Sunday’s 23-20 overtime win at Houston marked the end of the first quarter of the season for the Seahawks. And judging by the most important stat — wins and losses — it was the most successful first quarter of a season in team history. Never, since the team began play in 1976, had the Seahawks started 4-0.
The road to getting to 4-0, though, was hardly a straight line. Seattle needed somewhat unlikely fourth-quarter comebacks to beat both Carolina and Houston on the road, sandwiching easy home wins over the 49ers and Jaguars.
The end of the first four games, though, also marks a good time to hand out a few quarterly grades and awards for the offense, defense and special teams.
OFFENSE: Any assessment of the offense has to take into account the injury issues to the offensive line, which has had three starting groups in four games.
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Last year, the team’s three most important linemen — left tackle Russell Okung, right tackle Breno Giacomini and center Max Unger — combined to start all but one game. This year, they have already missed a combined four starts, with more to come with Okung out at least six more games and Giacomini likely out a few more weeks.
Statistically, Seattle is right on track with where it was a year ago, averaging 352.3 yards — the Seahawks averaged 350.6 last year. Seattle is sixth in the league in points per game at 27.3.
The 45 points and 479 yards against lowly Jacksonville, though, skews things a bit. The Seahawks are averaging 310 yards in the other three games.
Giving statistical proof to what is often evident watching the games, Pro Football Focus detailed this week that Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson has been under pressure more often than all but one other quarterback in the NFL at 44.6 percent (Michael Vick is first).
The constant running for his life has played a role in Wilson having up-and-down passing numbers. Also an issue is that the receivers — without Percy Harvin for at least a few more weeks — haven’t quite hit their stride.
The line inconsistency is also a reason Marshawn Lynch is averaging 3.9 yards per carry, down from 5.0 last season.
But it’s hard to be too critical, considering the overall stats, and that when it has absolutely had to, the offense has moved enough to allow the team to win. And assuming no setbacks, at some point the line will be whole and Harvin will be back.
MVP: Wilson. Despite the seemingly constant pressure, he has a 95.3 passer rating, and he made the key plays down the stretch to pull out the Carolina and Houston wins.
DEFENSE: The defense entered the season being called by many among the best in the NFL, and it has lived up to that. The Seahawks are allowing just 11.8 points per game, second in the NFL behind Kansas City’s 10.3.
Areas of concern heading into the season — run defense and pass rush — have shown improvement. Seattle is on pace for 44 sacks (compared to 36 last year) and is allowing 4.1 yards per carry compared to 4.5 last season.
Keying that improvement are free agents Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. Bennett has been a particular standout, tied for the team lead in sacks with 2.5. Red Bryant, healthy again, and Brandon Mebane have been stellar against the run.
The play of the front has combined with the vaunted secondary to make Seattle the best pass defense in the league — opposing quarterbacks have a combined passer rating of 60.7, lowest in the NFL.
Seattle has forced 13 turnovers and has a plus-seven turnover margin that is third in the NFL.
MVP: Richard Sherman. He shut down Anquan Boldin to spark Seattle’s surprisingly easy win over the 49ers, and made the play of the year with his 58-yard interception return for a touchdown to force overtime in Houston.
SPECIAL TEAMS: This area has been an underrated reason for the team’s success.
To list a few highlights:
• Kicker Steven Hauschka is 8 of 8, including the 45-yard game-winner last week at Houston.
• The coverage has been solid as Seattle has allowed just 8 punt-return yards — least in the NFL — and hasn’t been hurt in the kickoff game (Jeremy Lane has been a quiet standout on those units, leading the team with four special-teams tackles).
• And Golden Tate, while sometimes taking angst-inducing risks on punt returns, has statistically been just fine — he ranks fifth in the NFL with an average of 12.3, including his 32-yard return in overtime against Houston that helped set up Seattle’s winning field goal.
MVP: Hauschka. He has been perfect and only one kicker has also made eight or more without missing (the Jets’ Nick Folk, also 8 of 8). Hauschka has 18 touchbacks on 24 kickoffs (Seattle’s opponents have had eight touchbacks on 14 kickoffs), a key reason Seattle’s drive start following kickoffs has been 3 yards better than its opponents.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com