Seattle is Michael Jackson in Thriller

Seattle was pronounced dead entering 2018. It was an easy story to write. The team missed the playoffs, snapping a streak of five consecutive appearances that included two Super Bowl births and one victory. The team suffered a week 15 42-7 drubbing at the hands of the Rams, viewed as the changing of the guard in the division. Massive personnel decisions loomed, and the team parted ways with staples of their Super Bowl runs.

But here we are, with the Seahawks preparing to take on the Vikings on Monday Night Football, Seattle has a 95.1% chance to make the playoffs after this weekend’s games. The Legion of Boom is a thing of the past. The fearsome defensive front is no more. Doug Baldwin can’t sneeze without pulling four different muscles. But Seattle won’t die. They used to be king. Now they’re some undead version of their prior selves with undead friends you don’t recognize doing a coordinated dance that is nothing short of terrifying and mesmerizing.

Seattle was Easy to Hate

Very easy to hate. They were outspoken, to put it mildly. Richard Sherman still hasn’t met a microphone he didn’t interpret as an invitation to deliver a Shakespearian monologue. Perhaps you enjoyed his rants. Perhaps you didn’t. But Sherman was unapologetically authentic.

The whole noise meter thing is kind of annoying and the team stole the 12th man idea.

Plus there is Pete Carroll. Carroll fled USC like a dog with its tail behind its legs at the first whiff the university was going to go down for violating approximately every single governing NCAA regulation under Carroll’s stewardship. Reggie Bush, from an upbringing of very little means, was living in a mansion and driving a Hummer, but obviously ole Pete knew thing about that.

And finally, the Seahawks gifted the Patriots a Super Bowl victory on a silver platter by throwing at the 1 yard line. If you’re not a Patriots fan there is about a 100% chance you absolutely hate the Patriots. Therefore, Seattle gifting New England a 4th Lombardi trophy probably pissed you off.

So when Seattle purged its roster over the summer and oddly spent a first round pick on a running back, it was easy to disregard them as yesterday’s news. They’re done, it’s over, they’re dead. Well, I guess they’re undead because they literally survived a purge to get back (presumably) into the postseason.

The King of Pop

Before the Rams and Chiefs broke the NFL record book on a November Monday night, defense was actually trending in the NFL. In 2011 the Giants pass rush beat Tom Brady for a second time in the Super Bowl. In 2012 we got the Har-Bowl featuring the defenses of the 9ers and Ravens. The 2013 Seahawks obliterated the greatest offense in NFL history. Belichick saw Peyton Manning shatter the limit of what was possible for an NFL offense and went “fuck this shit,” and splurged on renting Darrelle Revis to counter it. New England won the Super Bowl over Seattle. In 2015 Von Miller and the Broncos defense carried a mummified Peyton Manning to a Super Bowl. The Denver defense had Cam Newton so shook he actually jumped away from a fumble.

During this, we’ll call it rise of pop, the Seahawks reigned supreme. From 2012-2016, Seattle’s five year playoff run, the Seahawks ranked in the top five of defensive DVOA each year. Chronologically the team ranked 2nd, 1st, 1st, 4th, and 5th leading up to their “disappointing” 2017 finish of 13th.

Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Kam Chancellor were the driving forces behind the Legion of Boom. Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril were applying immense pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Seattle’s entire defensive philosophy was that they believed in themselves so much they are going to line up in Cover-3 every play and execute it to perfection.

Richard Sherman will be camped out here all game, throw over here if you dare. If you’d like to locate Earl Thomas, he’ll be in center field should you feel like testing his ball skills. Our front four will disrupt the timing of your offense, you can’t stop them.

Michael Jackson is always going to dance, hit a high note, and then smile. And you’re going to love it. He is then going to tell you to go buy a Pepsi, and you’re going to go buy a Pepsi.

It’s good to be king.

The Purge

But then darkness fell and everything got scary. Cliff Avril and Kam Chancellor sustained career threatening/ending injuries and were released from the roster. Richard Sherman tore his achilles and was released from the roster. Michael Bennett was a cap casualty. Beast Mode retired. The media put out hit pieces before 2018 opening day to bury the departed.

All of that came after the last time we saw the team play football, which was a week 17 home loss to an Arizona Cardinals team lead by Drew Stanton. The eulogies wrote themselves. Everyone grieved and moved on. Except Seattle. Seattle never even grieved, they were ready for this the entire time.

The Zombie Dance

Seattle’s starting secondary is now three guys you’ve never heard of and another guy you might have heard of because his twin brother famously dominated college football with only one hand. Earl Thomas broke his leg mid-season. Instead of Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril rushing the passer, mega bust Dion Jordan has the second most pass rush snaps of an edge defender on the team. The front office spent a first round pick on a running back to get back to grinding out football games, only to have Pete Carroll refuse to give the rookie a substantial workload in favor of guys named Chris Carson and Mike Davis.

Yet here we are. Seattle is knocking on the door of a return to the playoffs. As of this writing they’re 10th in point differential, 9th in ELO rating, and 10th in DVOA. They’re 7-5, and 3-5 in one score games. All of their loses have come in one score games. They lost to the Rams twice by a combined 7 points. This would help explain their 5th place variance ranking, meaning on a week to week basis Seattle is one of the most consistent performing teams.

The Seahawks are getting decent coverage out of their new secondary. Seattle spent three picks in the top 111 of the 2017 draft on defensive backs in anticipation of forth coming changes. Three of the top four defensive backs in snap count this year for the Seahawks were individuals drafted in either 2017 or 2018 (with the caveat that Thomas got injured). The three leading defensive lineman by snap count were drafted in either 2015 or 2016.

Seattle knew the purge was coming and prepared themselves. There were even signs they could weather the storm that were missed. For starters, the team barely missed the playoffs last season. The team finished 9-7 with +34 point differential. The two NFC wild card teams in 2017 were the Falcons and Panthers, who finished +38 and +36, respectively.

Of course the constant in all of this is Russell Wilson, who routinely moon walks his way out of should be sacks and gains positive yardage. Wilson is having a very under appreciated season, as he is top ten in DYAR, DVOA, grading, and ANY/A, and sits 11th in QBR ahead of Monday night’s game. Besides, (and I know I’m under mining it as a stat by doing this but) QBR has Mitch Trubisky 7th, and, let’s get serious here.

This is the iconic part of the throne. Does anyone really remember the movie theater part of the Thriller video? Not really. You just know Michael Jackson was there, and him eating popcorn became a popular GIF, and is therefore carved into history. Those Seattle defenses were legendary, and carved into history.

But busting out into choreographed song and dance with a bunch of zombies is ten times more impressive than eating and smiling. Sure, winning with an overload of talent is an accomplishment. But Seattle is back with a random cast of characters you didn’t know existed, and will be in the playoffs while the last two NFC Super Bowl representatives will likely being eating popcorn and watching the Seahawks play from a couch.

filed under: NFL

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