How the Seahawks Measure Up: Belated Week 5 Edition

[Due to illness, I’m afraid my biggest accomplishment these past two weeks has been emptying several boxes of Kleenex.  The good news is that my head is finally clearing up, so I should be back to providing more content for you guys to peruse come next week.  It’s damned nice to feel like a functional human being again.]

In their game against Carolina, the Seahawks’ offense improved in some key areas (which I’ll discuss further in the stats sections).  The passing game isn’t quite firing on all cylinders yet, and they were helped out by some glaring mistakes in coverage by the Panthers’ secondary1, but overall things appear to be headed in the right direction. 

Russell Wilson has a hell of a lot of potential, but he’s still a rookie who is not above making aggravating rookie mistakes.  As I said in the comments for last Sunday’s post-game thread, I’m not going to worry too much so long as he keeps improving.  I know some of you would rather see what Matt Flynn can do under center, but a change at the quarterback position is the most potentially disruptive personnel switch a coach can inflict on an offense.  At this stage in the game, the only way Wilson is likely to get sidelined is if he goes into a Blaine Gabbert-style tailspin and starts to play progressively worse each week.  For now, things are nowhere near that dire.

 

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(Note: For explanations of some of the stats included in this piece, please see the first article in the series.)

Rushing Averages

Game Yds/Att Yds/G Yds/Att
Allowed
Yds/G
Allowed
1 (ARI) 3.48 115 2.15 43
2 (DAL) 4.44 182 3.06 49
3 (GB) 4.38 127 4 84
4 (STL) 5.26 179 2.78 75
5 (CAR) 2.8 98 4.32 82
Total 4.08
(13th)
140.2
(7th)
3.23
(3rd)
66.6
(3rd)

Going by just the team averages above, week five was the worst performance of the season for the Seahawks’ run offense and run defense.  However, things start to look a whole lot better when you take a closer look at the individual stats that went in to those totals.

The Panthers gained more yards per rushing attempt against the Seahawks than any other team they’ve faced this season, and most of that success was thanks to Cam Newton.  On his seven carries, Newton averaged 6 yds/att, which goes to show just how dangerous a good scrambler can be when he takes off with the ball.  The defense performed much better against the Panthers’ running backs.  Jonathan Stewart earned 4 yds/att on 4 carries, but most of that yardage came from a single 11-yard gain, and DeAngelo Williams was held to just 1 yd/att on his six rushing attempts.

On offense, Lynch ran like his usual dominating self, averaging 4.05 yds/att on his 21 carries.  Wilson and Robert Turbin, on the other hand, were not so hot.  Wilson averaged 2.4 yds/att on his 5 scrambles, and Turbin averaged a measly 1.5 yds/att on his 4 carries.  In short, the rookies had a bad night, but Beast Mode is still producing.

(To continue reading, please click on “Read More” below.)

Passing Averages

Offense
Game Yds/
Att
Yds/
Cmp
Net
Yds/G
Cmp
%
TD % Int %
1 (ARI) 4.5 8.5 139 52.94% 2.94% 2.94%
2 (DAL) 7.55 10.07 133 75% 5% 0%
3 (GB) 6.19 13 111 47.62% 9.52% 0%
4 (STL) 6.4 9.41 140 68% 0% 12%
5 (CAR) 8.84 11.63 212 76% 4% 8%
Total 6.52
(29th)
10.32
(29th)
147
(32nd)
63.2%
(15th)
4%
(17th)
4.8%
(29th)
Defense
1 (ARI) 5.97 10.75 210 55.56% 2.78% 2.78%
2 (DAL) 6.28 10.91 247 57.5% 2.5% 2.5%
3 (GB) 5.72 8.58 184 66.67% 0% 0%
4 (STL) 7.19 13.12 211 54.84% 3.23% 3.23%
5 (CAR) 6.02 11.75 131 41.38% 0% 0%
Total 6.25
(2nd)
10.6
(7th)
192
(4th)
56%
(5th)
1.71%
(3rd)
1.71%
(11th)

To summarize, the defense held the Panthers to a sub-50% completion percentage, less than 5 yds/att per pass, and zero touchdowns (I believe the technical term here is “kicking ass and taking names”).  Some interceptions would’ve been nice, but the rest of their stats are so good that’s a relatively minor complaint. 

A big key to the defense’s smothering coverage was Richard Sherman’s ability to get inside Steve Smith’s head and keep him off-balance all game long.  Over the last decade, Smith has been an effective, productive receiver for Carolina, but his temper is notoriously short.  At one point, Smith was so pissed off at Sherman that he let a catchable pass fall incomplete because he was too busy pushing Sherman over downfield to catch it.  Seriously, that kid has perennial all-pro written all over him.

For the most part, the offense stuck to the high-percentage, low-risk game plan that’s forced all of us to keep a bottle of antacids within arm’s reach on game day, but for the first time this season Wilson showed a refreshing willingness to take some calculated risks with his throws.  Unfortunately, that ended up resulting in two interceptions, but hopefully that won’t prompt Bevell and Carroll to restrict the passing game this Sunday against New England.  Wilson is going to make mistakes with his throws, and some of them (like his pick-six to Munnerlyn) are going to be costly, but he’s never going to develop into the sort of passer the Seahawks need to get them to the playoffs and beyond if he’s forever kept on a short leash.

Game Sacks
Allowed
QB Hits
Allowed
Sacks %
Allowed
Sacks +
QB Hit %
Allowed
 Sacks QB Hits Sack % Sacks +
QB Hits % 
 Sack
Diff.
Sack +
QB Hit
Diff. 
1 (ARI) 3 7 8.11% 27.03% 1 5 2.7% 16.22% -2 -4
2 (DAL) 2 4 9.09% 27.27% 1 6 2.44% 17.07% -1 +1
3 (GB) 1 3 4.55% 18.18% 8 12 17.02% 42.55% +7 +16
4 (STL) 2 4 7.41% 22.22% 2 3 6.06% 15.15% 0 -1
5 (CAR) 2 2 7.41% 14.81% 4 6 12.12% 30.3% +2 +6
Total 10 (12th) 20 7.41%
(22nd)
22.22% 16
(5th)
29 8.38%
(5th)
25.13% +6 +18

After a disappointing game in St. Louis, the Seahawks’ pass rush came back to life against the Panthers.  Hitting or sacking your opponent’s QB on nearly a third of his pass attempts is pretty good, but it’s even more impressive when you can pull that off against a passer as fast and mobile as Newton.  Right now, Bruce Irvin is putting up the sort of numbers you expect to see from a pass rusher chosen 15th overall in the draft, and amazingly enough he’s doing it despite only seeing the field for roughly 20 snaps a game.  As Hawk Blogger put it earlier this week,

Remember all the players the Seahawks should have drafted ahead of Irvin? Quinton Coples, Chandler Jones, Melvin Ingram, and Courtney Upshaw have combined for 3.5 sacks. John Schneider should be sending every box score from all of these players to Mel Kiper Jr. every week.

On the other side of the ball, Wilson enjoyed his least-punishing game of the season.  Unlike some of the other teams the Seahawks have played this season, the Panthers may not have a top ten pass rush in terms of sack percentage2, but seeing as how they only missed the cut by two tenths of a percentage point they’re still not a team to be taken lightly in that department.  In other words, the progress we’re seeing in the stats above is real, and from what I’ve seen it’s the result of better blocking by the offensive line (Carpenter is a major upgrade at left guard) as well as better decision-making by Wilson in the pocket.  Here’s hoping that continues to improve when the Patriots come to town tomorrow.

Starting this week, I’ve also added in stats for sack differentials (thanks goes to Kyle Hobbs for bringing this article to my attention) along with a combined sack and QB hit differential.  I’m not as convinced as Daniel Jeremiah seems to be of the predictive powers of this stat, but it does seem to indicate that the Seahawks are showing signs of progress.

Special Teams Averages

Game Kick
Yds/Ret
Punt
Yds/Ret
FG % Punt
Avg
Net Punt
Avg
Kick Yds/Ret
Allowed
Punts Yds/Ret
Allowed
1 (ARI) 44.3 12.5 75% 46.25 37 22 9.3
2 (DAL) 20 7 100% 53.75 53.25 21.8 1
3 (GB) 21 5 - 51.5 49.5 23 4
4 (STL) 69 0.5 100% 49 44.5 12 18
5 (CAR) 16 7.8 100% 40.67 36.33 20.25 13
Total 31.2 (1st) 7.29 (23rd) 90.91%
(21st)
48.9
(7th)
45 20.58 (6th) 7.45 (8th)

At first glance, Jon Ryan appears to have been off his game, but the average above is misleading.  On two of his three punts, Ryan was forced to punt on the Panthers’ side of the field, and both times his punts were downed inside the ten yard line (at the 5 and 9, specifically).  Have I mentioned yet how much I love having him on the team?

Likewise, Seattle’s kick return average was pulled down sharply by a 3-yard return by Doug Baldwin on a short kickoff that was angled well away from Leon Washington.  Still, Washington didn’t do himself any favors either by fumbling the ball away to Carolina at the end of a 47 yard return.

Run-Pass & Turnover Differential

Game R-P TO Result
1 (ARI) +11 0 Loss
2 (DAL) +17 +2 Win
3 (GB) -8 0 Win
4 (STL) +7 -2 L
+23 -1 W

As much as I wish I could report differently, the Seahawks ended a game positive in run-pass differential and negative in turnover differential for the second week in a row.  As I mentioned last week, teams that finished similarly last year ended up losing the game 57.7% of the time.  That said, the majority of the stats from this game are encouraging enough that a statistical outlier like this doesn’t bother me too much.  Remember, this particular statistical metric is mainly a barometer to help us gauge the quality of a win. It’s also important to note that turnover differentials become exponentially more predictive the larger they get, but a +/-1 isn’t worth losing a lot of sleep over.

Toxic Differential

Games Expl. Plays Expl. Plays
Allowed
Expl. Play
Differential
TA TO TO
Diff.
Toxic
Diff.
1 (ARI) 2 6 -4 2 2 0 -4
2 (DAL) 6 6 0 2 0 +2 +2
3 (GB) 4 3 +1 0 0 0 +1
4 (STL) 6 5 +1 1 3 -2 -1
5 (CAR) 5 6 -1 2 3 -1 -2
Total 23 26 -3 7 8 -1 -4

The negative result here, however, is a much greater cause for concern.  Explosive plays are vital to an offense’s success, and the Seahawks’ defense has done a great job of holding opponents to a minimal number of big plays.  Unfortunately, the Seahawks’ offense has been held to a similarly minimal number of big plays, both by opposing defenses and their own misfires.  Against the Panthers, the offense had two explosive plays negated by holding penalties on offensive linemen, and that something that desperately needs to change.  Among other things, I’m really starting to wonder if Frank Omiyale should be starting at right tackle over penalty-machine extraordinaire Breno Giacomini.

First Down Efficiency

Game 4+ Plays <4 Plays 4+ Plays
Allowed
<4 Plays
Allowed
1 (ARI) 10 (34.48% 19 (65.52%) 7 (26.92%) 19 (73.08%)
2 (DAL) 9 (36.0%) 16 (64.0%) 9 (37.5%) 15 (62.5%)
3 (GB) 14 (70%) 6 (30%) 13 (48.15%) 14 (51.85%)
4 (STL) 19 (67.86%) 9 (32.14%) 11 (44%) 14 (56%)
5 (CAR) 13 (48.15% 14 (51.85%) 10 (43.48%) 13 (56.52%)
Total 65 (50.39%) 64 (49.61%) 50 (40%) 75 (60%)

The Seahawks had an off day on first down against the Panthers, but only in comparison to the exceptional job they did against the Packers and Rams.  Remember, NFL teams usually average 4+ yards per play on around 40-50% of their first down attempts, and last Sunday’s effort still falls within the high end of that range.  On the other side of the ball, the defense’s performance in this category was relatively average, but it’s similar enough to the stats from their last two games that we can probably expect more of the same in the weeks ahead.

Game 1st & 2nd
Conv.
3rd & 4th
Conv.
1st & 2nd
Conv.
Allowed
3rd & 4th
Conv. Allowed
1 (ARI) 9 (45.0%) 11 (55.0%) 12 (66.67%) 6 (33.33%)
2 (DAL) 10 (52.63%) 9 (47.37%) 10 (58.82%) 7 (41.18%)
3 (GB) 7 (63.64%) 4 (36.36%) 10 (47.62%) 11 (52.38%)
4 (STL) 16 (85%) 4 (15%) 7 (41.18%) 10 (56.25%)
Total 43 (61.43%) 27 (38.57%) 48 (55.81%) 38 (44.19%)

(Note: I was a bit off on my tally from the Rams’ game, but the stats above should now be correct.  And as always, penalties resulting in first downs and all scoring plays are counted here as conversions.)

This time around, the Seahawks’s offense was not quite as proficient at converting on first and second, but they more than made up for that by posting one of their best conversion rates of the season on third down (more on that shortly).  On defense, the Hawks stayed within their usual conversion rate on first and second down, but tightened up significantly against third and fourth down attempts.

Third Down Efficiency

(Note: I’m not sure why I didn’t include breakdowns of third down stats from the start, but you can count on them being included from hereon out.)

A bit of explanation is in order here.  When most folks talk about third down conversions, they break things down into three categories: third and short, third and medium, and third and long.  That’s fine for third and short, since that only encompasses plays designed to convert on distances of a yard or less, but the other two categories are actually an amalgamation of four different groups of playcalls.

Third and medium lumps together the 3rd and 2-3 and 3rd and 4-6 packages, with the distinction between the two being that a rushing attempt is far more likely to convert from 2-3 yards out than it is from 4-6.  Likewise, third and long is a combination of a team’s 3rd and 7-10 and 3rd and 11+ packages, although the difference here is more one of probability of success than of playcall – as Billick explains it in Developing an Offensive Game Plan, 3rd and 11+ are usually just 3rd and 7-10 plays with the routes deepened to adjust for the increased distance to the first down marker.  At any rate, here are the average conversion percentages he provides in the book for each package:

3rd Down
Distance
Conversion %

≤1

70%
2-3 59%
4-6 47%
7-10 28%
11+ 18%
Total 41%

The percentages above are derived from just the Vikings’ stats for the 1992-95 seasons, but that’s enough to give us at least an idea of the rough percentages we want to see from the Seahawks.  Here’s the Hawks’ 3rd down conversion rates:

Offense
Game

3rd &
≤1

3rd &
2-3
3rd &
4-6
3rd &
7-10
3rd &
11+
3rd
Total
1 (ARI) 1/1 (100%) 1/2 (50%) 2/7 (28.57%) 2/4 (50%) 1/2 (50%) 7/16 (43.75%)
2 (DAL) 2/2 (100%) 2/4 (50%) 4/5 (80%) 0/2 (0%) 0/3 (0%) 8/16 (50%)
3 (GB) 0/1 (0%) - 2/6 (33.33%) 0/3 (0%) 0/1 (0%) 2/11 (18.18%)
4 (STL) 2/3 (66.67%) 0/3 (0%) 0/1 (0%) 0/2 (0%) - 2/9 (22.22%)
5 (CAR) 1/1 (100%) - 3/6 (50%) 3/6 (50%) 0/1 (0%) 7/14 (50%)
Total 6/8 (75%) 3/9 (33.33%) 11/25 (44%) 5/17 (29.41%) 1/7 (14.29%) 26/66 (39.39%)
Defense
1 (ARI) 1/2 (50%) 1/2 (50%) 0/1 (0%) 2/5 (40%) 0/1 (0%) 4/11 (36.36%)
2 (DAL) 1/1 (100%) 0/2 (0%) 0/1 (0%) 3/4 (75%) 1/3 (33.33%) 5/11 (45.45%)
3 (GB) 1/2 (50%) 2/3 (66.67%) 5/7 (71.43%) 0/3 (0%) 0/3 (0%) 10/18 (55.56%)
4 (STL) 0/1 (0%) 0/2 (0%) 1/3 (33.33%) 2/3 (66.67%) 3/5 (60%) 6/14 (42.86%)
5 (CAR) - - 2/5 (40%) 1/6 (16.67%) 0/1 (0%) 3/12 (25%)
Total 3/6 (50%) 3/9 (33.33%) 8/17 (47.06%) 8/21 (38.1%) 4/13 (30.77%) 28/66 (42.42%)

As you can see, the Seahawks’ performance on 3rd down is a mixed bag no matter which side of the ball you look at.  On offense, they’ve been decent in 3rd and short but scattershot at best from other distances, while the defense has largely bucked the usual statistical trend by being stingy in shorter yardage situations and allowing unusually high conversion rates at longer distances.

Thankfully, it’s not all bad news here.  Versus the Panthers, the Seahawks’ third down stats improved nearly across the board for both the offense and defense.  Still, that’s only one game – how they perform on the money down against a much stronger opponent in the Patriots will give us a much better idea of whether or not we’re seeing actual progress here or just a one-off performance.

Red Zone Efficiency

Game RZ Trip
w/ Score
RZ Trip
w/o Score
Total
RZ Trips
RZ Trip
w/ Score
Allowed
RZ Trip
w/o Score
Allowed
Total
RZ Trips
Allowed
1 (ARI) 3 (75%) 1 (25%) 4 4 (100%) 0 (0%) 4
2 (DAL) 3 (100%) 0 (0%) 3 0 (0%) 1 (100%) 1
3 (GB) 0 (0%) 1 (100%) 1 2 (100%) 0 (0%) 2
4 (STL) 2 (100%) 0 (0%) 2 2 (100%) 0 (0%) 2
5 (CAR) 3 (100%) 0 (0%) 2 1 (50%) 1 (50%) 2
Total 11 (91.67%) 2 (16.67%) 12 9 2 11

I’m torn here.  The research I’ve been doing lately indicates that a team’s efficiency inside the red zone as it’s currently defined (i.e. any offensive drive that travels inside the opponent’s 20 yard line) does not appear to be all that terribly predictive or statistically meaningful.  I’ll keep putting the stat up here for now, but don’t be surprised if I alter or remove it entirely in the coming weeks.

Penalties

Game Off.
Pen.
Def.
Pen.
ST
Pen.
Total
Penalties
1 (ARI) 7 5 1 13
2 (DAL) 5 0 0 5
3 (GB) 7 6 1 14
4 (STL) 3 2 0 5
5 (CAR) 5 2 0 7
Total 27 15 2 44 (32nd)

Seven is a high number of penalties for a team to commit, especially when several of them negate potentially game-changing plays.  Breno Giacomini is a tough, nasty lineman, but his temper may be costing the team more than he’s worth.  Relatively speaking though, seven still constitutes an improvement over the deeply embarrassing yellow flag extravaganzas the officials threw for the Hawks in weeks one and three.

 

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1 Note to the Panthers’ safeties: you’re supposed to not let anyone get behind you in Cover-2.  Squatting underneath routes is for cornerbacks and Ed Reed, and neither of you are in any danger of being mistaken for Ed Reed.

2 Currently, Green Bay is 2nd in the NFL in sack percentage, Arizona is 4th, and Dallas is 9th.

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