The Seattle Seahawks try and win football games by steadily breaking you down and then ramping things up in the fourth quarter. Think of them like a boxer who’s willing to concede early rounds, not throw too many punches, attack the body more than the head, and then when the opponent tires in the later rounds, the Seahawks turn up the heat and go for the knockout, with all of that early cardio-sapping body work paying its dividends late. Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas Hearns is exactly what the Seahawks actively look to avoid.
I’m here to tell you that this team, as it is currently constructed, cannot win against elite teams implementing this strategy.
Seattle leads the league in fourth quarter scoring, but they rank just 23rd in first-half points per game (9.3). The Philadelphia Eagles rank 3rd in first-half scoring but are fortunately a middling 16th on the road. Rather alarmingly, Seattle has conceded a first-half average of 14.6 points playing at home, which is worse than every team in the NFL except the San Francisco 49ers, and they’ve yet to hold a halftime lead in any of the home games they’ve played this season.
Once upon a time, the Seahawks were absurdly good at turning halftime deficits into wins. From 2012-2014, Russell Wilson and company were an astonishing 13-8 (.619, playoffs included) when down at intermission. Only the New England Patriots had a record above .500 under identical circumstances, and they were 8-6, with one of those losses coming to Seattle in 2012. From 2015-2017, I guess you could say there’s been a little bit of a regression, as they’re just 4-12-1 (.265) over that period of time. Amazingly, this is still good for 11th-best win percentage, and two of those four wins came this season, over the 2-9 New York Giants and 3-8 Indianapolis Colts.
Philadelphia may not have many actual high-quality wins on their schedule, but unlike the Seahawks, they’ve been eviscerating teams right out of the gate and not really easing off the gas pedal in the 2nd half. Four of their ten wins have seen them up by double digits at the half, and each time they finished the game by widening the gap in the second-half. Why? Because not only do they top the NFL in terms of second-half scoring, and even better for them, they’re also #1 for second-half scoring on the road.
If the Seahawks are going to pull off the upset, they’ll need to look towards what the Kansas City Chiefs accomplished. The Chiefs held the Eagles to a season-low 3 points at the break, led 6-3 at halftime, and after a brief lead for Philadelphia in the third quarter, Kansas City rattled off 21 unanswered on their way towards handing the Eagles their only L of the year.
Long story short, the Seahawks are probably screwed if they come out flat for the umpteenth time this year. This is not 2012-2014, so the best you can hope for is that the magic returns if it comes to that. I am mostly directing my attention towards the offense, as it’s going to be a tough ask for this banged up defense to keep the Eagles to a low point total.
Russell Wilson’s first-half and second-half stats splits are so vastly different it’s not even funny, that needs to change. Seattle hasn’t scored a regular season touchdown on an opening drive since week 3 of 2016, which I vaguely remember hearing as being the longest active streak in the NFL, but I could be wrong. Also of importance, Seattle better not waste drives by trying to “establish the run,” at least not with two running backs who have been objectively awful.
Seahawks rushing on 1st & 2nd down, yards/carry & (success rate)— Ben Baldwin (@guga31bb) November 29, 2017
Chris Carson, 4.0 (40%)
Eddie Lacy, 2.4 (26%)
Thomas Rawls, 2.1 (23%)
Seattle's 2.8 yards/carry for RBs on 1st&2nd down worst in NFL, no other team is below 3.2. (source: @SharpFootball stats)
On RB carries on 1st & 2nd down, Seattle gains a 1st down on 10% of carries (worst in NFL). Only 1 other team is below 14% (ARI).— Ben Baldwin (@guga31bb) November 29, 2017
10 teams gain a 1st down on at least 20% of such carries.
It's not just that passing is more efficient than running, it's that Seattle is probably the very worst team in the league at running with RBs.— Ben Baldwin (@guga31bb) November 29, 2017
And yet the Seahawks rush 45% of the time on 1st & 2nd down in neutral game script (score within 8 points).
Put this all together and the Seahawks have faced 3rd & 8+ 52 different times, 4th most in the league. They have converted only 19% of these.— Ben Baldwin (@guga31bb) November 29, 2017
The Seahawks are killing their own drives by forcing themselves to do something they are very bad at, and it's hurting the offense.
Sunday night is the perfect time for the Seahawks to deviate from their usual approach. They don’t have the talent to win in the style that Pete Carroll prefers. It’s time to come out aggressively (but smartly!) on offense and put points on the board early, not defer to the second-half. If Seattle can execute properly in the first thirty minutes, there’s every reason to believe they can win this damn game and set themselves up nicely for a playoff run.