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Defensive end Chris Clemons has much in common with his peers on the Seattle defense: They're good, they're unknown, and they don't care.
"I consider us the best defense in the NFL,'' Clemons said over the phone from Seattle on Thursday. "As for what other people think, I don't care. If some other team thinks otherwise, prove it. We're playing the best right now.''
Seattle, coming off the bizarre 14-12 "win" over Green Bay on Monday night, is first in the NFL in scoring defense (13.0 points allowed per game) and fourth in total defense (272.3 yards allowed per game. The run defense (3.1 yards per rush) and stingy 75.6 opposing passer rating are also among the league's best. Seattle pitched an eight-sack, first-half shutout against the formidable Pack, with Clemons getting four of them. Pretty good for a guy in his eighth season who entered the game with 43 career sacks.
The Seahawks, rightfully, can play the Rodney Dangerfield card on the defensive front seven, which was so dominant in the first half Monday. Only one of the 10 'Hawks on the front seven who played at least 25 snaps Monday was a Seattle first-round pick -- rookie defensive end Bruce Irvin. Four were middle-round picks by Seattle, one (second-round rookie linebacker Bobby Wagner) was a high pick, and four more are playing for their second or fourth team in the NFL.
Clemons (Washington, Oakland, Philadelphia) is on his fourth team at age 30, dealt to Seattle by Philadelphia in 2010. "I just asked Pete [Carroll] if I had a chance to play here,'' said Clemons, who'd always been a part-time player prior to the trade out west. "He said, 'Play? You've got a chance to start.' That was all the motivation I needed.''
In 34 Seahawks games, all starts, the 6-foot-3, 254-pound Clemons has 27 sacks. That factors out to .79 sacks per game. Compare that to the rich guys. Mario Williams has averaged .64 sacks per game in his career. Jared Allen: .83. He's got the kind of outside speed to beat quick tackles around the edge, and a surprising amount of power for a guy who plays low to the ground and uses leverage the way Dwight Freeney does.
That number could rise, now that Irvin's in the fold, to help defensive-line stalwarts Red Bryant, Alan Branch, Brandon Mebane and Clemons. Against Green Bay, Irvin got two quick sacks of Aaron Rodgers, and then, according to Clemons, the Pack went to a man-to-man blocking scheme along the line, leaving left tackle Marshall Newhouse alone for much of the half to handle Clemons. Big mistake. Clemons trapped Rogers four times and hit him solidly once more. "To my knowledge, I never had had a half like that in my life,'' said Clemons, in the understatement of the year. To sack a quarterback four times in a half is one thing. To sack a mobile guy with a clock in his head like Rodgers is another.
I told Clemons that some vets over the years have shied away from signing in Seattle because it's so far from everywhere -- as far as Siberia, an East Coaster or two has said. Clemons, a Georgian who played at the University of Georgia, said that's actually an advantage for him.
"I play better when I'm not close to home anyway,'' he said. "Too many distractions for me back in Philly. I had one of my best years in Oakland, actually. So I like it out here, and I can concentrate totally on football. That's one of the reasons when [GM] John Schneider talked to me in the offseason about extending my contract, I was interested. I signed a five-year deal in Philadelphia, and this was going to be my last year, so it was good to be able to extend it [through 2014]. I've seen too many guys enter the last year of their deal and get distracted by thinking about their contract. I didn't want that to happen to me.''
Clemons did the three-year extension for $22.1 million, and if he keeps up the stereo sack act with rookie Irvin, Seahawks fans will be thrilled he's in the fold for three seasons. The 2-1 Seahawks have something good going, and they hope to continue it Sunday in St. Louis.
Oh -- and about that game Monday night ...
"Referees make calls, and players live with them,'' Clemons said. "We're not sitting here apologizing for anything. An official made a call, and we won. It is what it is.''
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As has been the case through three games total, defensive end Williams is not getting the pressure the Bills paid $16 million a year for -- and it's not because opposing offenses are stacking up to block him, a ProFootballFocus.com study found. In 101 passing plays with Williams rushing, he has 1.5 sacks (PFF disputes the half-sack, claiming the sack should belong solely to tackle Marcel Dareus), with one additional quarterback hit and six pressures.