BY Steve Rudman 01:50PM 12/30/2013

Further Review: Which Playoff Foe Is Best?

The Seahawks play one among Packers, Saints or 49ers in two weeks in the divisional playoffs. Question: Which potential opponent is best for Seattle? Vote here.

Michael Bennett (72) and the Seahawks held the St. Louis Rams to 13 rushing yards Sunday, tying a franchise record. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

After tying a franchise record for fewest rushing yards (13) allowed in their 27-9 victory over St. Louis Sunday, the Seahawks have a week off before hosting one among Green Bay, New Orleans or San Francisco in the divisional round of the playoffs in two weeks. Seattle’s combined record at home the past two seasons against those three: 4-0.

In the four, two in 2012 and two this season, the Seahawks outscored the Packers, 49ers and Saints by a combined 119-35. A quick rewind:

Seahawks 14, Packers 12 / Sept. 24, 2012

In the infamous “Fail Mary” game, Golden Tate shoved a Green Bay defender out of the way, grappled with another for the ball, and was a awarded a disputed touchdown, officially 24 yards from Russell Wilson, on the final play. The national outrage against the NFL’s replacement referees reached its apex after the call, and helped settle the labor dispute. Tate also caught a 41-yard TD. Seattle’ defense beat up on Aaron Rodgers, sacking him eight times, four by Chris Clemons, all in the first half. Clemons’ performance matched Derrick Thomas’s 1992 NFL record.

Seahawks 42, 49ers 13 / Dec. 23, 2012

Wilson threw a career-high four touchdowns, Marshawn Lynch rushed for 111 yards and scored two first-half TDs, and Richard Sherman returned Red Bryant’s blocked field goal 90 yards for another score as Pete Carroll snapped a three-game losing streak to arch-nemesis Jim Harbaugh. The Seahawks converted 11 of 13 third downs as Wilson finished with a Total QBR of 97.6, the highest allowed by the 49ers in a game since the start of the 2008 season.

Seahawks 29, 49ers 3 / Sept. 22, 2013

Marshawn Lynch scored on runs of 14 and 2 yards and added a 7-yard TD reception in the second half, Seattle flustered Colin Kaepernick into his worst passing game as a starter (127 yards, 3 interceptions, 20.1 passer rating), forced the 49ers into five turnovers, and held them to no TDs in a game for only the third time since 1979. The Seahawks did all almost all of their damage in the second half. The 5-0 halftime score was the first in the NFL since 1992.

Seahawks 34, Saints 7 / Dec. 2, 2013

Wilson threw for 319 yards and three touchdowns and finished with a quarterback rating of 139.6 as the Seahawks became the first team to clinch a playoff spot. The Seahawks held QB Drew Brees to 147 yards and prevented the Saints from cracking 100 yards of total offense until midway through the third quarter. Although the Seahawks played without CB Brandon Browner (injured) and CB Walter Thurmond (suspension), Brees failed to complete a pass longer than 15 yards, the first time that had happened to him since 2006.

By holding the Rams to nine points Sunday, the Seahawks finished the regular season as the NFL leader in points allowed per game (14.4), yards allowed per game (273.6), pass yards allowed per game (172.0), interceptions (28) and turnover margin (+20). They also led the NFC in point differential at +186. How Seattle compares across the board to its three potential playoff opponents:

2013 GB NO SF SEA NFL Ranks
Record 8-7-1 11-5 12-4 13-3 Seahawks tie franchise record
Yards Per Game 400.2 399.4 323.7 339.0 GB, NO 3-4, Seahawks 17th
Rush Offense/Game 133.5 92.6 137.6 136.8 Niners 3rd, Seahawks 4th
Pass Offense/Game 307.4 266.8 186.2 202.3 Packers 6th, Seahawks 26th
Points Per Game 26.1 25.9 25.4 26.1 Packers, Seahawks rank T8
Yards Allowed/Game 372.2 305.6 316.9 273.6 Seahawks 1st, Saints 4th
Rush Defense/Game 125.0 111.6 137.6 136.8 Niners 4th, Seahawks T8
Pass Defense/Game 247.3 194.1 221.0 172.0 Seahawks 1st by 22.1 ypg
Points Allowed/Game 26.8 19.0 17.0 14.4 Seahawks 1st, 49ers 3rd
Turnover Differential -3 0 +12 +20 Seahawks 1st, Niners T2
Point Differential -11 +110 +134 +186 Seahawks 1st NFC, 2nd NFL

Based solely on numbers, Green Bay has the weakest defense of three potential playoff opponents, and therefore the best matchup for Seattle’s inconsistent offense. But the Packers also feature the most productive offense, especially with Rodgers back at quarterback. They average 26.1 points, same as Seattle. So which of the three would you most like to see Seattle play (see poll below)?

WILSON! By completing 15 of 23 for 172 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions, Russell Wilson compiled a 102.1 passer rating against the Rams, enabling him to finish the regular season at 101.2. That’s the highest single-season mark by a Seahawks quarterback with a minimum of 160 attempts, slightly ahead of Wilson’s 100.0 in 2012. The single-season record prior to Wilson: 98.2 by Matt Hasselbeck in 2005.

Wilson is the first player in NFL history with 100-plus passer ratings in each of his first two seasons and the third quarterback since the 1970 merger with a passer rating greater than 100.0 in his second season in the league. The others: Dan Marino, 1984 (108.9), and Kurt Warner, 1999 (109.2).

Had OT Russell Okung not been caught holding DE Robert Quinn just before halftime, Wilson’s touchdown pass to Golden Tate would not have been nullified. He would have finished the season with 27 TDs instead of 26. In that event, Wilson would have 53 to show for his first two seasons, one more than Peyton Manning in his first two (1998-99).

Wilson and Manning are tied for second on the list, behind Marino’s 68.

Wilson’s average gain is 8.09 yards, highest in franchise history, breaking the mark of 7.31 by Dave Krieg from 1980-91. Wilson is also the franchise record holder for highest percent of passes going for touchdowns (6.5) and lowest percentage of passes intercepted (2.38).

NUMBERS: The Seahawks allowed 231 points during the regular season, fewest in a 16-game schedule . . . Seattle allowed 22 touchdowns, fewest in a non-strike season . . . Seahawks allowed 4,378 yards, also fewest in a non-strike season . . . Seahawks allowed an NFL-best four rushing touchdowns, tying the franchise record (1991) . . . Seahawks scored 417 points, third-highest total in franchise history . . . Steven Hauschka made 94.29 percent of his field goals (33 of 35), breaking the franchise mark of 92.31 by Olindo Mare in 2009 . . . Seahawks held the Rams to -2 yards rushing in the first half Sunday, setting a club record. Previous: 4 yards vs. Cincinnati Sept. 23, 2007 . . . Rams finished with 13 yards on 18 carries, marking the first time in Seattle’s 38 seasons that it held an opponent below 1.0 yards per carry . . . Since 2008, Jon Ryan has had 169 punts downed inside the 20, including 28 this season, a team record beating Rick Tuten’s 147 between 1991-97.

SPEAKING OF RYAN: The Seattle punter was not among the six Seahawks (Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Max Unger, Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson) or three alternates (Steven Hauschka, Russell Okung, Golden Tate) named to the Pro Bowl Friday. He probably should have been.

Although Ryan ranked 19th in net punting yards — the stat apparently used to select Pro Bowl punters — he ranked first in fair catches and second in return yards against (82) and average return against (3.9). A 32-yard return by Austin Pettis in the second half Sunday kept him from leading the NFL in the latter two categories, and prevented the Seahawks from setting an NFL record for fewest punt return yards allowed in a season.

They entered Sunday’s game having allowed 25 in 15 games and permitted the Rams 57 on five returns. Minus net punting average, Ryan had a year comparable to both Pro Bowl punters — Miami’s Brandon Fields and Johnny Hekker of the Rams — and probably a better year than Fields, who allowed 407 yards on returns to Ryan’s 82.




  • RadioGuy

    Oh boy, this is making me a little nervous. I was a Packers fan years before there even was such a thing as a Seattle Seahawk and now I’m a shareholder, too. On the other hand, the ‘Hawks are the only other NFL team I root for and I’d love to see them win a Super Bowl because Seattle fans should experience what it’s like to be the undisputed best in the game…there really is nothing like it.
    Well, I have to stick with my childhood team because I couldn’t imagine NOT wanting Green Bay to win it all. If it works out that the Packers lose in Seattle, I’m all in for the Seahawks the rest of the way.

    • oldfan

      I feel for you you. I was a Rams fan pre-Seahawks. By the time Chuck Knox took over (a former Ram coach!) the Rams were a distant second to me. Now we’re in the same division and I deny I’ve ever having even heard of Roman Gabriel or Pat Haden.
      My advice – give in to your inner Hawkness, cast out those ancient demons of Lombardi, Starr, and Nitsche. Be wholly 1 with the 12!
      (That said, embarrass the ‘niners, please.)

      • Pixdawg13

        Oh, we’ve all heard of Pat Haden–he’s the AD at the University of Spoiled Children.

        And while I prefer NO as our playoff opponent (IMO our overall best chance to win), it doesn’t matter that much. We owe the Whiners, and can handle GB w/o the help of replacement officials.

        • oldfan

          Oh, THAT Pat Haden…

          • dog tired

            Its hard to beat a team twice in the same year. Be carefull what you ask for.

        • art thiel

          He played a little ball too . . .

      • art thiel

        Once you’ve made a move to a new community, it’s hard for some to surrender old loyalties. But I will say that these Seahawks are as likeable a crew, from a standpoint of personalities, as the 1995 Mariners.

      • Crypt

        Lawrence McCutcheon, Jim Youngblood, Jack Youngblood, Merlin Olsen, Fred Dryer…I too was once a fan of that era of Rams but gave them up and became a fan of the Raiders. Yeah I know, what was I thinking, right? lol.

        I now live north of Seattle and am still a fan of the Raiders but I am also a fan of the Seahawks defense too! Those guys are animals! Just like the Raiders of old, I love em. Bring on anyone, it doesn’t matter who, the defense can handle them. Legion of Boom!

        Go Hawks!

    • art thiel

      You’re entitled, Radio, to cheer for the childhood heroes. The Seattle population largely comes from somewhere else, and it’s not required of citizenship to surrender your passions.

  • giorgio547

    It really doesn’t matter. Parity in the NFL and the game gives everybody an almost equal shot. Pick the best quarterback if you need something to wager on. Won’t it be great if MLB picked up on this?

    • art thiel

      MLB actually has had a greater variety of WS entrants since it began sharing some revs. All but two teams have made WS — you know who they are — whereas 14 NFL teams have yet to make SB.

      • giorgio547

        I feel the two sports are difficult to compare – MLB season is so long and markets so disproportionate that the money just wears down the opposition, of course with the exception Billy Bean, the Wizard of Oakland and others. The NFL is, to me, so much more predicated on luck (injuries) and fluke plays (oblong ball) etc. that the odds of winning the Super Duper are incredibly long. And, MLB lives on tradition, although the designated hitter was a pure promotional gimmick that has spoiled things for purest – the WS has existed long before the NFL came into prominence with the SB.

        You are the expert, however, so thank you for indulging one of your fans… HNY!

  • jafabian

    I’d like to finally beat the Packers in the playoffs.

    • art thiel

      Fair point, since Seattle hasn’t done it. GB won’t forget the Fail Mary game, but they’re not the team they’ve been.

  • oldfan

    If I had to choose, I’d pick the Saints. The Hawks match up better against a team with strong offensive and a middling D, that let’s SF out. I’d rather face Brees in a cold outdoor stadium than Rodgers, so it’s the Saints.
    Of course that’d mean the national media would be saying we only succeeded because someone else beat the 49ers, so maybe we should beat them ourselves.

    • art thiel

      The Saints gave in fairly early in the game here, which the Niners won’t do — again.

  • Mitrian

    I think our best chance to win is most likely the Saints, but I believe we could win against any of them. The most satisfying opponent would clearly be 49ers.

  • Josh Rochon

    I agree the Saints would be the best matchup but we already beat them this year. I’d rather see us beat another team, the Packers, and expand our dominance in the NFC even more. Plus, any lingering feelings over whether last year’s hail/fail mary merits a legitimate win or not can be put to rest since the Hawks will beat them fair and square.

  • CreatorCare

    The Hawks are in the toughest division in the NFL, probably with three of the top four teams in the conference. Next year they’ll have four of the top five teams in the conference. Imagine that. And given all that, the Hawks share the best record in the NFL and will only get better next year.

  • Well, I voted for the Saints, but the differences are not that stark. Where it’s important, Seattle has the same edge against all three teams. If we just discard home-field advantage, we’re still left with three teams who have mediocre running games. Given the Seahawks undisputed edge in the defensive backfield, a team without a solid running running game starts the game without any advantages. The Seahawks come in owning the field and the clock.

    • OI Hawk

      Niners running game is not mediocre… just got give credit where credit is due. Go Hawks!