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Chancellor back in time to save Seahawks' season

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To the relief of his teammates and Seattle's rabid fan base, Kam Chancellor has returned to the Seahawks.

And not a moment too soon for a defense that hasn't been itself during his two-game holdout. While this star-studded unit still has Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, Bobby Wagner and Earl Thomas to lean on, Chancellor's absence sits at the center of Seattle's ugly 0-2 start.

"He is the defensive player who offensive coordinators game-plan around and quarterbacks always keep one eye on during each play. Every player on the field knows where he's at and what he's capable of," wrote NFL Media's Willie McGinest, the former Patriots Pro Bowl linebacker. "Kam is the reason the Seahawks' defensive unit thinks on another level and has an extreme amount of mental toughness."

With or without a new deal, Chancellor's return immediately impacts a defense that has allowed opponents to score on an outrageous 50 percent of their drives this season, fourth worst in the NFL after Seattle topped the league in that category in 2014 at a stingy 15.9 points per tilt.

Chancellor brings a healing balm to a strong safety position that saw the unproven DeShawn Shead replace newbie Dion Bailey after the latter was torched for a game-winning touchdown in Seattle's Week 1 loss to the Rams. Fellow safety Earl Thomas correctly called Chancellor "vital" to a squad that has gone just 2-3 since 2011 in games in which the duo didn't start together.

It doesn't help that Thomas is coming of a shoulder injury that requires him to wear a limiting harness, with the free safety telling ESPN.com: "I feel like I can't high-point anything, but that's the way my cards are dealt right now."

The entire back-end of the defense has been out of sorts, allowing 12 plays of 20-plus yards this season -- second only to the Raiders -- after giving up a league-low 39 big plays one season ago.

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Ranking 29th in points per game, 25th in yards per play and 21st in passing yards allowed per tilt, these weren't the same Seahawks without Chancellor. He plans to play whether or not the team offers him a new contract, but Seattle's tumbling numbers and winless start are the best negotiating chips around.

"We miss Kam Chancellor, not just the way that he plays, but the way that he approaches the game, his leadership," defensive lineman Michael Bennett said earlier this month.

The numbers say the same and the game tape shows it, too. Especially in the loss to St. Louis, where the Seahawks' defense lacked the tight organization we've seen in previous seasons. No team in the league has an equal flock of core defensive talent, but Chancellor has to be seen for what he is: The straw that stirs the drink for this back-to-back NFC title squad.

If there's any reason to ignore the panic talk around Seattle's 0-2 start, it's the return of their hammer-dropping, run-stuffing, ultra-competitive strong safety. It's about time.

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