How the Seahawks Measure Up: 2013 Week Three Edition

If there's one thing that's always bugged me about the Seahawks teams Pete Carroll has put together over the last few years, it's been their maddening tendency at times to play down to the level of their competition.  In 2011, they beat the 12-4 Ravens and the eventual Super Bowl champion Giants, but lost to a middling Cowboys team and a 5-11 Redskins team led by Rex "how the hell am I still a starter" Grossman.  In 2012, the Hawks got better and better in every phase of the game as the season went along, but along the way rolled over and let the Dolphins and Lions (and nearly the Bears) cruise to game-winning scores late in the fourth quarter.

So, despite Richard Sherman's protests to the contrary, there were reasons to doubt how well the Seahawks were going to perform against the Jaguars.  As bereft of talent as Jacksonville is, I don't think anyone believed Seattle was going to crater hard enough to give Chad Henne & co. a legitimate shot at winning the game, but it was entirely possible that they might try to half-ass their way to a victory over a lesser opponent.  Thankfully they didn't (for most of the game, anyway), and as you'll see the stats back that up (Note: green highlights denote notably positive stats — think top ten material, where applicable — while orange highlights mark notably negative stats):

Rushing Averages
 

Game Yards/Rush Attempt Yards/Game  

Yards/Rush Attempt Allowed

Yards/Game Allowed

1 (CAR)

2.69 70  

5.15

134
2 (SF) 3.66 172   5.00 100
3 (JAX) 4.33 156   2.04 51
Total

3.65 (23rd)

132.67 (8th)   4.01 (17th) 95 (12th)


The offense's run game is still not great — they averaged 4.81 yards per carry last season — but they have shown signs of steady improvement.  The loss of Okung at left tackle was mitigated somewhat by the addition of Carpenter at left guard; his performance is still a bit uneven, but when he's on he's the most dominant run blocker on the team.  I'm very interested to see how he fares against Houston's much stouter defensive line.

The run defense also showed significant improvement in this game, although It should be noted that Jacksonville's star back Maurice Jones-Drew is having the worst statistical season ever, averaging just 2.6 ypc; his career average is 4.6, and he's never had a season average lower than 4.2.  Tomorrow's matchup versus Arian Foster (3.9 ypc this season) will give us a better idea of whether or not the results versus Jacksonville constitute a false positive.

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Passing Averages
 

Offense
Game Yards/Passing Attempt Yards/ Pass Completion

Net Passing Yards/Game

Completion % TD % Int %
1 (CAR) 9.70 12.80 300 75.76% 3.03 0.00
2 (SF) 7.47 17.75 118 42.11% 5.26 5.26
3 (JAX) 11.41 15.76 323 72.41% 17.24 3.45
Total 9.79 (1st) 14.69 (2nd) 247 (16th) 66.67% (7th) 8.64 (2nd) 2.47 (18th)
Defense
Game Yards/Pass Attempt Yards/ Pass Completion Net Passing Yards/Game Completion % TD % Int %
1 (CAR) 5.43 7.81 119 69.57% 4.35 0.00
2 (SF) 4.54 9.77 107 46.43% 0.00 10.71
3 (JAX) 6.18 13.06 214 47.37% 0.00 5.26
Total 5.47 (1st) 10.36 (5th) 146.67 (1st) 52.81% (3rd) 1.12 (1st) 5.62 (1st)


I thought the Jaguars' cornerbacks played relatively well in this game (the safeties were a different story), but Wilson and his receivers were on fire in this one, and if anything Jackson looked even better when he got his chance to sling the ball around.  Rice's lack of production has been a cause for concern through the first two weeks of the season, but he was back on the same page with his QBs in this one.  Rice caught all three short passes thrown his way and hauled in two of the four bombs lobbed to him deep for a combined 71.43% catch rate.

Aside from a few careless mistakes in covering Cecil Shorts in the second half (seriously, he was the only real receiving threat the Jaguars have — how do you forget to cover him?), which accounts for the unusually poor showing in yards per completion allowed, the pass defense made Chad Henne's life miserable all game long. 

The frustrating thing about Henne is that, despite the crappy receiving corps he has to deal with in Jacksonville, he's perfectly capable of being a solid passer.  His problem isn't ability, it's confidence; when he was with Miami, he had a habit of letting bad throws or hard losses get into his head, and seemed to be the case once again versus Seattle.  If Gus Bradley gets to keep his job beyond this year, and that's a mighty big if right now, he has got to find someone to throw into the mix at QB besides Henne and Gabbert.
 

  Offense   Defense   Team Differentials
Game Sacks Allowed (%) QB Hits Allowed Sacks + QB Hits Allowed %   Sacks (%) QB Hits Sacks + QB Hits %   Sacks Diff. Sacks + QB Hit Diff.
1 (CAR) 2 (5.71%) 1 8.57%   1 (4.17%) 1 8.33%   -1 -1
2 (SF) 4 (17.39%) 6 43.48%   3 (9.68%) 5 25.81%   -1 -2
3 (JAX) 2 (6.45%) 6 25.81%   4 (9.52%) 8 28.57%   +2 +2
Total 8 (8.99% – 28th) 13 23.60%   8 (8.25% – 14th) 14 22.68%   0 +1


(Note: I redesigned the sack & QB hit table this week, so hopefully it'll be a bit easier to read now.)

Clemons didn't play many snaps, but his return along with the solid play of free agent pickups Avril, Bennett, and Schofield resulted in a marked improvement in the pass rush over the first two weeks of the season.  Bennett has been an absolute revelation so far, getting pressure from both the 3-tech DT spot as well as the 5-tech DE (i.e. Leo) position. 

The Seahawks also unveiled a new-look nickel rush line featuring Avril and Clemons at the ends and Schofield and Bennett in the middle, with Schofield playing in a two-point stance, which presumably means he's free to line up and attack from any angle (I would expect Irvin to replace Schofield once his suspension is over).  Granted, Jacksonville doesn't have a particularly strong o-line, but so far it's looking like a significant upgrade over last year's nickel rush package that starred Clemons and Irvin on the outside with Jason Jones and McDonald on the inside.

As for the offense, well, this is where the loss of Okung really showed up, and it wasn't pretty.  I mean, if the Jaguars can manage to hit or sack the Seahawks' QBs on one out of every four dropbacks, I'm really not looking forward to seeing what Houston's resident Frankenstein's monster J.J. Watt will do versus the same spotty protection.  To make matters worse, both Unger and Giacomini will likely be ruled out this week with injuries, so the line tasked with holding off Watt will likely consist of McQuistan-Carpenter-Jeanpierre-Sweezy-Bowie.

Thankfully, the Texans' secondary is not quite as strong — they're allowing opposing QBs an embarrassingly high touchdown percentage of 7.2% so far this season, good for 29th in the NFL in that category.  So yeah, I hope that Wilson put some extra time into working on scramble drills this week, but if his receivers can take advantage of Houston's DBs (all the ones who aren't named Danieal Manning, anyway (or Ed Reed if he ends up playing (parentheses!))) he might not have to run very far.


Special Teams Averages

Game Kick Yards/Return Punt Yards/Return   Kick Yards/Return Allowed Punt Yards/Return Allowed
1 (CAR) - 12.00   - 5.00
2 (SF) 24.00 15.50   26.00 0.00
3 (JAX) 22.50 8.25   27.00 -1.50
Total 23.00 (17th) 11.20 (5th)   26.50 (26th) 1.40 (1st)

 

As you can see, special teams has been great on punt coverage and returns, average on kick returns, and not even close to good on kickoff coverage.  The difference in kick returns versus punt returns is at least partly due to a marked difference in opportunities (the Seahawks have attempted just 3 kick returns versus 10 punt returns).  The kickoff return job is also pretty unsettled — all three returns have been handled by three different players (Tate, Kearse, and Lane), while Tate has handled the duties on all three punt returns.  I think we all assumed there would be a decrease in production on kick returns without Leon Washington, but I'm not sure why the team hasn't settled on one guy to replace him.

The disconnect between the performances of the kickoff coverage and punt coverage units is a bit puzzling.  The poor showing against kick returns may just be a small sample bias at work, especially when the punt coverage unit grades out as the best in the NFL, but it's also possible that there's a weak link somewhere on the kick return team that I haven't picked up on just yet.

 

Game Field Goals (%) Kickoffs to End Zone (%) Kickoff Touchbacks (%)   Yards/ Punt Net Yards/ Punt Punt+ (%)
1 (CAR) 2 of 2 (100%) 4 of 4 (100%) 4 (100%)   49.50 47.00 3 of 4 (75.00%)
2 (SF) 2 of 2 (100%) 6 of 6 (100%) 4 (66.67%)   34.00 34.00 4 of 5 (80.00%)
3 (JAX) 1 of 1 (100%) 7 of 8 (87.50%) 6 (75.00%)   35.00 35.75 3 of 4 (75.00%)
Total 100% (1st-T) 17 of 18 (94.44%) 14 (77.78%)   39.08 (32nd) 38.56 (32nd) 10 of 13 (76.92%)

The kickoff stats are one of the additions with which I've been toying this year.  Mainly, I'm interested in seeing just how strong Hauschka's leg really is this year, so I'm tracking how many of his kickoffs land in the end zone and comparing that to how many of them result in touchbacks.  If he's just flattening his trajectory, then his extra distance is coming at the expense of his hang time, which would result in him outkicking his coverage.  In the stats that would show up as a large disparity between the percentage of kicks that land in the end zone versus the percentage of kicks that end up as touchbacks.  So far I don't see that occurring, so Hauschka appears to be coming by that extra kickoff distance honestly.

Ryan's punt stats look pretty bad so far this year, but he's also had two of his punts blocked.  The one versus the 49ers shouldn't have counted, since it was caused by a whistle from the stands being mistaken for an official's whistle, but the partially blocked punt versus the Jaguars was simply the result of poor blocking.

Punt+ is a stat that I introduced last year as another way of gauging whether a punt play resulted in a favorable outcome for the Seahawks.  Punting averages are nice, but those averages can change significantly depending on the competence and speed of the team's punt coverage unit as well as how much room a punter has to work with when he steps on to the field — after all, you aren't going to approach a punt from your own 10 yard line the same way you'd handle a punt from your opponent's 40.  To find the punt+ total, I tallied all the punts that ended in 1) a fair catch, 2) the opponent being forced to start their next drive inside their own 20 yard line, 3) a return for zero yards, or 4) was intentionally kicked out of bounds (as opposed to one that was shanked).  And as you can see, the punt averages might be crap, but the majority of Ryan's punts (76.92% of them) are doing positive things for Seattle.


Run-Pass & Turnover Differential
 

Game Run-Pass Differential Turnover Differential Result
1 (CAR) +9 +1 Win
2 (SF) +22 +4 Win
3 (JAX) +15 +1 Win


(Note: For an explanation of this stat, check out this article here.)

Another week, another high-quality win for the Seahawks.  Through three weeks, they've run more plays and earned more takeaways than their opponents, and teams that come out ahead in both those categories end up winning the game 94% of the time. 

Toxic Differential
 

Game Explosive Plays (Run/Pass)

Explosive Plays Allowed (Run/Pass)

Explosive Play Differential Take- aways Turn- overs Turn- over Diff. Toxic Diff.
1 (CAR) 8 (2/6) 2 (1/1) +6 2 1 +1 +7
2 (SF) 7 (4/3) 6 (4/2) +1 5 1 +4 +5
3 (JAX) 11 (2/9) 4 (0/4) +7 3 2 +1 +8
Total 15 8 +14 10 (2nd-T) 4 (4th-T) +6 +20

(Note: Explosive plays are defined here using Brian Billick’s criteria of 12+ yards for runs and 16+ for passes.)

The two turnovers aside, the Seahawks are now 3 for 3 in adding to their toxic differential in chunks.  Remember, the higher the total, the more likely a team is to make the postseason.  It's still way too early in the season to be making meaningful predictions for January, but a total in the 20+ range is insanely good, as in clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs good.

And hey, how about the offense pulling off no fewer than nine(!!!) explosive pass plays versus the Jaguars?


Down Efficiency

We should have enough data built up by next week to have a meaningful sample for these stats, so look for them to return then.

Expanded Red Zone Efficiency

Game Total ERZ Trips ERZ Trips w/ score ERZ Trips w/o score   Total ERZ Trips Allowed ERZ Trips w/ score allowed ERZ Trips w/o score allowed
1 (CAR) 4 2 (50.00%) 2 (50.00%)   2 1 (50.00%) 1 (50.00%)
2 (SF) 6 4 (66.67%) 2 (33.33%)   3 1 (33.33%) 2 (66.67%)
3 (JAX) 9 7 (77.78%) 2 (22.22%)   5 3 (60.00%) 2 (40.00%)
Total 19 13 (68.42%) 6 (31.58%)   10 5 (50.00%) 5 (50.00%)

(Note: Because NFL kickers have improved so much over the years, it makes more sense to chart a team's scoring efficiency on drives inside their opponent's 35 yard line rather than waiting for them to get to the 20.  Some analysts call this the "orange zone," but that name sounds dumb.  Until something better comes along, I'm going to stick to calling it the "expanded red zone," or ERZ for short.)

As with the previous two weeks, the Seahawks offense managed to artificially dilute their ERZ stats by taking their victory formation kneeldowns inside the Jaguars' 35 yard line.  The other ERZ drive in which they failed to score was their third drive of the game in which they got to Jacksonville's 29 yard line, then were immediately driven back out of field goal range on the very next play by a Jason Babin sack on third down, which in turn forced Seattle to punt.  If you prefer to discount those three game-ending kneeldown drives, the Seahawks have scored on 13 of 16 ERZ trips, giving them a scoring efficiency of 81.25%.

On defense, the Hawks cut short two of Jacksonville's trips into the expanded red zone by picking off Henne.  In fact, four of the five ERZ drives they've stifled this year have been the result of takeaways.


Penalties
 

Game Offense Penalized Defense Penalized Special Teams Penalized Penalties/Game
1 (ARI) 5 3 1 9
2 (DAL) 9 1 0 10
3 (JAX) 2 2 0 4
Total 14 4 1 7.67 (22nd)


Ah, that's more like it.  The cherry on top of the win over the Jaguars is that the Seahawks committed just four penalties in the game, which this early in the season was enough to catapult them from 28th in the league in penalties per game all the way to 22nd.  However, I'm expecting there to be more than a few holding penalties called tomorrow when the patchwork o-line attempts to contain J.J. Watt.  I hear tell he's pretty good.

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