After allowing 33 points to Tennessee Sunday, the Seahawks rank 30th in the NFL in run defense. Two years ago, with many of the same players, they ranked No. 1.
In one of the most astonishing and least appreciated feats in franchise history, the Seahawks led the National Football League in scoring defense every year from 2012 through 2015, allowing 15.3, 14.4, 15.9 and 17.3 points per game, respectively. Seattle also led the league in total defense and pass defense in two of those seasons (2013, 2014) and in run defense once (2015).
That four-year streak of leading in fewest points allowed is unprecedented in modern (since 1960) NFL history. The quartet of scoring defense titles also nearly matched the all-time record of five by the 1953-57 Cleveland Browns, who accomplished that mark during an era of 12-game seasons.
Seattle’s run of defensive superiority ended last year when the Seahawks finished third in scoring defense (18.3), seventh in run defense (92.9 YPG) and eighth in pass defense (225.8).
The small decline was probably inevitable after All-Pro safety Earl Thomas, whose skillset is irreplaceable, was forced to miss the final five games of the regular season with a broken leg. It also did nothing for the statistical bottom line when All-Pro corner Richard Sherman played half of the year compromised by a leg injury that went undisclosed until Pete Carroll’s season-ending press briefing.
This year is more difficult to explain. After allowing 33 points to Tennessee Sunday, the Seahawks rank eighth in scoring defense at 19.7, tied for eighth in pass defense, allowing an even 200 yards, but are a shocking 30th in run defense, allowing 146 yards.
Last year, Seattle allowed 92.9. The year before, the number was 81.5, and the year before that also 81.5. When the Seahawks led the NFL in run defense in 2015, they featured seven defenders — Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Thomas — who are still starters. All are Pro Bowlers, five of them multiple times.
Thirtieth in run defense?
“I think we played a really good game except for a couple of busted plays,” Bennett said after Sunday’s defeat. “Guys jumped offsides more than we should have, and I think the plays they scored on us were pretty much just miscommunications and being in the wrong position. It wasn’t like we were dominated. It was just miscommunication, a lack of concentrationn. Those are things we can go back and fix.”
Beyond the fact there is no excuse for a lack of concentration three games into a 16-game season is this: Eight days ago, lowly San Francisco (0-3) ran for 159 yards against the Seahawks. Carlos Hyde went for 124, including 61 on one play. Tennessee followed with 195. DeMarco Murray went for 115, including 75 (TD) on one play.
Those are two of the three longest runs from scrimmage against Seattle in the Carroll era (Adrian Peterson had a 74-yard, non-scoring run Nov. 4, 2012 at CenturyLink Field) and they occurred on back-to-back weekends.
Those team rushing totals, are the two highest single-game totals against Seattle in Carroll’s tenure.
|2017||Sept. 24||Titans||35||195||DeMarco Murray 115 yards in 33-27 win|
|2017||Sept. 17||49ers||19||159||Carlos Hyde 124 yards; Sea won 12-9|
|2016||Sept. 25||49ers||31||135||Carlos Hyde 103 yards; Sea won 37-18|
|2013||Sept. 8||Panthers||26||134||Seahawks won 12-7 in Charlotte|
|2015||Sept. 30||Packers||29||127||James Starks 95 yards in 27-17 win|
|2011||Sept. 18||Steelers||35||124||Pitt won 24-0, last time Seattle blanked|
|2014||Sept. 14||Chargers||37||101||Seahawks allowed 377 yards, lost 30-21|
|2013||Sept. 15||49ers||20||100||Colin Kaepernick accounted for 87 yards|
Add in the 84 yards that Green Bay rushed for in the season opener and Seattle has allowed 438 yards. The next-highest total for the first three games in a season since Carroll has been coach: 301 in 2015 (Rams 76, Packers 127, Bears 98).
Even in allowing 195 rushing yards, Seattle might have won Sunday’s game if its offense had been able to do anything with its first six possessions other than punt. That offensive stagnation appeared to place a major strain on the Seahawk defense that manifested itself in the second half when the Titans tallied 21 consecutive points.
Wilson was high and wild with some of his throws during those six futile possessions. He made an astounding recovery, finishing with 373 passing yards, four touchdown throws, no interceptions, and a 110.3 rating that included a stunning fourth-down completion while he was falling down. It’s also remarkable the Seahawks lost with a quarterback putting up those numbers.
The Seahawks have played 647 games (326-320-1) in their four-plus decades. In only 27 of those did the Seattle quarterback throw four or more touchdown passes. In only 12 of the 647 did the Seattle quarterback throw four or more TDs without an interception.
And in only three of the 647 did the Seattle quarterback throw four or more TDs with no picks and ring up more than 300 passing yards, only to lose. Wilson has had that inglorious fate twice.
Single game: 300-plus yards, no picks, four or more TDs (losing games in bold):
|1985||Sept. 15||Dave Krieg||SD||307||0||5||W 31-13|
|2003||Nov. 23||Matt Hasselbeck||Balt||333||0||5||L 44-41|
|2015||Nov. 29||Russell Wilson||Pitt||345||0||5||W 39-30|
|1979||Nov. 18||Jim Zorn||NO||384||0||4||W 38-24|
|1986||Dec. 14||Dave Krieg||SD||305||0||4||W 34-24|
|2016||Dec. 24||Russell Wilson||Ariz||350||0||4||L 34-31|
|2017||Sept. 24||Russell Wilson||Tenn||373||0||4||L 33-27|