (5.25), red-zone touchdown percentage (36.11 percent) and second in a several other categories, including point differential (11.6 per game).

What shows up on film? Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning said communication between linebackers and the secondary is better than most teams. Denver's offensive coordinator, Adam Gase, said the concepts are well-coached and well-absorbed. He singled out Sherman for route recognition and anticipation. Manning was more succinct.

"Unity. That is one word that jumps out," Manning said Tuesday. "That is a close-knit bunch of guys, for what I see on film. They are constantly high-fiving each other, picking each other up off a pile. I see them constantly communicating. You see the safeties talking, you see linebackers talking to corners and linebackers talking to defensive linemen. That just jumps out on the game film. You can just tell they are a close-knit unit. They communicate, and that's a big part of their defensive success in my opinion."

And for that, there is plenty of credit to go around.
Sign up for Yahoo Fantasy Football
View Comments (10)