The Seattle Seahawks don't think they need to disguise what they do defensively. They believe that opposing offenses know exactly what their defense is going to do from a scheme perspective, and they don't seem to care. The reason is simple. They're loaded with talented players who can all run and hit. The Seahawks feel that if they execute their simple defense, they'll win. That mindset didn't change even against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, which was one of the best offenses statistically in the history of the NFL.
"It really wasn't about those guys," said head coach Pete Carroll, "We just played the way we always play."
The way the Seahawks play is pretty simple. "It was the same exact game plan (as any other week)," said DE Michael Bennett. "When you have these kinds of players, you don't need to change up every week. We go out there and line up, play base defense and win."
"We were who we were," said CB Richard Sherman. "We didn't change anything. I think a lot of times guys get too infatuated with trying to change things, trying to disguise, trying to play 'his' game, and we're a simple defense. We a simple scheme, you know what we're going to run, we're not going to disguise anything, and we're just going to try to execute.
"We (played zone) and we hit them. That was our plan coming in. We were going to run and we were going to hit. If they (made catches), they had to deal with us after they (made catches)."
On the Broncos' first completion of the game, Demaryius Thomas got rocked by safety Kam Chancellor:
"Kam's first hit was exactly what it was about," said Sherman. "Kam said he was going to set the tone early, and that's what he did when he hit Demaryius on the crosser."
"We played in the style and fashion that we're accustomed to," said defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. "We were fast, physical, and played this game on our terms."
Of course, if you're an average defense with mediocre speed, you can't just line up in a simple zone defense on every play and expect not to get shredded by a player like Manning. Sunday night in the Super Bowl, the Seahawks' swarming defense proved just how deep and talented they are.
Malcolm Smith, a little known former 7th round pick, took home Super Bowl MVP honors after he intercepted a Manning pass and returned it 69 yards for a TD.
Cliff Avril had 29 sacks from 2010 to 2012 in Detroit, but somehow only found a 2-year deal worth $13 million as a free agent coming to Seattle, which is seemingly below market for a proven pass rusher. Avril provided pressure the entire night, and harassed Manning into several bad throws.
Byron Maxwell was a 6th round pick in 2011 who was forced into action when regular starting CB Brandon Browner was suspended for the season. Maxwell forced a fumble by Demaryius Thomas when he was able to punch the ball loose.
Those are just role players, doing big things in the Super Bowl.
"We have so many great players in Seattle," said star safety Earl Thomas, "that we never know who's going to step up, and a lot of guys stepped up. That's what's so great about us. We're very complete."
"It was our coverage, it was the play of our linebackers, I think it was the play of our D line," explained DT Brandon Mebane. "It was a combination of things. We didn't let their receivers get off the line, and we were able to make Peyton Manning hold the ball longer. and it was just a combination of things, not one group was the center of attention. Every group on the whole team came out and had a major contribution tonight."
When you look at the Seahawks' defense, it is devoid of holes. What's interesting about it is that it is a mishmash of players with unusual size. For example, Malcolm Smith played OLB during training camp and through the first four games of the season. When Bruce Irvin returned from suspension, he moved back to ILB. Smith had to display enough strength to set the edge as an OLB, and he's only listed at 6'0, 224. Meanwhile, safety Kam Chancellor is a 6'3, 232 pound safety, and he's bigger than one of the starting LBs.
However, the Seahawks look at what each individual player does well, and they give those players roles where they're most likely to succeed. Quinn credited Carroll with that philosophy. "Coach Carroll has been huge for my career, said Quinn. "I think just how to feature the players. Let's find what a player can do well, and let's accent that."
What the Seahawks have created on defense is remarkable. In the four years since Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider have been in their respective positions, the Seahawks have found their entire starting back 7 in the draft, as well as several key reserves. They're all young, they're hungry, they hit, they have speed, and they're probably going to be together for a while. That's bad news for the rest of the NFC.
More impressively, they didn't even need to disguise what they do to lay an absolute beatdown on one of the best offenses in the history of the game.
"I think our defense is one of the best defenses ever to play the game," said Bennett. "I don't even know how the NFL let us all be on the same team. It's just unfair."
This defense is now the modern model that other NFL teams will try to copy.