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Seattle Seahawks' stifling defense overshadowed by ref furor


When you're on the winning side of the most controversial victory in recent memory, there's little need to get caught up in the drama.

"The game is over. We won. Move on," Seahawks defensive tackle Brandon Mebane said.

Easy for him to say: His team came out on top, 14-12, in an unforgettably bizarre Monday Night Football game against the Green Bay Packers; the event that made "replacement officials" and "simultaneous possession" catch phrases in American vernacular.

The Seattle Seahawks emerged with more than a victory, though.

Its edge has been sharpened by what players see as an oversight: How well they actually played on defense against one of the best offensive teams in the NFL. That slight, cornerback Brandon Browner said, added fuel for this Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams -- and beyond -- for a team that seriously believes it will be in the playoffs.

"It seems like everybody forgot the things that led to that last play," Browner said.

That's easy to do, of course, since "that last play" was wide receiver Golden Tate's questionable Hail Mary touchdown catch that replacement officials and a replay judge appear to have gotten wrong; a play that will forever define the referee lockout that thankfully came to an end Wednesday night.

That scenario never would've played out, though, had Seattle not held Green Bay to just 12 points, sacked quarterback Aaron Rodgers eight times and, most importantly, forced a Packers punt on a three-and-out possession with less than two minutes remaining.

"We had them backed up, we knew the situation, we knew they were going to run the ball to take time off the clock," Browner said of what might have been the defensive stand of the game.

Seattle forced a Cedric Benson fumble on first down from the Packers' seven. (Green Bay center Jeff Saturday recovered on the Packers' 2.) Three plays and 57 seconds later, Green Bay punted. It was a stand as stout, determined and beautifully executed in terms of will and clock management as a team could design.

It showed exactly what these Seattle Seahawks are about.

"It's pretty simple: We stood up down there," Browner said. "It was an awesome feeling, man, especially playing against Green Bay. It's an awesome feeling, man, to be out there in those circumstances, with our backs against the wall, to stand up and get the ball back."

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The Seahawks are among a group of rugged defenses that live in the NFC West. Seattle, San Francisco, Arizona and St. Louis boast defenses built of granite, discipline, speed and a full day's supply of saltiness. The Seahawks, at least at this juncture, might be the nastiest of those hombres.

They're tops in the NFL in scoring defense, allowing an average of 13 points per game. In back-to-back weeks -- and wins -- they've held the Dallas Cowboys and Packers to one touchdown apiece (and 19 total points).

What's going on is really no surprise. The Seahawks' defense quietly was taking care of business for most of the back half of last season. Now it's just one year riper.

The unit is led by defensive end Chris Clemons, who had four of Seattle's eight sacks against the Packers. Rookie pass rusher Bruce Irvin shows an early knack for getting to the quarterback, as evidenced by his two sacks against Green Bay. The overall production of this defense stems from the consistent, three-leveled chain of solid play, keyed by three big bodies up front: Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane and Alan Branch. (Colleague Bucky Brooks provides a great analytical breakdown of Seattle's defense here.)

That group is stout against the run, but also gets after the quarterback, in part because Seattle might have the best secondary in the NFL. Browner (6-foot-4, 221 pounds) and fellow Herculean corner Richard Sherman (6-3, 195) are exceptional bump-and-run press players who disrupt receivers' releases and thus, stem timing routes. That's what happened with the Packers, whose receivers struggled to get free releases off the line of scrimmage, forcing Rodgers to hang on to the ball longer than he wanted, which precipitated the mauling to he took.

And then there's Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, who might be the best safety tandem in the league.

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It's a combination of things," Mebane said. "We've been playing with each other for a couple of years. We all understand what needs to be done. We're communicating well, better than we have. We're executing better. We're ready to take it to another level."

The anticipation of taking it to the next level has been ratcheted up by the circumstances of Monday's Hail Mary controversy, which ironically, felt like somewhat of a snub to the victors.

"We're on a mission," Browner said. "Next is St. Louis. We're going to try and show them how good we are."

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.

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