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Why is the Seattle Seahawks' defense great?

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The Seahawks are the first team since the 1969-71 Minnesota Vikings to lead the NFL in scoring defense for three consecutive seasons, bolstering defensive end Michael Bennett's claim that Seattle is now home to best defense "ever to play football."

What is behind the success that has the Seahawks' press man, Cover Three defense in the conversation with Pittsburgh's Steel Curtain, the mid-1980s Bears and the 2000 Ravens as the most dominant in NFL history?

For starters, coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have constructed a roster uncommon for its depth of talent in the face of free agency and a salary cap.

"On defense we go 13, 14, 15 deep," outside linebacker Bruce Irvin told Around The NFL on Wednesday. "Our twos and threes can be starters somewhere else."

What separates the Seahawks from other great defenses of their era is their cadre of at least 10 players with the demonstrated ability to take over a game.

In cornerback Richard Sherman, free safety Earl Thomas, box safety Kam Chancellor and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, Seattle has the luxury of four All-Pros commonly viewed as the modern prototypes for their respective positions. All four boast Defensive Player of the Year potential.

"Me, Earl, Kam ... we're not just three All-Pro players," Sherman crowed last year. "We're three All-Pro minds."

Their film study, knowledge of route concepts and command of situational football enables them to play at a faster speed than opposing offenses.

Beyond that impressive nucleus, Dan Quinn's defense features another half-dozen disruptive influences.

Super Bowl XLVIII MVP Malcolm Smith and pass rusher Cliff Avril keyed the shutdown of Peyton Manning's record-breaking offense a year ago.

Defensive tackle Kevin Williams is a five-time All-Pro. K.J. Wright is one of the league's premier coverage linebackers. Byron Maxwell's closing speed and tackling led to the dismantling of Chip Kelly's vaunted Eagles offense in Week 14. Irvin has been a terror coming off the edge over the past month, finally realizing his first-round talent.

In an era that threatens the extinction of padded practices, the Seahawks are one of the few teams still built on sheer physicality, leaving their battered opponents with a hangover.

That bruising physicality works hand-in-glove with a mastery of fundamentals that results in the league's surest tackling, via a strike zone from the shoulders to knees.

This swarming unit is exceptionally well-coached.

"Just like pitchers throw their fastballs in the strike zone absolutely as hard as they can," Quinn said Thursday, "we're trying to hit somebody in the strike zone absolutely as hard as we can."

In the age of the passing revolution with rule changes favoring the offense, the Seahawks are a reminder that football's essence is hitting.

"They won a Super Bowl last year," NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock recently explained, "because their defense was significantly better than any offense they played in the playoffs."

If the "Legion of Boom" captures a second straight Lombardi Trophy, Bennett won't be alone in his opinion that this is the best defense ever to put cleats on the ground.

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