Like Easley, Chancellor is heart of defense

Kam Chancellor and Tony McDaniel celebrate a stop vs. Carolina on Saturday (Seahawks.com)It was only appropriate that Kam Chancellor had perhaps the best game of his career on the day Kenny Easley raised the 12th Man flag.

Just as Easley was once Seattle’s best player, Chancellor — who, like Easley, is from Virginia and once dated Easley’s daughter — has been this team’s MVP the past two years.

Yeah, that’s a loaded statement on a team that includes so many star players — fellow Legion of Boomers Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman, linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, defensive linemen Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, quarterback Russell Wilson, running back Marshawn Lynch.

Everyone likes to say Lynch is the heartbeat of the team — embodying the tough, relentless style Pete Carroll wants his guys to play with.

But the defense is the backbone — the reason Wilson has won more games than any quarterback in his first three seasons — and Chancellor has been the heart and soul of that unit for the past two dominant years.

Teammates mob Kam Chancellor (31) after his stunningly stellar stunt on a field goal attempt seemed to succeed vs. Carolina (Seahawks.com)

In 2013, when the Hawks claimed the triple crown of defense (No. 1 in yards, points and takeaways), Chancellor was the Seahawks’ best defender — and perhaps the league’s best — for the last two months of the season and throughout the playoffs. If not for Malcolm Smith’s pick-six, Chancellor likely would have been named MVP of the Super Bowl.

Chancellor is at it again this season. After an injury-plagued start to the season, Chancellor came back from a two-game break healthier and playing like he did in 2013. He also took on a more vocal role as a leader, helping prompt the turnaround that resulted in a winning streak that has now reached seven games.

He might have played the best game of his career Saturday night against Carolina, notching 11 bone-jarring tackles, returning an interception for a score for the first time in his career and putting on one of the most amazing athletic displays on special teams we have ever seen in Seattle.

“I don’t know that a strong safety can have a better game than Kam had tonight. He was all over the place,” Carroll said. “He had 11 tackles and a pick for a touchdown. All the big hits that he made and all the things that he did tonight — it was just an amazing football game he was able to get done tonight.”

Even before his touchdown and bizarre field goal sequence, Chancellor was setting the tone against the Panthers, stuffing a screen play for no gain, blasting 245-pound fullback Mike Tolbert backward and revving up his defensive mates.

“He was on fire, man,” Wright said. “That’s our captain, man. I love the way he plays. He brings so much energy to this team. Big hits. Pick-sixes. Everybody looks up to that guy. He had a hell of a game.

“Whenever I look at him, I just get inspired, because he’s a guy that we love and he’s a guy that just sets the tone. He’s a big-time guy.”

Chancellor won the battle of Kam vs. Cam, punctuating it with his interception of Newton’s pass at the 10-yard line late in the game.

That prompted plenty of rips on Newton, including one reference to the old Play 60 commercial where the kid talked about wanting to take Newton’s job when he got bigger. One clever Twitter denizen cracked, “And when I grow up, I’ll spell Cam with a K.”

Newton is a self-professed Superman, but Chancellor said he didn’t want to take Newton’s alter ego.

“He can have it,” Chancellor said. “They call me Batman. I’m the Dark Knight. And I can’t change in a phone booth or a closet.”

But he sure looks like he can leap tall buildings in a single bound. He cleanly hurdled the Panthers’ line twice in a row during a field-goal situation at the end of the first half — and somehow missed blocking the kick twice.

The first kick got past him, but the Panthers were called for a penalty, so they lined up again — and Chancellor timed his vault over the line again.

But Graham Gano — spooked by Chancellor — kicked the ball so poorly it sailed right past Chancellor and wide left. “Once he saw me, he just shanked it far left,” Chancellor said. “There was no way I could get my hand on it.”

But Chancellor bumped the kicker and drew a penalty, setting up Gano for a third attempt, which he hit because the Seahawks called off Chancellor.

Carroll said that block attempt was planned.

“It was extremely well orchestrated,” the coach said. “(Special teams coach) Brian Schneider saw something during the week and tried to take advantage of it. They really didn’t have enough time to adjust after the first attempt.

“Unfortunately, the kicker kicked it so poorly that Kam couldn’t block the second one. And, then we roughed him. So, it was just kind of a calamity there. ”

That was just about the only thing Chancellor could not quite pull off Saturday, when he put together possibly the best game of his career and reminded everyone that he is the heartbeat of the Seattle defense — just like the great Kenny Easley once was.

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