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Seahawks’ formidable defense is willing to travel, so say dominating home-road splits

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Seahawks’ D is formidable on the road, even more so than at home

Seattle Seahawks v Arizona Cardinals
if you’re a Bobby Wagner, you keep points off the board, it’s what you do
Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

The thing about the NFL season is the sample size. It’s so small. A 16-game schedule is a brutally long, and unjustly short, season. A couple funky bounces turn a 7-9 team into a 9-7 late playoff entrant who then plows through the field en route to a Lombardi.

So doing home-road splits through six games feels underhanded, even dirty, like you’re trying to weasel a dubious narrative onto the menu, just because you can drench it in a salty statistical sauce.

However, there is something special about this Seattle Seahawks defense when it travels. So far. In the small sample size, which is all we have.

Look at last night’s game. Though the Hawks spent 46 out of 75 minutes on defense, they allowed six total points. No touchdowns. David Johnson, the Arizona Cardinals blockbuster feature back, came into the game averaging 5.0 yards per rush and 13.3 per reception. His average touch had yielded 6.3 yards.

Prior to their meeting with the Seahawks, the Cardinals gained more than six yards, on average, when they put the ball in Johnson’s hands. He led the league with eight rushing touchdowns.

And Seattle held him to 41 touches and 174 yards, with no scores. That’s a 4.2 average. Job: more than done.

So maybe these Seahawks really can take their Greatest Stop On Earth on the road, from city to city? Maybe they don’t need the cacophonous circus that is the CLink?

Even More Disclaimers

The Hawks have played six quarterbacks of varying skill, six offenses of varying potency, six defenses with widely different competencies and incompetencies.

Home:

  • Ryan Tannehill (not always terrible)
  • Blaine Gabbert (ok he’s pretty terrible)
  • Matt Ryan (the opposite of terrible)

Away:

  • Case Keenum (leans toward terrible)
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick (recently acceptable, most recently terrible)
  • Carson Palmer (MVP candidate last year but who the hell knows right now)

Seattle’s faced six run attacks that run the gamut, too. But mostly the gamut on the good side.

Home:

  • Arian Foster (unhurt at the time, made some plays)
  • Carlos Hyde (explosive)
  • Atlanta’s two-headed Freeman/Coleman runmutant (explosive)

Away:

  • Todd Gurley (supposed ROY candidate who’s slowed down)
  • Matt Forte (thankfully not 2013-14 Forte with his 1900ish yards from scrimmage)
  • David Johnson (top five RB)

So how have the Hawks handled these fairly comparable offenses on the road, at and home? Yes we’re finally there.

Points per drive

Home: 1.49 (52 points on 35 drives)

Road: 0.97 (32 points on 33 drives!)

Comments: This is perhaps the category, right off the bat, where the Seattle defense shines most. 1.49 ppd is good defense. On its own, that’d be good for fifth in the league. Zero Point Ninety-Seven is another story altogether. Entering Week 7, before their bad loss to the Eagles, the Vikings led the league at 1.12.

And remember that seven of those points came on “HIS HAND WAS GOING FORWARD!”

Yards per play

Home: 4.83

Road: 4.84

Comments: Equal excellent performance. Comfortably nestled at the top of the league, fifth by either measure.

Yards/attempt allowed

Home: 6.7 (640 yards on 96 attempts)

Road: 7.0 (842 yards on 120 attempts)

Comments: Interesting to see such a wide discrepancy in number of attempts. Chalk it up to Pete Carroll dictating a slower pace at home, and the extra snaps played on the road, right?

Yards/carry allowed

Home: 3.64

Road: 3.08

Comments: The Legion of Boom gets the headlines. The Front Seven of (pick nickname soon please, thanks guys) needs to get the credit for inhibiting any and all runners. Especially on the road. Again, that was Gurley, Forte and Johnson. A young star, an aging star, and a star star.

Touchdowns allowed

Home: 6

Road: 2

Comments: I refer you back to “HIS HAND WAS GOING FORWARD,” but also to this recent loss-preventing magic moment:

game of inches you might say

First downs allowed

Home: 45

Road: 60

Third-down conversions allowed

Home: 10-40 (25 percent)

Road: 20-48 (41.7 percent)

Comments: These last two interrelated categories are where the road defense is less than stellar. But the opposition’s extended drives aren’t resulting in points. Sometimes, the LOB is picking Ryan Fitzpatrick off; sometimes Bobby Wagner is moving kicks with his hand/mind. The Hawks will have to find a more sustainable way of keeping points off the board pretty soon, like cutting down on the third-down conversions.

Passer rating allowed

Home: 81.1

Road: 72.3

Comments: The three bunched-up picks in New Jersey and the three bunched-up Matt Ryan throws combine to help skew the numbers a bit. Must monitor as season progresses.

Conclusion

Verdict is clear. In most categories above, the road Seahawks outdo their home twins.

What’s the larger takeaway — maybe it’s that home-field advantage isn’t as important this year for Seattle. Maybe it’s that the CLink’s deafening noise isn’t that great of a boost. Maybe it’s that the sample is still small.

More data will help confirm or deny the greatness of the 2016 Hawks defense. After all, the next four opponents are the Saints (2nd in points per drive), Bills, (10th), Patriots (9th) and the Eagles (7th). Four strong offenses, all in a row.

Conveniently, half those games are on the road. The game, it is on.