The obvious caveat to the Seattle Seahawks' defensive turnaround is that it has come against below-average or backup quarterbacks, raising questions of how real it is and what will happen if they run into Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers or New Orleans' Drew Brees in the 2020 NFL playoffs.
None of that will matter unless Seattle's offense can hold up its end of the bargain.
A lot has changed since quarterback Russell Wilson & Co. began the season on fire, carrying the Seahawks for the first two months while their defense set or threatened records for futility.
That role reversal continued for much of Sunday's regular-season finale at State Farm Stadium, where the Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers slugged their way through a defensive battle for three and a half quarters before Seattle pulled away late for a 26-23 win.
Coach Pete Carroll didn't like how the Seahawks started Sunday's game on offense but liked how his team finished -- both against the 49ers and while closing out the regular season with four consecutive wins to get to 12-4. That's the Seahawks' best regular-season record since 2014, when they also went 12-4.
"Really fired up that we continue to be a finishing club," Carroll said. "We're finding ways to do it. We can match up our numbers at the end of the season with anybody. It's something that's in the blood around here and I'm really proud of that. Finishing strong is always something that we love, and here we go. Here comes playoff time, so the start to this finish begins this next."
All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner, who was a member of the Seahawks teams that won Super Bowl XLVIII and made it back the next year, was asked if they have the ingredients on defense to make another championship run.
"Yeah, I definitely feel like we have the ingredients," he said. "The biggest thing for us is to do it consistently and do it at a high level for the whole game. That's something that we're working on and something that we're improving on. ... Where we were at at the beginning of the season to where we are now is night and day, but we've got to keep it up."
With quarterback Jared Goff's thumb injury keeping him out Sunday and threatening his availability for next weekend, the rubber match of Seahawks vs. Rams looks to be more of a challenge for Seattle's offense than its resurgent defense.
Describe the game in two words: Ultimately meaningless. At least in terms of playoff seeding, it was meaningless. The only way the Seahawks could improve from the No. 3 seed was if the Packers lost to the Bears or if the Saints lost to the Panthers, but Green Bay and New Orleans both won.
Promising trend: The Seahawks' defense continues to look strong, albeit against another backup quarterback in C.J. Beathard. Seattle's defense entered Sunday having given up 13.7 points per game since Week 11, the lowest in the NFL in that span. The Seahawks forced punts on San Francisco's first four possessions, then closed the game out by recovering a Benson Mayowa strip-sack, Seattle's third sack of the game.
Troubling trend: The Seahawks had the highest-scoring offense over the first nine weeks at 34 points per game. But entering Sunday, they were 16th since then at just over 22 points per game. Seattle had only 108 net yards midway through the third quarter before its offense came alive in the fourth quarter with two Wilson touchdown passes to Tyler Lockett and an Alex Collins rushing TD. Wilson finished 20 of 36 for 181 yards and no turnovers while adding 29 yards in five carries.
Troubling trend, Part II: Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams left midway through the fourth quarter because of a left shoulder injury and didn't return. Carroll said early indications from the Seahawks' medical staff is Adams will play next week, but he stopped well short of declaring that. Adams has been dealing with an injury to his other shoulder since Week 10. Given the impact he has made on their defense in general and their pass rush in particular, Adams is one of the players the Seahawks can least afford to lose for the playoffs. His 9.5 sacks led the team in the regular season and were the most by a defensive back since sacks became an official stat in 1982.