The fourth quarter. It's when the 2012-2014 Seahawks are at their best. Dominating opponents, tipping things, chopping things, pick-sixing things, and ultimately winning many things: six playoff victories and a title.
Ah but along comes February 2015. This is when the once-extraordinary Hawks shift gears, to "Inappropriate Compassion Mode", and blow a 10-point lead in the Super Bowl to Tom Brady. With literally half the starting defense injured or out, the experience was painful. But explainable.
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Since then, the deluge of late meltdowns has flooded our senses, dampened our expectations, sunk our spirits, and maybe even warped our vision of who these Seattle Seahawks are. It's still painful to watch. Only now, on a team loaded with talent, it's also much less explainable.
If you're looking for a reason things are breaking down after three quarters, I got nothing. Except to say that it's everything. It's the defense, the offense, the special teams, the coaches, the players, the circumstances, the schedule, the luck, the regression, the bounces of the ball, the parity built into the system. By way of illustration then, instead of explanation, please "enjoy" a breakdown focusing on performance in the regular periods of the game (quarters 1-3) and the participation-optional periods (quarter four and overtime).
Which are important.
|Points||Season||Quarters 1-3||Quarter 4 / Overtime|
A theme will begin to emerge. Small positive point differential overall, for the season: nothing to write home about, nothing to necessarily be too alarmed about. Things are looking up in the next column, though. In quarters 1-3, the Hawks score 50 percent more than their opponents. Hello, two-time defending conference champions. There you are.
But the final quarter gets underway, and for every touchdown drive by an opponent, Seattle answers with the equivalent of a field goal.
Remove the Rams game from the final column -- which isn't fair, I know -- and you get: Opponents 51, Hawks 9. That's right, no misprint or typo. 51-9. Let's keep digging, to see how these unhappy endings unfold.
Points Per Drive
|PPD||Season||Quarter 4 / OT|
Yowza. That still includes the not-terrible Rams game, in which the Hawks outscored the Rams 18-10 at the end. It's disconcerting to see foes getting more points per drive overall, in the first place. That's the mark of a middling team. Or one that gets dominated at the end. But how to even process a 3-1 advantage during the endgame? Does. Not. Compute.
Not-so-fun fact: The Hawks have scored three offensive points, total, on their last 12 late-game drives.
Yards Per Play
This simple one's a surprise. Seattle has 5.6 points per play overall, and allows 5.2 only. Wait holdonholdonholdonholdon. How can foes be out-scoring the Hawks without out-yarding them? What gives?
Red Zone touchdown percentage is what gives.
Red Zone Touchdown Percentage
|Red Zone TD%||Season||Quarter 4 / OT|
A lot to parse here. First, Seattle's 28.6 percent overall is last in the league, 8.2 percentage points behind the 31st-ranked team. The Seahawks are the outliest outlier in the league. And then, they proceed to get even worse than that in crunch time. Which shouldn't be possible. Lots of things shouldn't be possible.
Not-so-fun fact: 23 NFL teams are above 50 percent in red zone percentage, including such offensive powerhouses as Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Washington, Oakland, Tennessee and the Jets. Seattle can't come close to sniffing 50 percent, not even with a selfie stick.
Not-so-fun-bonus-fact: The Seahawks have reached the opposing red zone only once in the last four endgames. It was against the Bengals. Russell Wilson got sacked on the next play, moving them back to the 25.
Let's change it up.
|Explosive Plays (10+ run, 20+ pass)||Season||Quarters 1-3||Quarter 4 / OT|
I expected the bad guys to rack up a bigger margin, honestly, in the fourth quarter and beyond. But in reading through the box scores this week, I was struck by one thing: the abundance of near-explosive plays made against Seattle. Call them firecracker plays, sparkler plays, whatever -- just call them abundant.
"Regular explosive" plays vs. Hawks in Q4/OT: 12
"Nearly explosive" runs of 7-9 yards vs. Hawks in that same time: 7
"Somewhat explosive" passes of 12-19 yards vs. Hawks: 12
So that's 19 more medium plays that helped opponents move the ball regularly as time wound down. The dinking and the dunking -- still happening. Probably leads to a wide disparity in...
|1st Downs||Season||Quarters 1-3||Quarter 4 / OT|
Maybe not as wide as you'd think. Maybe all the news isn't terrible. Problem is, in the last three games it's Opponents 23, Hawks 9 in this category. Which is terrible.
Text-only version again. In the first 75 percent of the game, Seattle runs +6 in takeaways. After that, -4. They've taken the ball away exactly once in the last four 4th quarters -- Kam's Mike Tyson Punchout. And they very nearly screwed that one up too. (no citation needed) When one extra late pick or forced fumble would've meant one extra victory, they couldn't make the necessary play.
|Offensive TD||Season||Quarters 1-3||Quarter 4 / Overtime|
The total season numbers here for a purported SB contender are bad. In the long term, you probably can't let your foes score more touchdowns than you, and also win multiple playoff games.
But yet again, hope is in the table too. Our Hawks are better at manufacturing TD's in the first three quarters. Until they inexplicably allow as much production in the last quarter as all the others combined.
Alas. If Pete Carroll, master motivator and innovator, had ever taken the time to design a slogan illustrating the importance of the fourth quarter, it would have already died a painful death, or two, or three, this season. Reviving the spirit behind such a theoretical slogan would take the 2015 season off of life support. Maybe do that, starting tomorrow.