The Seattle Seahawks have never opened 4-0. They’ve also never played defense like this.
Seattle tries to continue its perfect start when it returns from a bye week to face the St. Louis Rams in an NFC West matchup.
While it’s no surprise that the Seahawks have gotten off to a fast start after showing major improvement last season, it is stunning to see them leading the league in defense.
Seattle has surrendered a league-low 13 points this season, holding opponents to seven or fewer in four straight games for the first time in franchise history. The Seahawks are the first team to accomplish the feat since Baltimore did it from Nov. 17-Dec. 19, 2000.
Seattle’s defense is tied for the league lead with 10 takeaways, setting up 31 of the team’s 65 points.
“Guys are out there making big plays, and it jacks up the level of the whole defense,” defensive end Grant Wistrom said. “The more excited you are, the harder you play and the better your chances of making a big play yourself.”
Wistrom will be facing the Rams for the first time since signing a big free-agent deal with the Seahawks in the offseason.
“I think everybody is making a bigger deal about this than I am,” said Wistrom, second on Seattle with 2 1/2 sacks. “When the opening kickoff happens, you forget about all that stuff. It’s just another football team.”
After ranking 28th defensively following a 7-9 finish in 2002, the Seahawks, under the direction of coordinator Ray Rhodes, improved to 19th last season and went 10-6. While it’s still early, this clearly has the potential to be a very special season in Seattle.
“It’s got to be the coaching and the attitude they brought,” tackle Cedric Woodard said. “We’ve had players here before, but I think you need to play defense with a certain attitude to be really successful.”
Head coach Mike Holmgren is quick to remind his players that they started 3-0 last season, and went 7-6 the rest of the way.
“Time will tell,” Holmgren said. “How do we handle a 3-0 start this year? Do we handle it well? Do they start feeling pretty good about themselves? That will be important.”
In by far its most dominant performance of the season, Seattle became the first team since 1977 to shut out San Francisco, limiting the winless 49ers to 48 yards rushing in a 34-0 rout on Sept. 26.
Seattle hasn’t lost at home since a 27-20 defeat to Philadelphia on Dec. 8, 2002.
Making their start even more impressive is that the Seahawks’ offense, ranked sixth in 2003, is 16th this season, averaging 323.7 yards per game.
Hasselbeck is 12th in the NFL with a 90.7 passer rating, and has four touchdowns in three games after throwing 26 last season.
St. Louis also took advantage of the struggling Niners with a 24-14 victory Sunday at San Francisco.
Coach Mike Martz relied on the running game against the 49ers, one week after he came under heavy criticism for using 49 passes and 15 runs in a 28-25 overtime loss to New Orleans.
“You stand on the sideline, you look out and they’re playing a real soft cover two, you start handing the ball off and you start rolling pretty good, and that’s what kind of happened,” Martz said.
Continuing the balanced offense could be the Rams’ best option against the league’s top-rated defense.
“These are guys that we’ve been counting on to contribute”, Martz said. “This isn’t the Isaac and Torry and Marshall Show. To be able to use all of those people is vital. They’re integral parts of what you do offensively. It’s very important. And it’s hard on the opposing defense.”