Breaking the season up into quarters has proved to be a useful measure of progress. I started this last season, and have referenced it over and over again for my own use. You can find the final 2011 Season Progress Report by clicking here. The report can show trends as the season wears on. For this first report in 2012, I will start by comparing some familiar statistics to how the 2011 squad performed.
Summary Stats +/- 2011 (NFL Rank)
Scoring - 17.5 -2.6 (28th -5, meaning they were 23rd for 2011 and have dropped five spots in the rankings in 2012)
Rushing Yd/Game - 150.8 +41.0 (6th +15)
Yards Per Carry - 4.4 +0.4 (T9th +11)
Passing Yd/Game - 130.8 -63.2 (32nd -10)
Yards Per Attempt - 5.2 -1.6 (31st -11)
Opp Sacks/Game - 2.0 -1.1 (11th +17)
QB Rating - 73.5 -4.1 (27th -7)
Red Zone Scoring Percentage: 27.27% -20.56 (32nd -10)
3rd Down Conversion Percentage: 28% -5.77 (27th -3)
Turnovers - 4 (4 INT , 0 FUMBLES)
Opp Scoring - 14.5 -5.2 (2nd +5)
Opp Rushing Yd/Game - 62.8 -49.5 (2nd +13)
Opp Yards Per Carry - 3.0 -0.8 (2nd +2)
Opp Passing Yd/Game - 213 -6.9 (T9th +2)
Opp Yards Per Attempt - 5.8 -1.1 (4th +6)
Sacks/Game - 3.0 +0.9 (7th +12)
Opp QB Rating - 75.5 +0.7 (7th -1)
Opp Red Zone Scoring Percentage: 50% +1.28 (13th -2)
Opp 3rd Down Conversion Percentage: 43.14% +8.3 (24th -15)
Turnovers Forced - 5 (3 INT , Fumbles 2)
Penalties: 9.2 +0.6 (29th +2)
The Seahawks have taken a major step forward in rushing, but even a bigger step back in passing. No new information there. What may surprise some is the large improvement in sacks allowed. Even if you break it into a relative number like percentage of pass attempts that result in a sack, the team has improved there. Some of that may be Russell Wilson's elusiveness, but much of it is improved line play. The massive drop in red zone efficiency and 3rd down conversions are killers.
The defense is flying. Their only area that really needs attention is 3rd down, where the team has gone from Top 10 in the league to Bottom 10.
As bad as penalties were last year, they are worse so far in 2012.
Explosive plays are going to be a key area to watch for this team, both on offense and defense. Explosive plays are defined here as 20+ yards. Usually, 10+ yards counts as an explosive run, but the NFL does not publish that stat. You can see that the defense is light years ahead of where it was last season, giving up an average of 1 explosive play per game versus nearly 4 last season. When you consider Tony Romo and Aaron Rodgers represent half the opposing quarterbacks, that number becomes even more impressive.
The offense is well behind what the team was doing last year in this area.
Bobby Wagner is on pace for 92 tackles, which would set the Seahawks franchise record for rookie tackles in a season.
K.J. Wright is on pace for 120 tackles, which would be the third-most in franchise history, behind Tony Woods 141 in 1988 and Terry Beeson 153 in 1978.
Kam Chancellor is on pace for 112 tackles, which would be 3 behind the franchise record for a safety, set by Eugene Robinson in 1988.
Richard Sherman is on pace for 8 interceptions, which would be 2 behind the franchise record set by Kenny Easley in 1984.
Marshawn Lynch is on pace for 1,692 yards rushing and 1,892 total yards from scrimmage, which would be career highs.
Chris Clemons is on pace for 20 sacks, which would set the franchise record.
Bruce Irvin is on pace for 10 sacks, which would set the franchise rookie record.
Putting Things In Context
Seattle was a different team the last eight games of 2011, so a straight compare to the full season statistics from that season seemed less relevant. Below, you will find a series of statistical comparisons between the first quarter of the 2012 season and the last eight games of 2011, when the Seahawks went 5-3.
Many forget that the Seahawks scored at a good clip the last half of 2011. Can you imagine what this team would be like if it could average 25 points per game right now? They did that last year with Tarvaris Jackson playing with a torn pec, Paul McQuistan playing left tackle, Lemuel Juanpierre playing right guard, Robert Gallery playing left guard, and both Sidney Rice and Mike Williams injured. They can do better. That have to do better. The defense is relatively steady, compared to the last eight games of 2011.
This shows that the offensive line is yielding fewer sacks than the last half of 2011, and sacking the opponents quarterback more than they were. The best sack teams in the NFL last season averaged 3 sacks per game, so it would be remarkable if this team could keep pace.
Turnovers are huge. Note, that the offense is turning the ball over at roughly the same rate as the last half of last year. It is the defense that needs to step up. They were finding ways to get the ball off the opponents last year, and are simply not doing it often enough this year. The quality of quarterback play and pass pressure are two key components. Cam Newton, Tom Brady and Alex Smith are coming up, so it will take some great play to start seeing this number rise.
Nothing too shocking here. Although, the passing yardage differential is stark, and it is amazing that the team is managing to outpace the running attack they put out there during the last eight games of 2011. Remember, they led the NFL in rushing over that stretch.
More evidence of passing game challenges.
Interesting to see the defense is yielding more passing yards this year than they were at the end of last season. It is also interesting to see they've nearly halved opponents run production. The run defense tired significantly as the year wore on last year. If the offense cannot start to take on some of the load, the same thing will likely happen again this season.
The first quarter of 2012 has been marked by outstanding defense, remarkable rushing offense, and a team that is struggling to pass the ball and create turnovers. The team lost to two beatable opponents, and beat two marquee franchises. The team is on the road for three of the next four games, with road games against Carolina, San Francisco and Detroit. It is not hyperbole to say the way the team performs in this stretch will determine what this season can be.