Even their Super Bowl ring asks the big question. It's right there on the band, engraved in white gold under the score of last year's triumph, "Sea 43-Den 8."

That's where it says, "What's Next?"

The answer could be a profound one for a team as young, brash and talented as the Seattle Seahawks. They have a long way to go to establish a dynasty, but they have a start -- they have the "D."

The Seahawks allowed the fewest points in the NFL (231) last season and also led the league in total defense (273.6 yards per game), passing defense (172.0 yards per game), takeaways (39), interceptions (28) and turnover differential (plus-20).

Seattle Seahawks’ Richard Sherman (25) knocks down a pass intended for San Francisco 49ers’ Michael Crabtree (15) in the end zone in the fourth
Seattle Seahawks' Richard Sherman (25) knocks down a pass intended for San Francisco 49ers' Michael Crabtree (15) in the end zone in the fourth quarter of their NFC Championship NFL Game at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Wash., on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014. Seattle Seahawks' Malcolm Smith would intercept the pass in the end zone. Seattle defeated San Francisco, 23-17. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) ( JOSE CARLOS FAJARDO )

It sounds funny asking Richard Sherman if he can repeat himself. The All-Pro cornerback talks more than a county fair auctioneer. But he backed it up a year ago, including with his memorable end-zone coverage of the 49ers' Michael Crabtree to end the NFC championship game.

It should be no surprise then that Sherman embraces the idea of some back-to-back yakety-yak. He recently told the NFL Network that the Seahawks' 2014 season could be even better than their 2013 campaign.

"We're a lot more experienced. There are a bunch of young guys," he said. "Last year, you forget, Russell (Wilson) was a second-year quarterback -- going into his third year, there's going to be a lot of growth for him.


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"I'm going into my fourth, Earl (Thomas) and Kam (Chancellor) are going into their fifth, Bobby Wagner going into his third, we've got some young guys coming up on the D-line that are going to do some things, Mike Bennett and Cliff Avril, another year of experience. Jermaine Kearse, I think, is going to have a big year. Guys are elevating their game to another level."

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What's next?

San Francisco 49ers’ Frank Gore (21) is tackled against Seattle Seahawks’ Red Bryant (79) and the Seattle Seahawks defense in the first quarter
San Francisco 49ers' Frank Gore (21) is tackled against Seattle Seahawks' Red Bryant (79) and the Seattle Seahawks defense in the first quarter of the NFC Championship Game at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Wash., on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) ( Nhat V. Meyer )

It's an enticing question for a team that, by one measure, rode the youngest roster to win a Super Bowl. The Seahawks had an adjusted-value weighted age of 26.4 years per player, according to Football Outsiders.

Using that formula, the next youngest teams to reach or win the big game -- the 1971 Miami Dolphins (26.4 years), the 1981 49ers (26.5 years) and the 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers (26.6 years) -- all went on to establish long-term dominance.

That's what the Seahawks are hoping for, having assembled the nucleus of a team that could stick around for awhile.

"One of the things that happens every so often is teams have a big fallout after they win the Super Bowl," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said, one day after winning the Super Bowl. "We're not in that situation."

For recent Super Bowl winners, the answer to "what's next?" has been "a big letdown." The last back-to-back champions were the New England Patriots in 2003-04.

Since then, no Super Bowl champ has won so much as a single playoff game the following year. In fact, three of the past five Super Bowl winners -- the Baltimore Ravens (2012), the New York Giants (2011) and the Steelers (2008) -- missed the playoffs completely.

"Maybe because they get pressured by all the questions about it?" Thomas grumbled when a reporter asked him about Super Bowl hangovers after a recent exhibition.

The Seahawks have a chance to break the skid, in part because their cornerstone players are so young. Quarterback Russell Wilson, 25, became the fourth quarterback to win a Super Bowl in his first or second season in the league, joining Kurt Warner, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger.

He is 24-8 as a regular-season starter for a .750 winning percentage, and that trails only Brady (.775) among active quarterbacks with 10 or more starts. (the 49ers' Colin Kaepernick ranks third, 17-6, .739).

"He's so special," Carroll said of Wilson. "He's just a tremendous competitor. And he's going to keep going. There are records this guy is going to continue to knock off."

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Wilson owes much of his winning percentage to a historically potent supporting cast. With the Seahawks' smothering defense and a running game led by Marshawn Lynch, it's not as if the quarterback is carrying the load. Writer Doug Farrar, in a thorough analysis for Football Outsiders, noted that no team has thrown fewer passes over the past two seasons than the Seahawks.

Seattle Seahawks’ Doug Baldwin (89) reaches to make a reception against San Francisco 49ers’ Eric Reid (35) in the first quarter of their NFC
Seattle Seahawks' Doug Baldwin (89) reaches to make a reception against San Francisco 49ers' Eric Reid (35) in the first quarter of their NFC championship NFL game at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Wash., on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) ( JOSE CARLOS FAJARDO )

Still, Wilson is adept at picking his spots. The Seahawks gained 1,500 yards on deep passes last year, seventh-best in the league. (The 49ers were 22nd with 1,112 yards.)

Wilson also has 52 career touchdown passes, making him one of only three quarterbacks in league history to top 50 in his first two seasons. The others are Dan Marino (68) and Peyton Manning (52).

The defense, meanwhile, will try to ensure that any Seahawks points serve mostly to run up the score. Sherman and Thomas signed lavish contract extensions in the offseason, highlighting a unit that stays mostly intact.

The Seahawks did bid farewell to some key players during free agency, including leading receiver Golden Tate (who signed with the Detroit Lions), starting right tackle Breno Giacomini (New York Jets), starting defensive ends Red Bryant and Chris Clemons (both released, then picked up by the Jacksonville Jaguars) and former starting cornerbacks Brandon Browner (New England Patriots) and Walter Thurmond (New York Giants).

The biggest challenge for the so-called "Legion of Boom" will be avoiding a blizzard of yellow flags. Seattle committed an NFL-worst 9.1 flags per game (including declined and offsetting).

Now, with an added emphasis from officials on downfield contact, Seattle defenders expect extra scrutiny on their already controversial coverage. Former New York Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride famously said in December that the Seahawks defense had "perfected the art" of defensive holding.

To prepare for the new look, referees are at all Seahawks practices throwing flags on every illegal-contact penalty.

"We understand where the game is going, and we adapted to the rule change," Thomas told USA Today. "You just practice it, and it becomes second nature. We've been in practice, trying to keep our hands clean in one-on-ones.

"Every chance we get, we want to help this team in a positive way. We definitely don't want to penalize this team."

It helps, of course, that the Seahawks are 15-1 at CenturyLink Field over the past two seasons.

The place is famously noisy. Is it enough produce an echo in 2014?