Seahawks' D Has Longer Track Record, But Eagles' D Has Equaled Them in '16

They’re No. 3 in the NFL in points allowed, No. 6 in yards allowed, No. 7 in passing yards allowed, No. 6 in sacks, No. 5 in opposing passer rating, No. 4 in first downs allowed, No. 5 on third down and No. 6 in takeaways.

That Seahawks defense really is incredible.

Just one thing. 

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Those rankings aren’t for the Seahawks’ universally lauded defense.

They’re for the Eagles.

The Seahawks may have the NFL’s most highly regarded defense, but the Eagles are ahead of them or just behind them in every imaginable defensive category.

Nine games into the season, a unit that ranked 28th in the NFL last year has emerged as one of the NFL’s best.

And on Sunday, the Eagles' D will be on the same field as a unit that’s been doing it for years.

“I think they’re probably ranked higher than we are,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “This is a really good group, it starts up front with these guys, very aggressive.

“Coach (Jim) Schwartz has these guys humming off the football. They vary their stuff, they mix their coverages, it’s a really nice group.”

The Eagles and Seahawks meet at 4:25 p.m. Sunday at CenturyLink Field in Seattle in a battle of two of the NFL’s best defenses.

The Seahawks’ defense is allowing 16.0 points per game, best in the NFL. The Vikings and Cardinals are second and third at 16.1 and 16.2, and the Eagles and Ravens are tied for fourth at 17.0. Nobody else is under 18.

Nationally, the Vikings, Ravens, Seahawks and Cards have the reputation as the NFL’s best defensive units.

But the stats say that this year Eagles are right there with all of them. Including the Seahawks.

“I think they say that because they’ve consistently over the years been that type of defense,” linebacker Jordan Hicks said.

“But this year we’ve shown the National Football League who we are and what we can do and, yeah, we believe we’re the best defense in the National Football League. So in our opinion, of course we should be in that conversation.”

The Seahawks, 6-2-1, had the NFL’s No. 1-ranked defense four straight years from 2012 through 2015. The Eagles haven’t been No. 1 since 1991 and haven’t been in the top 5 since 2008, Jim Johnson’s final year.

Seattle has actually allowed 24 or more points in its last three games, something that last happened in 2010.

“We know this is going to be a battle of defenses,” Hicks said. “One of our things going into it is not only do we have to be better than their offense, we have to be better than their defense, so it’s going to be big for us.”

Malcolm Jenkins said the Seahawks have earned their reputation as the NFL’s best defense because of their five-year run, in which they’ve allowed 292 fewer points than any other NFL team.

“I think if you look at their defense and what they’ve done over the last few seasons, they’ve been at the top of the league for a while and what they do is pretty special,” Jenkins said.

“They have a ton of Pro Bowl guys, they’ve been doing it for a long time. This is our first year together, new coordinator, new names, new faces, but we’re trying to earn our place in this league.

“We think we’re right up there with the best defenses in this league, that’s this year. So depending on the context. You want to talk about body of work, I wouldn’t compare us to the Seattle defense. I’ve got a lot of respect for the guys on that team and that defense.

“But if you want to talk about this year, there’s no defense that I wouldn’t compare us to. And as a competitor, I don’t know many people that wouldn’t have that attitude.”

The Eagles have held five of nine opponent to two offensive touchdowns or fewer. Curiously, within the NFC East they’re allowing 27 points per game, but in their six non-division games they’re giving up just 11.5 points per game.

Doug Pederson didn’t hesitate when asked if Schwartz’s unit should be in the conversation as one of the NFL’s best.

“I think so,” he said. “If you look at the numbers, it's one of the top defenses in the National Football League. Not giving up many points. We should be mentioned.

“Sometimes you get overshadowed a lot by how your offense is performing. But that has, by no means, overshadowed anything that our defense has done in the first nine weeks.”

The Eagles have an elite player in each position group. Jenkins is a Pro Bowl safety, Hicks is emerging as a Pro Bowl-caliber middle linebacker and Fletcher Cox, a first-time Pro Bowler last year, holds it all together at defensive tackle.

“The main thing we control, man, is we go out on the field every day and get better,” Cox said. “If we go out and get better each day in practice and not worry about what people think about us, at the end of the year, we’ll see where we’re at.

“It’s really us believing in each other in that locker room and holding each other accountable and that’s what we do. If we start worrying about what people say about us and how they feel about us, that’s a distraction.

“As long as we keep playing together as a team, we have a chance to be real good.”

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