The Seahawks’ performance per drive: by the numbers.
What can advanced stats tell us about the game of football? Well, that’s certainly a loaded question these days. We have, primarily, two camps of thought on the topic.
One believes that most advanced stats aren’t really informative or useful, and the other believes they hold a powerful amount of insight. While I certainly fall into the latter category, I won’t begin to pretend that you can learn or master the game through statistics alone. But what I do believe is that statistics can grant us more context to inform our opinions of how a team is doing.
It certainly isn’t informative if I tell you the Seahawks are struggling offensively. Considering that Blair Walsh has accounted for 15 of 21 (71.4%) points scored by the team, the point is rather self evident. The team’s only touchdown of the season thus far came on a scramble throw to Paul Richardson in the 4th Quarter against the 49ers in Week 2.
Seattle is averaging 26.5 yards per drive (24th in the league) with a starting position of their own 25.7 yard line (21st in the league). On average, the Seahawks are scoring 1.05 points per offensive drive and convert/score on 62.3% of their down sets through Week 2, both good for 27th in the league. This puts them below league average in every single category. Though to be fair, Seattle’s starting position is mostly determined by special teams return play and/or defensive performance. The average NFL team starts on their own 28.17 yard line, moves 29.95 yards, converts/scores 68.3% on any given set of downs, and scores 1.77 points per drive.
If you’re not alarmed yet, maybe you should be. To get the Seahawks close to league average scoring efficiency, you would basically have to combine the offensive point production per drive of both Seattle and the New York Giants (.62 points per drive) or the Houston Texans (.83 points per drive).
The good news is on defense and the defensive part of the Seahawk’s special teams.
Opponent starting field position so far is good for fifth in the league at the 25.1 yard line. Defensive points per drive at 1.24 for seventh place, and average yards gained 12th place at 27.9. The bad part about these numbers? They look nearly identical to Seattle’s offensive production. In essence, what the advanced stats are showing us is that the Seahawks offense performs roughly as well against our average opponent defense as one could expect our average opponent offense to perform against the Legion of Boom.
None of this is written to suggest either trend will continue; I think the Seahawks offense will improve. However the current performance is worrying as it puts the defense at risk of giving up more points. While the overall snap balance for Seattle right now is 63.5 offense versus 61.0 defense, they have a long way to go in both categories if we’re looking to control the pace of the game, a favorite strategy of Pete Carroll.
So, heading into Week 3 what can we say about the Tennessee Titans?
The Titans are third in the league for offensive DVOA. They are certainly stronger so far this season on offense, as they average 2.5 times Seattle’s point production per drive. However, their defense has allowed significantly more points per drive this season. On average, the Tennessee defense gives up 73.4% more points per drive than the Seahawks (2.15 versus 1.24). Given that most of their offensive production came against a weak Jacksonville Jaguars team, I would expect the Titans to perform worse offensively this coming game. The key will be, can Seattle capitalize on their defense, the weakest the Seahawks have faced thus far this year by DVOA?
With Carroll’s relative silence on the state of the offense and the possible changes to the offensive line, these are certainly interesting times. And while the Seahawks defense has looked stout for the most part, to beat playoff caliber teams the team needs to at least pull overall point differential per drive into positive territory.
Whether these are just growing pains or signs of a larger worrying trend on offense will become more clear in the following weeks. Until then, Go Hawks.