Defense rediscovers health and No. 1 ranking

Byron Maxwell picks off a pass from Arizona QB Drew Stanton (Seahawks.com)The Seahawks recaptured their mojo last week, and Sunday against Arizona they finally looked like the Super Bowl champions they are and aspire to be again.

For the first time since perhaps the season-opening 36-16 win over Green Bay, the defense brought it like it was 2013.

With Bobby Wagner back and Kam Chancellor and Byron Maxwell healthier, the Hawks put together a performance that reminded everyone of the dominant unit that led the league last year. They held Arizona to 204 yards, 3 of 12 third downs, 3.2 yards per rush and 4.2 yards per play. Drew Stanton completed just 53.8 percent and posted a 54.8 rating.

Back from a five-game layoff caused by a toe injury, Wagner looked like he never left, playing all but one play on defense. He and Chancellor — who apparently is healthier than he has been in weeks — led the team with eight tackles. And Maxwell picked off a pass and played some great coverage — a ticky-tack PI call notwithstanding.

Cliff Avril fed off the energy of the 12th Man, getting great jumps off the snap all game, pressuring Stanton and recording two sacks. And the rest of the defense fed off those guys.

Appropriately, it all added up to Seattle reclaiming the No. 1 defensive ranking as they prepare to face San Francisco’s No. 2 defense.

“We’ve been working really hard to play our best football. We’ve been busting it. These guys are together, they’ve been working, but this week we finally made a connection that took us a step closer to pure Seahawk football,” coach Pete Carroll told 710 ESPN on Monday. “… There’s an energetic connection that we needed to make. The players really figured out … that they need to play for one another really from their heart.

“We finally seemed to really click.”

It apparently sprang from a meeting Carroll had with team leaders — Earl Thomas, Chancellor, Richard Sherman, Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and Doug Baldwin among them.

“The players really contributed well to what we needed to get to and they had a huge role in getting the messaging right,” Carroll told reporters Monday afternoon. “We were just fine-tuning. All throughout the season, you always have these opportunities to go one way or the other and to grow hopefully in the right direction, and we made a real nice shift and took a nice step forward to getting to where we want to get.

“The kind of play yesterday was really a team effort of guys totally giving themselves to one another,” Carroll said. “They played for each other and it showed up. It was something that was most powerful in a team setting and everybody felt it yesterday. That’s that step.

“We have to get back to business again this week. Each week brings new challenges, and we have to make sure that we bring our game again. And if we do that, we will give ourselves a chance to finish this thing well.”

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