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Seahawks offense stole the conversation against Giants, but defense held center stage

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Seattle moved back to the top of the NFL in scoring defense with a suffocating all around performance in New York

Seattle Seahawks v New York Giants Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks’ offense finally found a way to dominate Sunday—it dominated the attention during and after Seattle’s 24-7 win over the New York Giants with a histrionic performance: a string of costly dropped passes, a wacky fumble, a sideline scuffle, a horrific 10-play goal line opportunity squandered, a contested touchdown on a flea-flicker toss-back bomb to Paul Richardson, and ultimately a ton of production with atypically one-sided time of possession in the first half, two dozen unanswered points, nine “explosive” plays and the sixth-best regular season passing day of Russell Wilson’s career.

But all along it was Seattle’s defense that much more subtly ruled the afternoon and preserved the chance for the offense to redeem its mixed early showing.

The Giants, playing at home, managed just 177 yards total offense and were generally inert until a fourth quarter drive that became the first time New York penetrated into Seahawks territory on its own volition and ended with a missed field goal. The Giants’ had earlier scored their only touchdown after being gifted the ball on Seattle’s 17 yard line by a Thomas Rawls fumble, but that drive also included New York’s only first down until the third quarter not generated by penalty. The Giants never gained more than 20 yards on any possession until that final period.

Repeatedly, the Seahawks defense stymied Eli Manning and the New York attack, forcing five three and outs in 12 possessions—not counting the Giants’ opening drive that was extended when Tanner McEvoy ran into punter Brad Wing following a three-down stop, or another three-play effort that ended when Frank Clark pounced on a Manning fumble forced by Jarran Reed. That was the only time Seattle’s pressure counted a sack against Manning, but with Cliff Avril on injured reserve the Seahawks frequently sent a limited rush with three or fewer men and still knocked down Manning six times and hurried him even more often.

Seattle’s coverage was a perfect complement to its line of scrimmage action: Manning averaged just 3.4 yards per attempt, completing only two passes longer than 15 yards on 40 dropbacks and fewer than half of his attempts overall. On the Giants’ first drive, Richard Sherman made a brilliant play on a ball thrown deep along the right sideline for Tavarres King, slapping the pass away at the last instant. It was an unearthly adjustment to a throw that had appeared to be placed in the only catchable area where Sherman, slightly trailing King, wouldn’t be able to reach it—probably Manning’s finest toss of the game—but Sherman’s long limbs and timing rescued the play.

(Hilariously, Sherman was still perfect in coverage eight hours after the game had ended—his Twitter fingers may be even longer than his wingspan lately.)

Overall, New York was a dreadful two for 12 on third downs, and crucially Seattle allowed Manning just one completion past the sticks on seven tries on third and eight or longer—an area where the defense had been conspicuously vulnerable so far in 2017. On third and 10+, only a Shaquill Griffin hands to the face penalty just before the two minute warning kept the Seahawks from being perfect.

To be clear, the Giants are a challenged offense with terrible blocking up front and missing their three best receivers Sunday. New York’s passing output, which entered the matchup with Seattle as exactly league average by DVOA (16th), has declined for four straight weeks, making the season figures not the best metric to put the Seahawks’ wipeout showing into proper context.

On the other hand, the Giants had ripped off 300 combined rushing yards the previous two weeks, including an impressive ground assault against the Denver Broncos’ top-rated run defense one week earlier. Sunday Seattle squashed New York’s effort completely, limiting it to 46 yards with no gain longer than nine yards on the day. Every time the Giants had the ball, the Seahawks won the line of scrimmage and in the secondary.

It was a total defensive showing, with great contributions also from several role players. K.J. Wright led the team with 11 tackles while Reed had a career high with seven. Griffin also broke up three passes. Quinton Jefferson played 20 snaps, an encouraging sign after he missed his first game back on the squad with a broken hand. Bradley McDougald doubled his season count of defensive snaps as he finally made an impact as a big nickel safety. And newcomer Branden Jackson continues to add efficiency to the defensive line in limited relief, according to Pro Football Focus.

With only seven points allowed Seattle moves to a tie with the Jacksonville Jaguars for lowest points given up per game despite playing four road games already. Even more important, the defense helped the game stay comfortably within grasp even during all the offensive adversity of the first half, and set the stage for another crushing victory finish.

The Seahawks defense has been the franchise’s headlining act for seven seasons, but even now as it appears to restore its place at the top of the NFL, thanks both to its stars and emerging depth, it would do just fine to lurk in the background of the narrative as the steady foundation of the team.