As scoring soars around league, Seahawks' defense digs in

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RENTON -- Seemingly everywhere one looked Sunday in the NFL, points were being scored at a dizzying rate. The Chiefs beat the Raiders 56-31, the Packers rallied to knock off the Cowboys 37-36 and the Vikings poured it on the Eagles 48-30.

And when the last point had been scored, the day turned into history.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 763 points scored Sunday were a NFL one-day record, breaking the 759 scored on Jan. 1, 2012.

That record, though, was done despite the best efforts of the Seahawks, who recorded their first road shutout since 2005, beating the New York Giants 23-0. The Giants and hapless Houston (which lost to the Colts 25-3) were the only teams in the NFL not to reach double figures.

And when the day was done, Seattle could also claim to be the best defense in the NFL, overtaking Carolina in fewest points allowed per game (14.6 to the 14.9) while increasing their hold on fewest yards allowed per game at 279.5.

"It was obviously a big day for the defense and they just played really, really well," Carroll said Monday of the second shutout of his Seahawks tenure, the other a 58-0 win over the Arizona Cardinals last December. "There was just no phase of any aspect of what we were doing that wasn't on it. The pressure was great, the run defense was there, the coverage was excellent, and the playmaking was there too."

Seattle, of course, was expected to have a good defense this year after ranking No. 1 in the NFL last year in points allowed at 15.3.

"Statistically, we were pretty sharp last year, too," Carroll noted on Monday.

Still, the performance against the Giants points to a defense that appears to be peaking at the right time.

Seattle has allowed just 26 points in its past three games against the Saints (34-7 Seattle win), 49ers (19-17 loss) and Giants, holding them to a combined average of 229 yards per game.

The streak started the week the Seahawks began playing without cornerbacks Brandon Browner (injured) and Walter Thurmond (suspended), forcing Byron Maxwell into the starting lineup and Jeremy Lane into a key role as nickelback.

But in the latest testament to the team's depth, the two players have thrived, particularly Maxwell, a sixth-round pick in 2011 who has three interceptions the past two games.

Seattle also played Sunday without starting weakside linebacker K.J. Wright, out another month or so with a broken foot, and largely without starting tackle Tony McDaniel, who saw just two snaps while ill.

But Malcolm Smith again filled in admirably at linebacker. Clint McDonald saw the bulk of the duty in place of McDaniel, each helping a run defense that allowed just 25 yards, the fewest against the Seahawks since 2002.

Run defense had been an issue for the Seahawks earlier in the year, particularly when the Rams (200) and Tampa Bay (205) rushed for a combined 405 yards in consecutive games.

Seattle has allowed just 428 yards rushing in the five games since, an average of 85.6, not far off the 83.2 of the Cardinals that leads the NFL.

Asked Monday what's changed, Carroll said: "Our tackling is the best it's been. Team pursuit has been the most consistent. ... We made a challenge to the players, the players challenged each other, and they took after it to play really hard-nosed, tough football and it showed up. We really have improved a lot."

The only real slip came in the loss to the 49ers, when the Seahawks got out of position late and allowed a 51-yard run by Frank Gore to set up a game-winning field goal for San Francisco. The memory of that, Carroll said, helped spark the shutout of the Giants.

"Guys were disappointed in that last drive ... and they responded to make sure that they sent a different message," he said.