Seattle again leaning on its defense for success

RENTON, Wash. (AP) The run of stout defense started with slowing down Arizona, followed by the handcuffing of San Francisco on Thanksgiving night.

But the best defensive performance of Pete Carroll's tenure came Sunday when Seattle ground Philadelphia's high-speed act to a halt that kept the Seahawks in the thick of the NFC West race.

Shutting down Philadelphia and holding the Eagles to 139 total yards was the cap to a three-week run of defense by Seattle the NFL has not seen since 2011.

It's returned Seattle to the top of the NFL in total defense and has the Seahawks statically almost equal with last season's Super Bowl winning unit.

The Seahawks are giving up 274.5 yards per game this season. They allowed 273.6 per game last season.

''The fact Bobby (Wagner) has returned has been significant and also I think Kam (Chancellor) really rounding into full health is helping us too. He's feeling great and playing like crazy,'' Carroll said on Monday. ''I think the camaraderie of those guys being back in there and feeling right has been resounding, you can really feel it.''

Seattle has allowed 507 total yards in the past three games. According to STATS, Inc., it's the fourth-fewest yards allowed over a three-game span by any NFL team since 2006. The Seahawks held Arizona to 204 total yards, the 49ers to 164 and the Eagles to 139.

What makes Seattle's accomplishment more impressive is the quality of competition faced compared to the three teams that posted better total numbers.

The New York Giants gave up 422 yards over three games in 2009, but did it against teams with a winning percentage of .111. The 2011 Houston Texans allowed 494 yards to opponents with a .421 winning percentage and the 2009 New York Jets gave up 497 yards against opponents with a .273.

Seattle? They beat the Cardinals when they were 9-1, knocked off the 49ers at 7-4 and handled the 9-3 Eagles. The combined winning percentage of the three: .758.

The Seahawks have a chance this week hosting San Francisco to be the first team since the 2011 Texans to have three straight games holding opponents to under 200 total yards.

''We've tackled really well, really well for some time now. In the last couple years that has been a real sign of our performance and stuff, but it has been really consistent and noticeable,'' Carroll said. ''I think that's all part of the intensity and the pursuit thing - it really pays off. You don't notice a guy miss one when the other guys hits.''

While the return of Wagner and Chancellor has been crucial, the Seahawks are also playing their top players more snaps. Seattle cut down on its defensive rotations beginning with the Arizona win.

Defensive end Michael Bennett played 98 percent of the defensive snaps against Arizona, 81 percent against San Francisco and 93 percent against the Eagles. Bruce Irvin played every snap against both Arizona and San Francisco before playing 30 of 46 against the Eagles.

Cliff Avril and second-year defensive tackle Jordan Hill have both seen their snap counts increase, while Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith hasn't seen the field on defense in the past three games.

Seattle has found the rotations that work and are not about to tinker with the roll the Seahawks are on.

''Even when people said we were playing bad, we were still ranked as the third-best defense and we stopped some of the best offenses,'' Bennett said. ''We are getting guys back and hitting our stride. We are playing good football and we are winning and that's all that matters.''

NOTES: C Max Unger (ankle/knee) and TE Cooper Helfet (ankle) are both going to try and practice this week, Carroll said. Helfet has missed two games while Unger has been out the past three. Carroll said Helfet is ahead of Unger in his recovery. ... CB Tharold Simon suffered a dislocated finger against the Eagles, but Carroll said he's fine. ... Reserve DE Demarcus Dobbs suffered a ''legit'' ankle injury. Carroll had no prognosis on how long Dobbs might be out. Seattle could use FB Will Tukuafu on the defensive line if needed.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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