We are through another quarter of the season and the numbers always tell an interesting story about how the team has changed over the past four games. If you want to see how the team is doing this year three-quarters through the season compared to last year at the same time, you can check out the 2014 three-quarter progress report. A lot has changed over the past four games.
The big picture
Red zone revelations
I wrote in the mid-season report that modest changes to the Seahawks red zone efficiency would have a significant impact to the team’s scoring output. They went out and proved it with a nearly flawless stretch of play inside the 20 yard line. The team has raised their red zone rate to over 50%, higher than at the same point last season, and the scoring has followed, jumping a whopping 17 spots in the NFL rankings in just four weeks.
I have been doing this progress reports every four games for a few years and this is the first time I can remember seeing either side of the ball go green across the board. The offense is running better, throwing better, protecting better, scoring better, and playing situational football better. They are up both in volume and in efficiency. My power rankings formula has this offense as the third best in the NFL right now, behind only Arizona and Cincinnati.
Defense mostly improves
It is a bit surprising to see the defense take steps forward in a four game span when they allowed 39 and 30 points, and 451 and 538 yards in two of the games. The bulk of the damage came through the air, where the team saw opponents increase their average output to 220.5 passing yards per game, a massive 34 yard spike. Interesting, though, that the opponent passer rating actually went down.
Volume passing is not a great way to win if it means you are more likely to turn the ball over, which was the case here. Seattle raised their takeaway rate.
Penalties out of control
The Seahawks fell an astounding 16 spots in penalty ranking in just four weeks. They have never been a great penalty team, except for the early part of this season. Maybe this team needs to be sloppy to be great. That would be a toll most Seahawks fans would be happy to pay.
Hitting their stride
These last four weeks very well may go down as a waypoint in franchise history. Much is left to prove, but it certainly feels like there will be a line of demarcation when Russell 2.0 emerged. Tom Brady saw his role in the Patriots offense change dramatically after he had won Super Bowls with the team. He did not win his first MVP or throw for more 28 touchdowns until 2007, his 8th season in the NFL.
No position in football has a longer learning curve than quarterback. Wilson has had an accelerated start to his career. He has been precocious in many ways and typical in others. A delightful concoction of better pass protection, better rushing offense, better play-calling, and better quarterback play have made this offense as lethal as it has ever been with Wilson at the helm.
They now enter arguably the easiest four game stretch of their schedule, with the only game that should truly be in question being the final one in Arizona. Every game can be tough, but Seattle should spend the next three weeks gaining steam and increasing confidence. Four weeks to go. Go get it.