BY Steve Rudman 06:30AM 12/09/2014

Suffocating Seahawks ‘D’ rising at right time

Not even the 2013 Super Bowl champion Seahawks had a more dominating defensive run than this year’s Seahawks have put together in the past three weeks.

DE/DT Michael Bennett and the Seahawks have allowed only 507 yards in their past three games. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

In their past three games, the Seahawks have rolled over the Arizona Cardinals (19-3), San Francisco 49ers (19-3) and Philadelphia Eagles (24-14) in such remarkably easy fashion that an NFC West title, seemingly an impossibility less than a month ago, is now within their reach. So, for that matter, is another trip to the Super Bowl if they can sustain their almost surreal level of performance.

In their past three, the Seahawks have allowed 204, 164 and 139 yards, respectively, an average of 6.7 points and 169 yards against three playoff contenders, including two on the road. Those are 1985 Chicago Bears/2000 Baltimore Ravens numbers, and you can look it up.

Even the 2013 Seahawks, now lumped among the great defenses of the Super Bowl era, never had a three-game run like the current one. Consider this number: The Eagles entered as the league’s No. 4 offense and the Seahawks — on the road — held them to a brutal 2-for-11 on third downs. Or this one: 10 Seahawks caught passes and 20 made tackles.

FOX analyst Troy Aikman put the exclamation point on Sunday’s burst of defensive brilliance as the Seahawks neared the end of one of the great efforts in franchise history.

“The Seattle defense, they’re completely overwhelming. They’ve given up one play — that touchdown to (Zach) Ertz,” Aikman said. “In the past three wins over Arizona, San Francisco and Philadelphia — by a combined 62-20 — the Seahawks have allowed 204, 164 and 139 yards. 139 yards against a Chip Kelly offense! In Kelly’s house!”

Not only that, but the Eagles passed for 82 yards, fewest ever under Kelly. They averaged 3.1 yards per play, fewest under Kelly. And they generated nine first downs, also the fewest under Kelly. Only four Eagles plays went for more than 10 yards.

The 139 yards allowed did not establish a franchise record. The Seahawks allowed 118 in a 31-3 win over Indianapolis Sept. 14, 1997; 124 in a 17-0 victory over the New York Jets Nov. 13, 1977, and 138 in a 37-0 rout of Oakland Dec. 8, 1986.

But Seattle has never shut down a division leader – Philadelphia entered 9-3 – in quite the manner that it did Sunday. The Seahawks allowed the Eagles only 45 plays after they entered averaging 73. Last year, the Seahawks limited opponents to 50 plays twice, in the season opener at Carolina and in the season ender vs. St. Louis.

Since Pete Carroll re-entered the NFL in 2010, only one team has allowed an opponent fewer than the 139 Seattle permitted Philadelphia. On Sept. 16, 2012, Houston yielded 117 to Jacksonville, but the Jaguars were en route to a 2-14 season. Even after their blowout – statistically, if not on the scoreboard — loss Sunday, Philadelphia still holds the NFC’s No. 3 seed.

The following are the lowest single-game yardage totals allowed over the past four years. Note that the Seahawks are the only franchise to make the list in back-to-back weeks.

Year Date Team Opp. Yards Skinny
2012 Sept. 16 Hou Jax 117 Jags only 9 first downs in 27-7 loss
2014 Dec. 7 Sea Phil 139 Held Phiily to 57 rush, 82 pass yards
2012 Sept. 30 SF NYJ 145 Held Jets to 45 rush yards in 34-0 win
2010 Oct. 10 Chic Car 147 Carolina 8 first downs in 23-6 loss
2011 Oct. 23 Hou Tenn 148 Matt Hasselbeck QB’d 41-7 loss
2013 Nov. 10 Car SF 151 49ers 10 first downs in 10-9 loss
2014 Nov. 30 Den KC 151 Broncos had 6 sacks in 29-16 win
2010 Nov. 7 NYG Sea 162 Seahawks 8 first downs in 41-7 loss
2010 Dec. 13 NYG Minn 164 Vikings 103 pass yards in 21-3 loss
2012 Dec. 16 Car SD 164 Chargers suffered 6 sacks in 31-7 loss
2014 Nov. 27 Sea SF 164 49ers 64 rush yards in 19-3 loss

The usually pugnacious Philadelphia sports writers didn’t further disfigure the Eagles’ carcass after the game, preferring to acknowledge that the Eagles simply ran into a superior opponent. The one nit the scribes picked was that Kelly, trailing by 10 and facing fourth and 11 from his own 26 with four minutes left, opted to punt even though he had nothing to lose.

“It was a stunning concession,” Mike Sielsky wrote in the Inquirer, “a white flag that ran counter to Kelly’s swashbuckling instincts. But in context — in this game, against this opponent — it was also a recognition of reality.

“The Eagles aren’t at the Seahawks’ level, and none of Kelly’s well-crafted play calls or formations, none of his beliefs about athletes’ pace and conditioning, would change a few simple truths: The Seahawks’ secondary could handle the Eagles’ receivers, and the Eagles’ defense couldn’t handle Russell Wilson. So Kelly punted and moved on to next week.”

Speaking of Wilson . . . 

With the Eagles largely containing Marshawn Lynch, especially in the first half, Wilson contributed another assortment of big plays. He threw a pair of touchdown passes, including a 23-yarder to Doug Baldwin, and ran for 48 yards, including a 26-yard TD.

Wilson has done a lot of crazy statistical stuff this season, including: In Week 5 at Washington, he set the Monday Night Football record for most rushing yards by a quarterback with 122. And in Week 7 at St. Louis, he became the first player in NFL history to post a 300/100 game with 313 passing yards and 106 rushing yards.

Wilson set no records against the Eagles, but only three other quarterbacks in the past decade recorded TD plays of 20 yards or longer via both passing and rushing in the same game:

Year Date Quarterback Team Opponent Rush TD Pass TD
2006 Dec. 24 Vince Young Titans Bills 36 yards 22, 29 yards
2011 Dec. 24 Cam Newton Panthers Buccaneers 91 yards 49 yards
2012 Dec. 9 Cam Newton Panthers Falcons 72 yards 25, 33 yards
2014 Dec. 7 Andy Dalton Bengals Steelers 20 yards 81 yards
2014 Dec. 7 Russell Wilson Seahawks Eagles 26 yards 23 yards

Wilson has won 33 regular-season games, tying him for the most by a quarterback in the first three seasons of a career in the Super Bowl era (since 1966). Dan Marino won 33 for Miami between 1983-85 and Matt Ryan 33 for Atlanta between 2008-10. Wilson had been tied with Baltimore’s Joe Flacco (2008-10) with 32 wins before Sunday’s victory.

With Wilson clicking off 7.2 yards per rush, the Seahawks are averaging 5.2 per rushing attempt. If they keep up that pace, they will become the first team in franchise history to average more than 5.0. The 2012 Seahawks averaged 4.81 and the 2005 Super Bowl runners-up averaged 4.73.


  • jafabian

    Though Aikman’s comment didn’t surprise me I did do a double take when I heard it. The Hawks don’t have the offense to match Denver or Indianapolis but their defense gives them dominance in the time of possession stat as evidenced by their club record 42 minutes on Sunday. You keep the offense on the field, especially one with Lynch and Wilson, and they’ll score. They’re averaging over 24 ppg and giving up only 18 ppg. That’s quite a difference between those numbers.

    A bit concerned at Marshawn’s numbers. I’m wondering if he’s running out of gas at this point. IIRC he slowed down some at the end of last season also. Again I did a double take when I saw Christine Michael wave him off the field when Marshawn was coming back onto the field after a breather. He must have felt he was in the zone and he did have a nice game. But that takes some guts to wave off Beastmode.

  • ll9956

    Great article, Steve. A statistical gold mine.

  • Pixdawg13

    One of the scribes cited in the Hawks blog weekly roundup of power rankings mentioned that Russell has a fair shot at running for 1000 this year. I doubt it’s likely–but it’d be fun were he to do so.

    jafabian–I think Marshawn’s back is bothering him more this year than ever before, and so he’s needing to take more plays off. That man does take (and give!) a pounding.