Seahawks D is still stellar, but the offense is too inconsistent
Even with great offensive weapons, the Seahawks scored only three points again
As a former player, I have grown frustrated with the oversimplification of football analysis. So this season, I will be watching the coaches’ video and analyzing the impact of all 22 players on the field and the coaches’ game plan.
Before Sunday’s 14-5 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I thought that the Seattle Seahawks were the best team in the NFL. My faith in the Seahawks was based predominantly on their ferociously stingy defense. They have a glut of talent, with Pro-Bowl caliber playmakers on all levels of their defense. When you combine that defense with Russell Wilson, an excellent quarterback, outstanding running backs Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise, and seemingly unguardable players such as Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham, it’s easy to understand why I believe in the Seahawks. And I was sure the mature Seahawks would have no trouble going into Tampa and beating young Jameis Winston’s Bucs.
I guess the Bucs just wanted it more.
I’m just playing. I know you football nerds won’t let me get away with that.
There was very little to find fault with in the Seahawks’ defensive performance on Sunday. After giving up touchdowns on the first two drives of the game, the Seahawks held the Bucs scoreless for the rest of the game. The Seahawks D created two turnovers, and even contributed two points with a second-quarter safety. Surrendering a net of 12 points is below their league-leading average of 17 points given up per game.
Seattle’s D performed well in another key metric — third-down efficiency — limiting the Bucs to 36.4 percent. The Seahawks D was exceptional in just about all of the important statistical categories. But there was one area in need of major improvement — second down. I know no one talks about second-down defense, and no football sites keep track of second-down efficiency. Most football analysts preach the importance of first-down runs and third-down conversions, neglecting the middle child of football series, the second down.
The Bucs only earned a new set of downs four times on third down, but they got past the sticks 10 times on second down, keeping drives alive. The Seahawks kept them from scoring on the vast majority of those drives, so it’s not hugely important. But it is not irrelevant. The Bucs could have had at least six more points as a result of these drives. But Bucs kicker Roberto Aguayo barely missed a 48-yard field goal, and the Bucs squandered an opportunity at another first-half field goal attempt because of poor clock management. Better teams convert those opportunities. Even the drives that didn’t reach scoring position impacted the Seahawks negatively, by worsening starting field position for the offense, which started four drives from inside its own 15-yard line.
But that’s no excuse for the Seahawks offense, which was only able to muster three points and outscored its own defense by one point. Though the Seahawks losing to the Buccaneers surprised me, the Seahawks’ offense should not have. Despite what we may think of the offense, it has been wildly inconsistent this season, scoring below the league average in five of the team’s 11 games. As an offense, in those five games, the unit put up point totals of 13, 12, six, three and three. The amazing thing is that Seattle’s record in those five games is 1-3-1.
Everyone knows that the weakness of this unit is its offensive line. And this game did nothing to disprove that fact. Wilson was sacked six times and under pressure 15 times, mostly without even being blitzed. But the offensive line was just part of the problem. The coaches and Wilson were making the linemen’s jobs more difficult. Despite running the ball reasonably well in the first half and only being down by nine points for most of the game, the coaches abandoned the running game in favor of receiver screen passes. If the D-line doesn’t believe there is a realistic possibility that a running play is coming, it will disregard run responsibilities and come straight for the quarterback, making the line much more difficult to block. The Seahawks also ran a lot of empty formations. In empty formations, the defense knows a pass is coming, and with no backs in the backfield to chip-block defensive ends or help when an O-lineman is beaten, the D-line is free to run complicated stunts and twist.
In this game, Wilson wasn’t the field general we’ve come to expect. He was inaccurate, throwing two interceptions. It should have been three, but a Tampa cornerback dropped a pass that hit him in his hands. Many of Wilson’s best plays come from him buying time by moving in the pocket and finding an open receiver deep down the field. But on Sunday, most of those plays ended with incompletions or sacks. The Tampa defensive backs deserve a lot of credit, because they stayed close to the Seattle receivers as Wilson scrambled. And when receivers did get open, they dropped passes.
The Bottom line
On Sunday, the Seahawks’ offensive performance was bleak. But they aren’t bad, just unpredictable. That trait is normally something that would cause me to completely lose faith in a team. But as long as the Seahawks have that defense, they’ll be in every game. And if that offense can figure out how to consistently produce points commensurate with their talent at the skill positions, there will be no team better than the Seahawks.