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|“||Honestly, I think we can be as good as we were in the first 15 quarters. I really do. We did self-destruct. There's no question about that. But I have confidence. With youth comes resiliency, I think. As long as they're honest about what happened we'll bounce back, and we're kind of a capable group over
|—Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren|
But hold off on issuing an S.O.S. (Same Ol' Seahawks). Seattle's defense isn't as dominant as it looked against New Orleans, Tampa Bay, San Francisco, and for 51 minutes of the Rams game; truth is, some within the league still are skeptical of the personnel. But nor is the defense as weak as it looked when we last left it. It's in the middle, probably closer to the former, which means it's still legit, as a Ray Rhodes defense usually is."They gave up a couple of big plays," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who maybe knows a thing or 2,000 about defense. "We've been there before. We've seen a 14-point lead go in just a few plays or a very short amount of time. That's what the Rams are. We all know they can score in a hurry. We saw that first-hand ourselves (in Super Bowl XXXVI)." The Seahawks "were in control of the game, really, for 55, 56 minutes," Belichick said. "That's the way it can go against the Rams. (Seattle is) a strong team. They've been in control every week." The secret to Seattle's success on defense is that there are none. In contrast to the defense that the Seahawks' offense will attempt to solve Sunday, which makes stops by pulling out all the stops, especially on third down, the 'Hawks' defense is pretty vanilla. And there isn't anything wrong with good ol' homemade vanilla. Rhodes' recipe is to give you a lot of a little. These days, when complexity rules, that qualifies him as different. But every year, Rhodes, who declines most interview requests, gets the same results. He's had a top 10 defense in five of seven seasons as a coordinator. Last year, his first in Seattle, he helped the Seahawks improve from 28th in 2002 to 19th. The main ingredient in the formula is simplicity. The Seahawks use two major personnel groups, the 4-3 and the "dime" (six defensive backs), when they bring in Bobby Taylor and Michael Boulware. The Seahawks' scheme can be broken down this way: On first and second down, they play a lot of soft zone, mostly three deep, four across, mixed in with a few zone blitzes. They'll play a little man on third and short. That's basically it. Pretty basic, huh? "Guys can go out there and let their natural ability take over," said Taylor, a free agent import this offseason who played under Rhodes for three years in Philly. "There are defenses where every time an offensive player moves there's a check to be made. There's a lot less thinking here. Ray's mentality is not to let what the offensive coordinator does dictate what he calls." That's the best approach against an offense such as the Patriots', which gives you different flavors each week. Against Indianapolis, New England ran something like 25 snaps out of a new variation of its empty set (no backs, two tight ends, three wide receivers). Arizona spent a lot of practice time preparing for the empty look, and saw the formation twice the following week. So rather than outwit Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, Rhodes will rely on his guys to outperform the Patriots. "We have some different twists here and there, but for the most part, it's not rocket science," Taylor said. "He stresses that it's not about the scheme or the X's and O's, it's about the guys who are playing, us getting after the guys in front of us. If we have more guys winning (individual battles) than they do, we'll continue to be successful." So far, so pretty darn good. Seattle has 13 takeaways and is tied for the league lead with eight picks, three by cornerback Ken Lucas, who plays opposite rising star Marcus Trufant. The Seahawks intercept more passes per attempt than anyone, and they still have the best scoring defense.
|DE Grant Wistrom has 2½ sacks and three pass deflections.|
Said Trufant, "We have to prove in this game, to ourselves and everybody else, that we can bounce back."
Michael Smith is a senior writer for ESPN.com.