Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Seahawks Road Woes Overblown

You hear it everywhere. This Seahawks team is a different animal at home. If only they could only bring their home play on the road. I have fallen into the trap as well, and it is understandable. Seattle is a perfect 5-0 at CenturyLink Field, and a dismal 1-4 on the road. This is a bottom line league, and the bottom line is the Seahawks are getting vastly different outcomes depending on where they play. But like so many things, the perception is out of whack with reality. Seattle is not far from being a formidable road team.

Seattle has lost @Arizona, @St. Louis, @San Francisco, and @Detroit. They held a lead in each of those games, were ahead in the second half in three of the four, and ahead in the fourth quarter in two of the four. They lost by 4, 6, 7, and 4, for a 5.3 average margin of defeat. That does not exactly qualify as getting outclassed.

When comparing overall performance at home versus the road, a few key areas jump out. One, in particular, looks to be crucial.

Giveaways
Seattle averages 0.8 giveaways at home and a whopping 2.2 on the road. If there was only one stat the Seahawks could change on the road, this would be the one. It leads to shorter fields for the opposing offense. It increases opponent time of possession. And it has, on occasion, led directly to a defensive touchdown. Even in Seattle's lone road victory, they turned the ball over three times. It took a herculean effort by the Seahawks defense, possibly their best of the season, to overcome those mistakes. Seattle is showing signs of improvement there. There were two turnovers against the Lions, but one of those was on the game's final play when the Seahawks were lateraling the ball around to try and score. The other came on a bomb to an open Sidney Rice along the right sideline. Russell Wilson is 100% the key here. He is improving steadily, and should be better equipped to make good decisions, regardless of location.

Red Zone
Seattle has climbed out of the cellar in terms of red zone offense. They are now 20th in the NFL, after being 30th or worse all season. They are 11th in the NFL in red zone efficiency at home, but only 27th in the NFL on the road. They score a touchdown on 60% of their home red zone possessions, and only 35% of their road red zone possessions. This is showing up in the points column. Seattle averages 24.6 points at home, and 15 points on the road. They are getting an almost identical number of opportunities (3.0 red zone possessions per game at home versus 2.8 on the road), so this is about execution. Bringing their red zone numbers up to match their home production would have added 12-16 points to their total, and raised their scoring average 2-3 points per game. When you are losing by five points per game, that matters. Seattle has been scoring touchdowns at a 72% clip the last three games in the red zone, including 2-3 (66%) in their last road game in Detroit.

Sacks + Takeaways
The Seahawks defense averages 3.4 sacks and 1.8 takeaways at home versus 2.2 sacks and 1.4 takeaways on the road. They have been largely content to play fundamentally sound defense away from Seattle, but they have not been dynamic. The Seahawks are 9-1 in the last two seasons when sacking the quarterback three or more times in a game. Their only loss was 6-3 in Cleveland last year with Charlie Whitehurst at quarterback and Marshawn Lynch out with back spasms. They have one game this year on the road with more than two sacks, and that was the four-sack effort at Carolina. They need to warm it up. The Seahawks are a perfect 8-0 in Pete Carroll's tenure when taking the ball away three or more times in a game. They did it for the first time this year in the Jets game. They did it three times last year on the road. It has to be part of the formula.

Seattle is not a different team at home and on the road. We have seen Jekyll and Hyde teams before. This is not one of them. They are in every game, and should have won at least a couple of the ones that got away. Improvement in a few key areas could make this team a very unwelcome guest. 

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