Seattle tops in defense?

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Seattle fans can wag them without fear of overstatement whenever their defense is on the field Sunday against the New England Patriots.

The Seahawks are ranked No. 1 in the league in total defense, No. 2 in total points allowed and No. 3 in rushing defense.

Fresh off a 16-12 win over Carolina that took the Hawks to 3-2, coach Pete Carroll on Monday talked to the press about the performance. He did not wave an oversized No. 1 finger to liven up his statements.

“It doesn’t mean much right now … it’d be really nice to be No. 1 at the end,” Carroll said. “It’s a good statement at the beginning of the season that our guys have gotten off to a great start. … It’s fun for those guys to know – it’s a very prideful group – but does it mean anything? Not really. What we’re going to do this week is what counts.”

Carroll’s Seahawks have been stout against the rush the past two seasons, so their performance in that area is not a surprise. But thus far, they’ve significantly improved their pass rush and overall defensive speed.

Through five games, they’ve piled up 16 sacks, which is almost half of last season’s 16-game total of 33.

Carroll pointed to the speed displayed by rookies Bobby Wagner and Bruce Irvin, who tracked down fleet Panthers quarterback Cam Newton at full sprint in the backfield.

He also noted the coursing speed of Wagner and Earl Thomas on a play to drop Newton near the goal line late in the game, which he called “just crazy speed and acceleration.”

But speed is a wasted attribute if players don’t know where to run.

Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley “is doing a great job of keeping these guys clear about their assignments so they can play fast,” Carroll said. “It’s the No. 1 issue for us, to play quick every time we go out there.”

With the defensive starters averaging 26 years of age (fourth-youngest in the NFL), Carroll expects the team to continue to improve.

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