Hawks are for real now — and won’t lose again

Bobby Wagner signals Seattle ball after a takeaway against the Eagles (Seahawks.com)

It’s official: The Seahawks are back. And it will be a surprise if they lose again this season.

They are peaking at the perfect time and look fully capable of beating any team that is forced to oppose them (because no one would willingly play them at this point).

A pair of convincing 19-3 wins over their contending division foes were impressive, but there were still doubts about whether the Hawks truly were back to Super Bowl form. After all, the Cardinals and 49ers both were struggling on offense, so was it really an accomplishment for the Seattle defense to hold them to six total points and 368 yards the past two weeks?

It was fair to wonder how a defense that had been gashed by Kansas City’s running game three weeks ago would handle Philadelphia’s high-powered offense.

Were the returns of Bobby Wagner, Kam Chancellor and Byron Maxwell — along with one “come to Jesus” meeting — enough to bring the defense back to its 2013 form?

After a stunningly dominant 24-14 win in Philadelphia, the answer is a resounding “Yes!”

The Hawks held the NFL’s No. 4 offense — averaging 416 yards per game — to 139. That’s the fewest yards Pete Carroll’s defense has allowed in his nearly five seasons in Seattle. And it was the worst performance by a Chip Kelly offense — college or pro.

The Hawks emphatically announced to the league that they are fully prepared to repeat as Super Bowl champs. Good luck to any offense facing this defense, which suddenly looks every bit as good as the one that led the Hawks to an NFL title last season.

With Wagner, Chancellor and Maxwell back, this unit keeps getting better and better. It held Kelly’s explosive offense to 3.1 yards per play, just nine first downs and 18:04 time of possession thanks to 2 of 11 third downs.

All week it was obvious Carroll was very confident his team would hand the Eagles their first home loss in 11 games. Afterward, Wagner said the Hawks were confident because they were the fastest defense the Eagles had seen all season.

“Our defense came back again for the third week in a row, just playing the way that we hoped we would play and really set the stage for the game,” Carroll said. “We take a lot out (of the win) because they are such a good football team and (it was) in a very difficult setting. So we were happy to get this one.”

Carroll’s defense remains the No. 1 unit in the league (274.5 yards per game) and No. 2 in points allowed (18.1). Seattle has not been quite as dominant overall as last season (273.6 yards and 14.4 points per game), but the Hawks are on a stellar streak.

Take away a gimme touchdown off Jon Ryan’s fumble in the first quarter vs. the Eagles and the Hawks have given up just 13 points in the past three games. Their opponents are averaging just 169 yards in that span.

Shutting down the Eagles like that in Philly sends a major message to the rest of the league.

For those who can’t read between the numbers, Carroll translated: “There’s really nothing that they can’t do when they’re playing this tight and this close together.”

The 49ers, who lost to lowly Oakland on Sunday, have to be dreading coming to Seattle next week. And the Cardinals, who escaped with a controversial home win vs. Kansas City, can’t be too eager to host the Hawks in prime time on Dec. 21 — knowing that is probably the night the Hawks will win the NFC West.

Then the Hawks finish at home with the Rams, whose defense is just as hot as the Hawks after consecutive shutouts against Oakland and Washington. The Hawks probably will be playing for the No. 2 seed in that game — and they probably will get it.

“This is the way we want to play,” Carroll said, referring to the tight play of his footloose defense and the continued emphasis on the running game (188 yards vs. the Eagles). “That’s how we play. It hasn’t been that way all season long, but it has seemed to come together here. So we’re going to try to ride it. It’s not about how you start, it’s how you finish, so we’re going to see if we can finish in great fashion here.”

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