Offense clearly better so far
Contrast that with the offense from last year that had 384 yards or more just six times. This team has already done it three times in four games. Look at some of the other key offensive numbers as they compare to last year:
|Points Per Drive||2.34||2.23||0.11|
|Yards Per Play||6.2||5.6||0.6|
|3rd Down %||38%||37.3%||0.7%|
They are up pretty much across the board. The jump in yards per play is a big one. You can see all of that is due to a running attack that barely resembles what Seattle had last year. People forget the injuries and the struggles of the offensive line to even run the ball last year. Rushing yards are coming from places other than Marshawn Lynch. He had 308 yards rushing after four games last year and is at 306 this year.
Percy Harvin has 93 yards on the ground and Russell Wilson has 209 yards rushing. He had 131 at this point last year. I worry a bit about the sustainability of his rushing as so much of it comes on unscripted scrambles, but his legs continue to be a big part of why he gives defenses fits.
The drop in explosive plays is worth tracking. The drop is all in the passing game. They averaged 4.8 explosive passes per game last year, and are down to 4.0 this year. Their number of downfield targets continues to be far less than previous years.
They did all of this against defenses that have largely played well against other opponents.
Pass defense dragging unit down
|Points Per Drive||1.8||1.21||0.59|
|Yards Per Play||5||4.6||0.4|
|3rd Down %||44%||37.3%||6.7%|
The third-down defense is roughly equivalent and has trended toward good in the past two games. They have started to regain their level of play on third-downs, and that included a game against Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
Even if you give the defense a pass there, and assume they are finding their footing, there are some concerning differences that are too big to ignore.
Red zone defense has been letting opposing teams score touchdowns at nearly twice the rate as last season. If they were holding teams to their same 36.1% rate as last year, their PPG average against would drop three points down to 17.8. Just shoring that up would make a huge difference. The quality of quarterbacks they have faced—remember Philip Rivers miracle touchdowns—definitely plays a role, but the disparity here is too great to explain away just by level of competition.
The same goes for opponent passer rating. Kirk Cousins had a higher passer rating than Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Manning. That is not a level of competition issue. Allowing Manning to go 80 yards in less than a minute after the team had shut him down all game is not a level of competition issue. They proved they could stop him, but had key breakdowns that led to scores. Those types of breakdowns showed up again against Washington.
Seattle is allowing opponents a 97.8 passer rating in 2014. Only four quarterbacks managed to reach that mark against Seattle in 2012 and 2013 combined
Maintaining a consistent high level of play is an issue for the Seahawks defense right now. People that want to tell themselves it is just because they have played tough teams are also implying this is out of the Seahawks control; that good players will just make good plays against Seattle. That is not how I see it. There are breakdowns in coverage and a lack of pass rush that are combining to make this defense more vulnerable than it was at any point last season.
That does not mean this is a bad defense. It does mean this defense is not playing to the same level as last year’s defense, and there are not a lot of reasons to expect improvement other than easier competition.
Turnovers missing on both sides of the ball
Seattle has forced just three turnovers and had one game with two turnovers. They had only four games all of last season with fewer than two takeaways.
This is a little bit of bad luck. There have been a decent number of fumbles that the Seahawks have not been able to recover. More than that, though, is the lack of pass rush leading to fewer bad choices from the quarterback. The Redskins game was a perfect example of that.
Kirk Cousins has thrown a lot of interceptions in his short starting career, dating back to last year, and Seattle got none from him. He was hit just four times and sacked just once. We need more from Cliff Avril, Bruce Irvin, O’Brien Schofield, and Michael Bennett.
Still the best