How the Seahawks Measure Up: Week 3 Edition

I’ve got one last thing on the final play of the Seahawks-Packers game, and then it’s time for sweet, sweet stats.  As you can see in this photo posted earlier today by Danny O’Neil, the disputed catch looks a lot different from behind.  He also imbedded some video of the play, courtesy of Q13, but if you’re having trouble viewing it like I did, try this link instead.  All I’ll say is that if that angle had been made available during the game, we might’ve been able to avoid a lot of the ensuing frenzy (or not — it’s not like the national media to let a little thing like contradictory evidence get in the way of a good mad-on).

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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) 4.38 117 4 84
Total 4.12
(12th)
141.33
(6th)
3.09
(3rd)
58.67
(2nd)

Against the Packers, the Seahawks went with their usual strategy of slowly wearing the opposing defense down with the running game.  That’s a perfectly acceptable way to go, so long as you’re willing to wait until late in the game to see big gains, but Seattle’s inability to convert first downs in the second half shot that game plan in the foot. As it turns out, it’s awfully hard to wear a defense down if you run it at them twice then throw an incompletion and punt, let them rest for five game minutes, run it at them two more followed by another incompletion and punt, let them rest another six game minutes, etc.

But despite rushing for a season-low 29 attempts (as opposed to 33 and 41 in weeks 1 & 2, respectively), the Seahawks were able to keep their rushing average in the mid-4 yards per attempt range for the second straight week.  However, it’s important to note that those stats are inflated by a single 11-yard run by Washington and a 6 yds/att average for Wilson’s three scrambles.  By himself, Lynch averaged just 3.92 yds/att on his 25 carries, which is isn’t bad, but it’s a half-yard short of the team’s average.

Likewise, the run stats allowed by the defense are also a bit misleading.  The Packers’ offense was more successful than either the Cardinals or Cowboys at running against the Seahawks, but that rushing average is inflated by a 20-yard run by Randall Cobb and a 16-yard scramble by Aaron Rodgers on the first play of their first drive.  Their workhorse back, Cedric Benson, was held to a reassuringly-low 2.65 yds/att on his 17 carries, an average which is more in keeping with what Seattle’s run defense usually allows.

(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%
Total 5.79
(32nd)
10.09
(29th)
127.67
(32nd)
57.33%
(23rd)
5.33%
(7th)
1.33%
(10th)
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%
Total 5.99
(5th)
9.99
(2nd)
213.67
(10th)
60%
(10th)
1.74%
(1st)
1.74%
(19th)

(Note: I didn’t forget to include sack percentages, they’re just in a new table that we’ll get to in a minute.)

So far this season, Darrell Bevell’s run-heavy play calling has cut both ways.  When it works, it takes the pressure to keep drives alive off of Wilson and makes full use of having an elite back like Lynch around.  But as we saw against the Packers, when it doesn’t work it all but ensures that your rookie quarterback will get fed a steady diet of tough 3rd and long situations where the onus to convert the down rests solely on his shoulders.  Take a look at what happens to Wilson’s passing stats when you sort them by down:

Down Pass
Comp.
Pass
Att.
Comp.
%
1st 5 8 62.5%
2nd 3 4 75%
3rd 1 7 14.29%
4th 1 2 50%

Of those seven throws on 3rd down, six of them were for 3rd and 5 or longer, and the one completion, which resulted in a 3 yard gain on 3rd and 6, can’t be considered much of a success, either.  By comparison, Wilson completed two-thirds of his passes on 1st and 2nd down, which includes his 41 yard TD to Golden Tate (thrown on 1st and 10).

Meanwhile, the Seahawks’ defense had to go up against Aaron Rodgers, a quarterback whose career has been on a surefire Hall of Fame trajectory ever since he took over as Green Bay’s starter back in 2008.  Clemons and company put overwhelming pressure on Rodgers all night long, but somehow even throwing off his back foot he was still able to rifle in passes with more velocity and accuracy than most QBs could manage in a week’s worth of 7-on-7 drills.  Dude’s a hell of a talent.

But while the defense was unable to prevent him from completing 66.67% of his passes, they did what they could by limiting the yardage gained and not giving up deep passes.  So while he was able to get the ball to his receivers, at the same time Rodgers was held to an even lower yards per attempt and yards per completion average than either Tony Romo in week two or John Skelton & Kevin Kolb in week one.  In short, Sherman, Thomas, Chancellor and Browner are pretty great, too.

Game Sacks
Allowed
QB Hits
Allowed
Sacks %
Allowed
Sacks +
QB Hit %
Allowed
 Sacks QB Hits Sack % Sacks +
QB Hits % 
1 (ARI) 3 7 8.11% 27.03% 1 5 2.7% 16.22%
2 (DAL) 2 4 9.09% 27.27% 1 6 2.44% 17.07%
3 (GB) 1 3 4.55% 18.18% 8 12 17.02% 42.55%
Total 6 (13th) 14 7.41%
(25th)
24.69% 10
(5th)
23 8%
(5th)
26.4%

For me, this table is where the real story of the game resides.  The Packers were able to beat up their first two opponents to the tune of 4 sacks and 6 QB hits versus the 49ers and 7 sacks and 12 QB hits against the Bears, but somehow, someway, the Seahawks were able to limit them to just 1 sack and 3 QB hits.  Wilson’s mobility had a lot to do with that, but so did the way the offensive line was able to shut down Clay Matthews, who by the way still leads the NFL in both sacks and QB hits even after tallying just one QB hit and zero sacks against Seattle.

While Matthews was busy getting muzzled, the Seahawks’ defense finally got its pass rush on track in a big, big way by hitting or sacking Rodgers on an incredible 42.55% of his dropbacks.  Again, my hat is off to Rodgers for his performance in this one; given that same situation, a lesser quarterback would have been a faint red smear on the turf, not leading his team downfield for a go-ahead score in the second half.

Special Teams Averages

Game Kick
Yds/Ret
Punt
Yds/Ret
FG % Punt
Avg
Net Punt
Avg
Kick Returns
Allowed
Punts Returns
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
Total 32.5 (1st) 8.86 (21st) 83.33%
(26th)
50.64
(6th)
47 22 (11th) 5.67 (4th)

There isn’t much new to look at here this week, so I’ll be brief.  The Packers were able to corral Washington and keep him from making a big play in the return game, and the Seahawks were able to do the same thing against Cobb.  Jon Ryan had two punts of over 60 yards, but what really impressed me was that even at that distance he still didn’t outkick his coverage unit.  This is what happens when you stock your coverage unit with speedy guys who understand the importance of form tackling.

Run-Pass & Turnover Differential

Game R-P TO Result
1 (ARI) +11 0 Loss
2 (DAL) +17 +2 Win
3 (GB) -8 0 Win

By this metric, the Seahawks’ win over the Packers was not a high quality one.  In 2011, teams that finished negative in run-pass differential and equal in turnovers won just 27.3% of the time.  That said, this is the first time the Seahawks have been on the low percentage end of things this season, so there’s no cause for worry.  For now, it’s just something to keep an eye on.

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
Total 12 13 -1 4 2 +2 -1

The Seahawks were outpaced in explosive plays by both the Cardinals and Cowboys, and I expected to see more of the same when I combed through the play-by-play data from the Packers game.  As it turns out, I was only half right. 

The Seahawks performance graded about how I expected, with just four explosive plays.  Three of those plays occurred in the fourth quarter on the last two drives: a 12 yard scramble by Wilson in their penultimate drive, and Wilson’s 22 yard completion to Rice and 24 yard game-winning touchdown pass to Tate on their final possession.  I’m starting to think there might actually be some serious big-play potential in Seattle’s current group of receivers, but I need to take a closer look at how they’re faring downfield before I can comment too much on that.

What I didn’t foresee was the defense limiting the Packers to just three explosive plays all game long.  More impressively, only one of those plays was a pass (a 31 yard completion to Jermichael Finley in the third quarter).  So just in case you needed more evidence that the offense should just sign over their week three game checks to the defense, there you go.

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%)
Total 33 (44.59%) 41 (55.41%) 29 (37.66%) 48 (62.34%)

On defense, the Seahawks were once again able to hold their opponent to a gain of less than 4 yards on first down a majority of the time, but just barely.  (Did I mention that Rodgers is a pretty good quarterback?)  I expect that margin will widen out again when the Seahawks go up against the Rams’ much less solid offense.

For the first time this season, the offense was able to gain four or more yards on a majority of its first down plays.  I don’t believe I went into much detail on this last time, but gains like that on first down are important because they set you up for short-to-medium distances on third down.  The better the distance, the more plays you have to choose from to convert the down.

Unfortunately, because of penalties and a depressing number of second down runs for little to no gain, the offense was largely unable to sustain their drives after those strong first down plays.  And even when they did find themselves in a third down situation with a manageable distance to go, they were mostly unable to convert.  In six attempts at converting on 3rd and 5 or shorter against Green Bay, Seattle was only successful once.

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%)
Total 26 (52%) 24 (48%) 32 (57.14%) 24 (42.86%)

(Note: Penalties resulting in first downs and all scoring plays are counted here as conversions.)

The offense was able to continue to improve its percentage of first and second down conversions, but that’s pretty meaningless since they only managed to convert 11 times all game.  It’s a really bad sign when the initial first down at the beginning of each drive (10) account for half of your total first down plays in a game (20).

On defense, the Seahawks allowed the Packers to earn more fist downs than they let the Cardinals and Cowboys convert, but even so the Seahawks still made significant improvement in this area.  Remember, solid NFL offenses typically convert on first and second down 65-75% of the time, and I don’t think there’s any doubt about the quality of Green Bay’s offense.  Forcing them to make over 50% of their conversions on third down is a real accomplishment.

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
Total 6 (75%) 2 (25%) 8 6 1 7

The Seahawks’ red zone percentages took a hit this week with their turnover on downs late in the fourth quarter, but at this point that’s just one more sign that the offense is still not playing up to par.  What’s more concerning is that they only reached the red zone twice.  That sort of thing would be okay if they were racking up TDs in bunches on explosive plays before they reached their opponent’s 20, but that clearly isn’t the case here.

The defense, on the other hand, is allowing opponents an average of just two red zone trips per game.  Hell yes.

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
Total 19 11 2 32 (32nd)

I hate to end on a downer, but a statistical category that was already looking dismal just got worse.  After committing 14 penalties in week three, the Seahawks are now officially the most penalized team in the NFL. 

Meanwhile, the team who usually enjoys that honor, the Oakland Raiders, are currently the fourth least penalized team in the league.  Maybe all these years the refs were actually trying to throw those flags at Al Davis and his team just kept getting in their way?

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