RENTON — There’s no real way to spin it — through two games, Seattle’s defensive numbers are downright ugly.
Consider that no team in the NFL has allowed more yards than the Seahawks — 485 per game, almost more than twice than the 2013 Super Bowl winners, who gave up 273 per game.
Or that no team has allowed more passing yards than Seattle — 415.5 per game — or first downs (57).
In fact, Seattle’s 847 passing yards allowed is second most in NFL history through the first two games of a season.
Seattle’s 6.6 average-yards-per-play allowed is fourth worst in the NFL (the 2013 Seahawks gave up just 4.4).
But uncomfortable as some of the numbers might be, are they concerning?
Middle linebacker and defensive captain Bobby Wagner said no Wednesday when he talked to media members via Zoom.
“I don’t think it’s a concern,’’ said Wagner. “I think it is definitely an area that we can improve on.’’
Then Wagner explained why he’s not yet worried, noting it’s just two games and that Seattle has been much better against the run this year than last season.
“We’ve been very stout on the run, kind of forcing teams to pass the ball,’’ Wagner said.
Indeed, Seattle is third best in the NFL in allowing just 3.0 yards per carry, a vast improvement from the 4.9 of last year (and they allowed minus-1 yard rushing on the key play to date of the season on the final snap Sunday against the Patriots.)
That, at least, gets the Seahawks back on track in coach Pete Carroll’s No. 1 defensive objective: stopping the run.
Seattle figured that might be all it would have to do Sunday against a New England team that had rushed for 217 yards against Miami in its opener. Seattle players openly said beforehand the goal was to stop the run and force Cam Newton — in just his second game with New England — out of his comfort zone by having to throw more.
Seattle did indeed stop the run as the Patriots had just 67 yards on 25 carries.
But Newton was far too comfortable throwing, completing 30 of 44 passes for 397 yards.
“There are so many things we need to improve on,’’ defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., said Wednesday via Zoom. “No one is happy with the scoring number. No one is happy with the amount of yards.’’
But maybe in part because Seattle is 2-0 despite all those yards allowed, and that it’s sort of the Seahawks’ way, Seattle coaches this week have preferred to emphasize some of the mitigating factors that have led to some of the numbers so far.
Here are three reasons why the Seahawks think things aren’t as dire as the numbers might make them appear:
Teams have gotten a lot of yards when behind
Seattle had double-digit leads in the fourth quarter against both Atlanta and New England and tried to “bleed’’ the clock, according to defensive passing game coordinator Andre Curtis on Wednesday.
That meant being content with giving up some yards with the hope of not giving up any big plays and assuming neither team would have time to come all the way back.
Of the 847 passing yards Seattle has allowed, 580 have come in the second half. Atlanta got 268, which Curtis specifically referred to as “trash yards.”
Still, the overall second-half total Seattle has allowed by itself would rank fourth in the NFL in passing yards allowed.
As Curtis said, “Our guys didn’t quite handle it the way you would want to handle it.’’
No question there. But the Seahawks view it as not playing the situation properly and not necessarily a sign of a huge concern just yet.
Curtis also mentioned New England getting a lot of yards out of its play-action passes in a game when the Seahawks were so focused on Newton and the run.
“New England represents a different type of challenge with the option game,’’ Curtis said. “And the play-action pass is always a little harder to defend.’’
Seattle dearly missed Diggs; Dunbar rounding into form
Many NFL pundits claimed Seattle had put together one of the best secondaries in the NFL when it traded for Quinton Dunbar and Jamal Adams in the offseason to team with Quandre Diggs, acquired last fall.
But Diggs was ejected on the ninth play against the Patriots, and coaches think that took a huge toll, noting his importance in calling out assignments and motions by the offense.
“We weren’t as sharp as we needed to be when Quandre went out,” Carroll said. “It emphasized how much we’ve been leaning on him.”
Indeed, all 11 of the explosive pass plays allowed by Seattle against New England — which the team defines as 16 yards or longer — came after Diggs left the game.
Dunbar, meanwhile, has given up the most passing yards in the NFL so far, according to Pro Football Reference — 212 on 13 completions in 21 attempts, though he also has one interception and Carroll noted he could have had two others.
“He’s been in position,’’ Carroll said.
The Seahawks expect him to finish more of those plays the more he plays — he played just 11 games last year due to a hamstring injury and then had a shortened training camp due to legal issues, and then two absences for personal reasons.
“He had kind of a topsy-turvy offseason with the circumstances,’’ Curtis said, adding he thinks Dunbar is “still getting acclimated. … I think that is an ongoing process. But the more comfortable he gets the better he will be.’’
Carroll says pass rush better than it looked
The other big issue for Seattle remains its pass rush. Seattle has just three sacks despite blitzing almost 36% of the time, the seventh-highest rate in the NFL and roughly double how much the Seahawks blitzed in 2018, when Seattle had 43 sacks. The blitzing indicates Seattle’s desire to get Adams involved, but also some inability so far to get the kind of rush it wants with just four linemen.
Indeed, two of the sacks are by Adams, the other by end Benson Mayowa.
Seattle relying on Adams for two-thirds of the sacks so far seems a little concerning — and obviously not sustainable — especially now that Bruce Irvin is out.
“We struggled,’’ Carroll said immediately after the game Sunday.
But Carroll put a somewhat more hopeful spin on it Wednesday, saying Seattle could have had four other sacks against the Patriots, noting Adams missed two and Mayowa and L.J. Collier one each.
“Had we just converted the sacks we had available, that we had our hands on the quarterback last week, we would have had five sacks,’’ Carroll said. “Nice pass-rush day.’’
Dallas’ highflying offense Sunday will show that much more whether the numbers so far are a fluke or a sign of things to come.