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Danny O'Neil covers the Seahawks for The Seattle Times.

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January 5, 2008 9:08 PM

The department of defense

Posted by Danny O'Neil

New Year's resolutions come five months early in the NFL.

Every August, teams spend one month answering questions about the weak points of a year ago that have been shored up in the offseason. This will be the breakthrough season for so and so or this is the year the team found a way to shore that sore spot from a season ago.

And like so many resolutions, those vows and predictions are forgotten a month or two into the season.

That's what makes Seattle's defense different because the first game of the New Year is when it became most apparent that all that training-camp talk about an improved defense was much more than talk.

The Seahawks signed Patrick Kerney at defensive end, added safeties Brian Russell and Deon Grant and drafted Brandon Mebane.

But all that August discussion of defensive improvement was more than just a discussion. The Seahawks showed that on Saturday.

The defense saved Seattle. It saved the Seahawks when they made that trio of mistakes early in the fourth quarter, did everything but put a bow on this game for Washington. Everyone talked about the improved defense in August. Everyone should be talking about the pair of defensive stands the Seahawks made on Saturday.

The defense scored twice in the fourth quarter, but those weren't the biggest plays by this defense. First came the stand in which Washington got the ball on Seattle's 14-yard line after the Seahawks failed to field a kickoff and the Seahawks forced Washington to settle for a field-goal attempt that Shaun Suisham missed. And then the defense made sure that Matt Hasselbeck's second interception of the fourth quarter didn't cost the Seahawks anything more than 6 yards of field position.

For years, the Seahawks needed a defense capable of keeping pace with the offense. Now, they've got a defense capable of leading the team.

Now, Washington is a decidedly average offense. The team scored more than 30 points only twice all season. But Washington had all the momentum and the ball on Seattle's 14-yard line and the Seahawks dug in their heels and refused to budge.

This was the fourth quarter, the time when the defense considered a little small is supposed to wear down. Instead the Seahawks stood tall. Anyone wondering whether this is a defense capable of playing at an elite level need look no further than this fourth quarter when the Seahawks absorbed two big punches from Washington and didn't blink, didn't back down.

It was imperssive.

"As I've been telling everybody since I played football in the fourth grade, defense wins championships," running back Shaun Alexander said.

But how long has it been since Seattle saw something like that. The defense was good in 2005, but it played with a lead most of that season. It was more a complement to the league's highest-scoring offense. Saturday was a game in which the defense steadied the Seahawks when they were at their shakiest.

The two interceptions returned for touchdowns left an even better aftertaste, the first time a team returned two interceptions for touchdowns since Tampa Bay returned three picks into the end zone in its Super Bowl victory over Oakland.

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Posted by SACKED?!?!?!

9:52 PM, Jan 05, 2008

You're right about the Washington offense being ordinary....I didn't see any pro-bowlers listed on their offense or defense for that matter. Hopefully this Hawk team can take this momentum to Green Bay. They will be a much tougher opponent and at home.

Keep up the good work Danny.

Posted by No.12

10:38 PM, Jan 05, 2008

No offense, Danny. As in which offense faced the most stiffling defense????

Posted by ape

11:13 AM, Jan 06, 2008

Hasselbeck gets he's passing under control, they"ll win next weekend! This weekend, alot of people were worried about the bloody heathens coming here, well they got their butt whooped..

Posted by Steve

2:54 PM, Jan 06, 2008

Our defense is definitely helped out by the home crowd. I watched some of the Giants game today and it wouldn't shock me if the hawks could get a home game for the NFC Championship game. The Hawks will have to do their part and win in GB first.

I am curious to see how the D does in GB. GB will test them strongly and our offense will have to actually capitalize on the field positions it gets.

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