Despite steady stream of changes, Seahawks defense keeps humming

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner (54) is the key cog in Seattle's defense.

Allen Park — It's difficult to maintain continuity in the NFL. If you're good at something for multiple years, the cost to maintain your best players often butts up against salary cap constraints, and your talented assistant coaches are going to be offered promotions to coordinator or head coach with other franchises. 

The Seattle Seahawks have seen plenty of that over the years. The storied "Legion of Boom" secondary is all but gone. Cornerback Richard Sherman is in San Francisco, safety Earl Thomas is out for the year with an injury and already had a foot out the door due to contentious contract talks, and hard-hitting safety Kam Chancellor was forced into early retirement due to a neck injury. 

Other key pieces from the team's dominant defense from its back-to-back Super Bowl appearances in 2014-15 — Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Bruce Irvin — are all gone, too. 

Additionally, the team is on its fourth defensive coordinator in seven years. 

Yet the Seahawks continue to have one of the league's best defenses, ranking fifth in points (19.5) and sixth in yards allowed (326.7) per game.

“We’ve grown accustomed to the changes and it’s really staying with the philosophy, doing the things that we believe in and really just passing on a little bit of the principles and the thoughts and the approach," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said this week. "It’s been maintained really, I think, basically because of philosophy.”

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Carroll laughed when asked to elaborate on his philosophies, saying he didn't want to give Lions coach Matt Patricia any help in his game planning for Sunday's matchup before offering some surface-level insight. 

"That’s just our stuff, it’s our style of play," Carroll said. "It’s just fundamental stuff and it's always been really clear. It starts with the running game and not letting them score fast and then getting after that football."

To Patricia, Seattle's defensive success is a reflection of Carroll's intensity and competitiveness. 

"This guy, I wish I had the motor he does," Patricia said.  "And you can just see that transfer to his team the way that they attack practice, meetings, the games. So, I think fundamentally, that’s the foundation and then they build on it from there."

And the Seahawks aren't completely devoid of carryover. Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, a four-time Pro Bowler, is the glue that holds the unit together. And there's a good chance the team will get Wagner's running mate, eight-year veteran K.J. Wright, back this week from a knee injury that has sidelined him all season. 

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said Seattle's linebackers do a great job with communication and getting the rest of the defense in place, which allows the Seahawks to stuff the run, rush the passer and force quick, checkdown throws, where, in the spirit of Chancellor, receivers are primed to get smacked for their trouble. 

"It has since changed over, but those guys are still carrying that torch, trying to hit with authority and make sure that offenses get tired of doing that," Stafford said. 

The Lions will counter with an offense that's kicking into high gear. The team is coming a season-best offensive output — 457 total yards and 32 points — in Miami. The team scored on seven of its eight possessions prior to taking a knee to end the game.

Seahawks at Lions

Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday, Ford Field, Detroit

TV/radio: Fox/760

Records: Both teams are 3-3

Line: Lions by 2

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers