The Seahawks care deeply about leading the NFL in fewest points allowed, something they’ve done each of the last four seasons. But are they performing better than they did in the 2013 season, when they won the Super Bowl?
RENTON — Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman was upset after last Sunday’s game, so much so that he declined to speak with reporters.
The Seahawks had limited 49ers quarterback Blaine Gabbert to 119 yards passing — for the entire game — and almost completely neutered San Francisco’s offense in a blowout. Almost completely.
The Seahawks allowed two late touchdowns, 15 points in all, and after the game that’s pretty much all anyone on the defense wanted to talk about, including Sherman by way of declining to talk at all.
“We have a high standard and we didn’t live up to it,” Sherman said Thursday.
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The Seahawks care deeply about leading the NFL in fewest points allowed, something they’ve done each of the last four seasons, and by allowing those two late touchdowns, however meaningless to the outcome, the Seahawks dropped from first in the league in points allowed to second, behind Philadelphia.
But the Seahawks’ anger over a couple of late touchdowns in a blowout is football’s equivalent of a first-world problem. It’s a luxury, and the Seahawks’ defense has played so well, they are in a position to nitpick.
They’ve played so well that their numbers in most categories are better than the famed 2013 defense, the standard of excellence under coach Pete Carroll.
So how does the 2016 defense compare to the 2013 group?
Let’s take a quick look at some key stats:
Yards per game:
Third-down conversion rate:
Sacks per game:
Turnovers per game:
OK, so a couple of obvious caveats. First, we’re comparing three games in 2016 to a whole season in 2013; a lot can change. Second, the Seahawks have faced some of the league’s worst quarterbacks in 2016: Gabbert, Case Keenum and Ryan Tannehill. They still have to play Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Cam Newton. More punishing tests are still to come, and the 2013 defense was at its best against Drew Brees and Peyton Manning that year.
What’s clear about this season compared to 2013: Offenses are taking fewer chances against the Seahawks. Sherman has been targeted eight times, and few teams bother to test him deep anymore, where so many of his interceptions have come over the years.
Carroll has said that the Seahawks need to get early leads. When they do that, they force offenses to play into their hand, and the Seahawks are great at setting traps when they can assume an offense’s intentions.
The 2013 defense devastated teams with turnovers. The 2016 defense has done just about everything the same but that. If they want to be as good as the 2013 group, that gap in takeaways has to close.
The defensive line might not be as deep this season as in 2013, but it’s close, especially if Frank Clark and Jarran Reed continue on their trajectories. The secondary is just as good. DeShawn Shead has the potential to be the next Byron Maxwell, and Jeremy Lane is basically a starter at nickel corner.
The biggest advantage this group has: consistency and experience. Most of the starters on this group have played together for at least four years: Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Sherman, Shead, Lane, Earl Thomas, Mike Morgan and Kam Chancellor have all played together since at least 2013.
They know their weaknesses. They know their strengths. They’ve seen it all. They know how to diagnose and fix their problems. It’s one reason they don’t allow teams to convert on third down: They know how to funnel offenses just short of the first-down marker. They’ve done it so many times before.
Carroll has always banked on that experience, and because of that, this group has a chance to be as good as the 2013 defense in their own way.
|It’s still early, but the numbers say …|
|Comparing the 2013 Seahawks defense with the 2016 version:|
|Yards per game||274||250|
|Third-down conversion rate||35%||24%|
|Sack per game||2.75||2.7|
|Turnovers per game||2.4||0.3|