A closer look at the numbers from Sunday shows that it was probably circumstance, more than gameplan, that led to Russell Wilson attempting a career-high 41 passes against the Rams.
When a team loses, anything and everything it does inevitably gets picked apart.
And one thing that some national observers (and certainly others, as well) have wondered about in the past few days is whether the Seahawks threw the ball too much on Sunday (one person stating that opinion is former Seahawk Nate Burleson, now with the NFL Network. Mike Florio also mentioned this in a segment on Pro Football Talk Tuesday).
Indeed, some of the stats from Sunday’s 34-31 loss to the Rams ended up being a little un-Seahawkish.
Seattle attempted 41 passes, which was actually a career-high for Russell Wilson (though with an asterisk, as we will explain in a minute) and which also means it was the most for the Seahawks since 2011. Seattle ran it 32 times. That’s a pass-to-run percentage of 56.16 and a little counter to Seattle’s run-pass ratio last year. The Seahawks, recall, threw it just 48.41 percent of the time in 2014, a lower percentage than any team except Houston.
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In fact, Seattle threw more passes than than they ran it last year in just four games.
Seattle lost three of those — San Diego, Dallas and St. Louis — with the other being the close win at Carolina.
So the easy assumption might be that throwing it too much leads to losses.
But a closer examination, especially of Sunday’s game, shows that more than anything, it’s the circumstance of the game itself that leads to passing it more.
The game began with the Seahawks featuring a fairly balanced offense.
On their first drive, when they held it for 12 plays and moved 40 yards, they ran it six times and threw it six times. Seattle finished the first half with 15 rushes for 46 yards and 16 passes (with Wilson competing 13) for 103 yards. Given the small numbers, that’s basically on par with last year’s percentages (in fact, six of the passes came during a 10-play drive in the final two minutes when the Seahawks drove for a field goal as the first half expired).
The Seahawks continued on a similar run-pass ratio through the third quarter. The six-play drive for a field goal and a 13-10 following a Nick Foles fumble featured four runs runs, one of the passes being the third-and-two throw to Jimmy Graham that gained just one yard.
To that point of the game, then, Seattle had a 19-18 run-to pass ratio.
The Rams then drove for a go-ahead touchdown, Seattle countered with a three-and-out that featured one run and two passes, and the Rams then returned the ensuing punt for a touchdown to take a 24-13 lead with 4:30 remaining in the third quarter.
At that point, Seattle had 20 runs and 20 passes.
But facing an 11-point deficit, the Seahawks did what almost any team would do — they began throwing the ball.
That’s also when the no-huddle really began to kick in. Through 12 plays of the second half, Seattle had a 22-21 pass-to-run ratio overall and 6-to-6 for the half — and also had run just two plays out of no-huddle.
But trailing by 11, the Seahawks speeded things up, largely using three-receiver sets and largely throwing. On the 12-play, 63-yard drive that culminated in the seven-yard touchdown pass to Graham that got the Seahawks back in the game,the Seahawks threw eight times, with Wilson completing five for 39 yards. Four of the plays were no-huddle, and three of those were passes, with Wilson completing two for 22 yards (and maybe foreshadowing a decision to come later, the big play of that drive was a 24-yard run by Lynch out of the gun on third-and-one from the Seattle 46).
After a St. Louis fumble, Seattle moved 58 yards in 10 plays for a tying field goal, calling seven passes and three runs, though two of the passes turned into Wilson scrambles in which he picked up 11 yards. Wilson was 4-5 passing on the drive for 44 yards. The incompletion was the third-down pass to Jermaine Kearse in the end zone in which Doug Baldwin appeared wide open down the middle of the field. So, passing seemed to be working with Wilson to that point 9-13 for 83 yards in the previous two drives.
Then came the Cary Williams fumble return which put Seattle up 31-24, and then the St.Louis TD that tied the game again at 31 with 53 seconds left. The Seahawks got the ball back at their own 20 and somewhat logically called four straight passes, completing three, before Wilson was sacked and the Seahawks decided to take a knee from their own 30 with one second left.
After the flubbed kickoff and the St. Louis field goal to start overtime, the Seahawks stayed largely in the no-huddle and shotgun and Wilson completed four straight passes in the first five plays to move Seattle from its own 20 to the St. Louis 42 before the ill-fated fourth-and-one that ended the game. It’s those four passes that gave Wilson his career high for attempts, which had been 37 in a win at Chicago in 2012 (which was also an overtime game).
From the 1:12 mark of the third quarter through the end of the game (which was 9:11 of overtime, so span of about 22 minutes of playing time) Wilson was 16-20 passing for 133 yards, more than half of his 251 yard total for the game, while Seattle ran it nine times. After charting a passer rating of 67.4 for the first half, Wilson finished at 90.1 for the game thanks to a rating of 111.04 during those final 22 minutes. The overtime and the hurry-up also helped lead to Seattle running 79 plays, more than in any game last season other than the 83 against a Philadelphia team known for its quick-pace offense. And more plays inevitably leads to more of both running and passing. Seattle also went into the game with a plan of using short passes to mitigate St. Louis’ pass rush, which made even more sense as the game unfolded.
Ultimately, given the circumstances of the game and the success the Seahawks were having through the air, it’s hard to argue they threw it too much. If anything, it may just give more ammo to those who think they should have thrown it one more time.