BY Dennis Glade
Times Herald Columnist
---- — The Seattle Seahawks are the best team in the NFC, and I'm not sure it's even particularily close at this time. Monday night the Seahawks eviserated Drew Brees and the New Orleans explosive offense with a 34-7 victory that served to put the rest of the league on notice. Seattle stands at 11-1 with a two-game lead over New Orleans and Carolina for home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, ensuring the Seahawks '12th Man' will be a major factor in who will be the NFC representative in February's Super Bowl in New Jersey.
Entering Monday night's game there was talk that Seattle would be at a disadvantage as it was without their top two wide receivers (Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice) and the second and third cornerbacks (Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond). ESPN's Trent Dilfer even asserted on Monday Night Countdown that Seattle hadn't faced a quarterback as great as Drew Brees. Seattle's "Legion of Boom" was more than up to the challenge, in fact, it hadn't looked this good all year.
The Saints offense managed zero first downs on their first three drives and found themselves down 17-0 after the first quarter. The Saints couldn't deal with the combination of the ferocious Seahawk defense to go along with the intense crowd noise, which set a Guiness World Record when it reached the 136 decibel mark. Brees was held under 200 yards passing and didn't even look like the best quarterback on the field — that honor went to second-year quarterback Russell Wilson. The Seattle defense, which allows a league-best 177 yards through the air embarrassed Brees and the rest of the New Orleans offense in a national televised game.
For anyone still doubting whether or not the 5'11 Wilson could play the quarterback position at an elite level, Monday was an eye opener. Wilson used his legs to evade New Orleans defenders and hit two passes of over 50 yards to wide receiver Doug Baldwin and tight end Zach Miller. Wilson completed 22-of-30 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns. The Saints defense had no answer for Wilson and the Seattle offense. Pro Bowl running back Marshawn Lynch only ran for 45 yards and it had no impact on the Seattle offense.
The fact that Seattle has all but locked up home field advantage means everything because of the fact that Wilson is a top 5 quarterback on his home field. This season at Century Link Field, Wilson has thrown for 10 touchdowns, two interceptions a 114 quarterback rating, a 68 percent completion percentage and 9.37 yards per attempt.
Wilson's numbers for his career don't jump off the page. For his career, he is only averaging 206 yards passing per game to go along with 945 rushing yards on 5.4 yards per carry and five touchdowns in 28 starts. Where Wilson does excel is extending plays with his legs and limiting his mistakes. He has thrown 48 touchdowns and just 16 interceptions — only Dan Marino and Peyton Manning threw more touchdowns in their first two seasons.
The offense and defense is playing in perfect harmony, which begs the question — can anyone beat this team in Seattle? The answer is a resounding no. New Orleans has shown it was extremely overmatched The surprising Carolina Panthers (9-3) are tied for first in the NFC South with the Saints, but have already lost once to Seattle — a 12-7 loss Week 1 in Charlotte. Both teams have gotten better since the season opener, but I find it hard to believe Carolina could muster enough offense to upset Seattle on their way to a Super Bowl berth.
The prevailing thought is San Francisco, who Seattle visits Sunday, has the best opportunity to upset Seattle in the playoffs. This argument is without merit and is a little confusing. San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick has played two games at Century Link Field with both games ending in embarrassing fashion for the Niners. Seattle has outscored San Francisco in the those two games by a combined score of 71-16. That kind of domination shouldn't give anyone confidence that San Francisco or any other team can upset Seattle on the way to the Super Bowl.
If Seattle didn't have home field advantage, the race would be more wide open, but I would still lean toward the tandem of Pete Carroll, Wilson and the juggernaut Seattle defense led by All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, but it's not. Seattle might as well punch its ticket for the Super Bowl in the Meadowlands — nobody is beating them at home.