Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Seahawks Secondary: Birds of Prey; Saavy Selections of Chancellor, Sherman, Maxwell Set Stage for Success

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Seahawks Secondary: Birds of Prey; Saavy Selections of Chancellor, Sherman, Maxwell Set Stage for Success

Article excerpt

Byline: Ryan O'Halloran

JERSEY CITY, N.J. | For all the talk about how many teams passed on quarterback Russell Wilson before Seattle drafted him in the third round two years ago, consider this:

Thirty-two NFL teams also blundered when it came to gauging the ability of Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell, who make up 75 percent of the league's best secondary.

Dallas took safety Akwai Owusu-Ansah in 2010 - the Seahawks selected Kam Chancellor seven spots later.

New England took cornerback Ras-I Dowling in 2011 - the Seahawks selected Richard Sherman 119 spots later.

Denver took cornerback Quinton Carter, also in 2011 - the Seahawks selected Byron Maxwell 65 spots later.

It's yet another example that one of the NFL's slogans should be You Never Know. Who knew Chancellor would develop into a heat-seeking missile? Who knew Sherman would lead the NFL in interceptions? And who knew Maxwell, well, would even make the team out of training camp?

That trio of late-round finds, combined with 2010 first-round free safety Earl Thomas, have a nickname, a standard of play and are on the cusp of a championship.

The nickname: "Legion of Boom."

"I was doing an interview a couple of years ago, and I was saying how every time I'm going to hit a guy, I want to lay the boom," Chancellor said. "And the fans listening to the radio started to come up with names for our group. We were like, 'Not this one, not that one,' and then we saw, 'Legion of Boom,' and we were like, 'That's pretty catchy.'"

The standard: dominance.

The Seahawks finished the regular season ranked first in fewest passing yards (172.0), fewest completions of 20 or more yards (30) and most interceptions (28). Their 16 touchdown passes allowed ranked second.

"They don't do a whole lot, but what they do is really good," Denver coach John Fox said. "They're long. They're fast, and they've got good ball skills. It's going to be a tremendous challenge for us to combat that."

Said Sherman: "We play a pretty simple defense. You know what we're going to do."

The championship: The Super Bowl represents Seattle's biggest challenge of the year.

Denver quarterback Peyton Manning set an NFL regular-season record with 55 touchdown passes, and three Broncos receivers - Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker - had at least 73 catches and 10 touchdowns.

It will be The Legion vs. The Legend.

How the Seahawks built their secondary - tall, fast and physical with corners who can play press coverage and safeties who can hit hard and cover ground - has become the model for teams around the NFL and chiefly the Jaguars. Coach Gus Bradley was Seattle's defensive coordinator when each Seahawks starter plus nickel corner Walter Thurmond started their career.

The turnaround was swift.

In 2009 and 2010, the Seahawks were 30th and 27th in pass defense. …

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