Following up to my Fixing the Pass Rush series, I calculated Seattle's drive stats for just the first quarter. Even in an epic blowout, NFL coaches do not let up in the first quarter. That means its "true" in the sense that both teams are playing their hardest to win, starters are in, and drives are designed to score points instead of kill clock. That also means first quarter-only drive stats are likely inflated in favor of the offense. Of course, I would have to calculate the entire NFL to be sure of that, but that's a task for tomorrow.
For tonight, something to chew on. Seattle's offense was pitiful in the first quarter, averaging only 19.2 yards a drive. That's off the charts bad. The Oakland Raiders, in all drives, ones to end the half, but not kneel downs; ones to kill the clock in the fourth quarter, averaged over two more yards per drive: 21.35. The next worse, the Cleveland Browns, averaged over a yard more per drive than the Raiders: 22.67.
If Seattle averaged that kind of drive throughout the game, it would amass 3,667 yards of total offense for the entire season or about 800 fewer yards than the St. Louis Rams. That's worse than 12 quarterbacks, and a yard more than Jay Cutler. Unlike Cutler, Seattle gets credit for penalties.
Further putting pressure on the defense, the Seahawks scored only seven times to end a drive: four touchdowns and three field goals. It fumbled seven times, threw an interception four times, twice turned the ball over on downs and punted 26 times. That was one shit-tay offense.
The defense wasn't any great shakes either, illuminating just how bad this entire team was. Of course, how we perceive the defense (and the offense) might change after compiling the numbers for all teams, but again it seems likely that offense would be boosted and therefore Seattle's defense would fall closer to middle of the pack.
The Seahawks defense allowed 33.7 yards per drive in the first quarter. That's not off the charts, but it's bad. Seattle would rank 30th after Cleveland, who allowed 33.43 yards per drive. It allowed 15 touch downs, six field goal attempts, forced 18 punts, three interceptions, two turnovers on downs and zero fumbles.
This is incomplete until I chart the entire league. Despite logical reasons why teams would have longer drives in the first quarter than the entire game, I'm not certain that's true, and that information could end up making either offense or defense better or worse.
There are numerous reasons why Seattle was terrible in the first quarter, most frustratingly because it often seemed unprepared. One must only consider the Texans 64 yard opening "drive", Matt Schaub to Andre Johnson for 64 and the score, to recognize how flatfooted Seattle started games. Houston quick-snapped Seattle and caught the Seahawks secondary looking. The other major reason, the more important reason going forward, is that Seattle's offense fattened its stats late in games after any semblance of competition was over. However bad this offense looks on paper, and DVOA ranks them 29th, they were worse than even that.
Seattle performed worse on both sides of the ball in the first quarter than it did for the entirety of the game. That's an apples and oranges comparison for now, but one I hope to rectify tomorrow. For tonight, your memory doesn't deceive you. The 2009 Seahawks were indeed staggeringly awful in the first quarter. A little better luck, or a lot better preparation, and Seattle could perform better without being better.