Each stat, though gaudy when considered individually, is just a little bit off the numbers of the previous two seasons, when the Seahawks reached the Super Bowl featuring a defense many considered among the best in NFL history.
RENTON — Somewhere along the way, the Seahawks’ defense reached a point where it essentially faces two opponents each week.
There’s the opponent it is trying to stop on the field, and there’s the previous years’ accomplishments it is trying to match or top.
But by just about any measure, the Seahawks’ defense has been one of the NFL’s best this season.
With one game left in the regular season (albeit against Arizona, which has the NFL’s top-ranked offense) the Seahawks rank among the league leaders in every significant category.
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Notably, the Seahawks are second in total defense at 295.9 yards a game, third in points allowed (18.1 per game), third in rushing defense (85.3 yards a game) and second in pass defense (210.6 yards per game).
As Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said this week, “There’s a lot of teams that would love to have those kinds of numbers.’’
But each stat, though gaudy when considered individually, is just a little bit off the numbers of the previous two seasons when the Seahawks reached the Super Bowl featuring a defense many considered among the best in NFL history.
The Seahawks, for instance, led the league in fewest points allowed each of the past three seasons, becoming just the third team in NFL history to pull that off, never allowing more than the 15.9 of 2014. Seattle still could become the first team to allow the fewest points four years running, having allowed eight more points than the Bengals and one more than the Chiefs, and five fewer than Denver and six fewer than Arizona.
And each of the previous two years the Seahawks led in the NFL in fewest yards allowed — an average of 273.6 in 2013 and 267.1 in 2014.
As Carroll also said this week, though, “Our expectations have been higher, and we’re going to continue to try to push those things back out there.’’
The number that most bothers Carroll is the relative lack of turnovers.
The Seahawks have forced 19 this season — 11 interceptions and eight forced fumbles — which ranks 22nd in the NFL. The Seahawks forced 24 in 2014, 39 in 2013 and 31 in each of 2011 and 2012.
“I think the turnover thing has been really the big thing that isn’t as good as we’d like,’’ Carroll said.
Seattle actually has forced 18 fumbles, tied for seventh in the NFL, but has recovered just eight, tied for 19th. Only New England has a lower ratio of recovering the fumbles it has forced (9 of 22).
Seattle twice forced fumbles in the fourth quarter Sunday against the Rams but didn’t recover (even though the officials did at one point announce that Earl Thomas had recovered one).
Teams that pressure more sometimes force more turnovers. The Seahawks, though, have had success in the past getting a lot of turnovers without blitzing much (just 21.4 percent in 2013). Despite some early rumblings that new defensive coordinator Kris Richard might call a more aggressive game, Seattle’s blitz numbers are pretty much in line with what they were the previous two years under Dan Quinn at 21.8 percent, 26th in the NFL.
What’s been most noticeably different this year has been uncharacteristic breakdowns at key times. The Seahawks allowed 17 points to the Bengals in the final 12:18, and two 80-yard drives in the final 8:08 against Carolina. That was the most vexing of five fourth-quarter leads Seattle has blown this season.
They also allowed 480 passing yards to the Steelers, a day the Seahawks were bailed out by their offense.
Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner notes that the Seahawks had to deal with some change in personnel the past two seasons. Kam Chancellor held out the first two games and has missed four overall, and cornerback Byron Maxwell departed in free agency, replaced initially by Cary Williams.
Williams struggled to adapt to Seattle’s system, though, and was benched and released.
“I feel like we are going good,’’ Wagner said. “For us to be in the same range after losing people every year I feel like it’s a testament to the type of players we have.’’
Though the Seahawks’ offensive revival helped lead to a five-game winning streak that got them back in the playoffs, the uncertain running game raises questions whether the offense can continue that surge in the postseason.
And that means if the Seahawks are to go far in the playoffs, they might again have to be led by their defense.
Cornerback Richard Sherman said when called upon, the defense will respond as it has in previous seasons.
“It’s always the same,’’ Sherman said. “We limit people, we don’t give up a lot of yards. Whether the outside world realizes it or not is indifferent to us. Obviously, we’re always going to be in (the) top two, top three, number one most of the time in yards, scoring. I’m sure we’re top three in all of those, passing yards, rushing yards. People just lose that sometimes in a season. We just stay the course and continue to do what we’ve always done.”
|Seahawks’ defense the past three years|
|How the Seahawks defense ranks:|
|Total defense||273.6 (1)||267.1 (1)||295.9 (2)|
|Rush defense||101.6 (T7)||81.5 (3)||85.3 (3)|
|Pass defense||172.0 (1)||185.6 (1)||210.6 (2)|
|Points allowed per game||14.4 (1)||15.9 (1)||18.1 (3)|