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Seahawks Drive Recap, Week 3: Offensive explosion overshadowed by defensive implosion

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Seattle Seahawks v Tennessee Titans
A clean pocket!
Photo by Shaban Athuman/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks lost to the Tennessee Titans 33-27 last Sunday. This is the Week 3 Drive Recap. For more on the background of it, read Week 1 and Week 2.

Proof of Concept

As promised, here is the proof for my designations of Failed, Successful, and Money Drives. I looked at the sample from 2012-2016 and out of 28,857 drives, 17,289 of them either did not gain 40 yards or ended in a turnover, or due to the end of half or the game. That is almost exactly 60% (58.44% for the fellow pedants), which feels about right. A ‘successful’ drive should better than the 50th percentile outcome of a drive and 5826 drives were Successful Drives. They either gained 40 yards, or ended in a FG attempt (a blocked or missed FG is rarely the ‘fault’ of the offense). Interestingly, there were more Money Drives (6048) than Successful Drives (5826). I don’t think this is a flaw in my methodology, rather it is due to the fact that FGs are almost always a sub-optimal choice. Touchdowns are almost always preferable to field goals. Here is a table summarizing the results and, as a bonus, the Seahawks’ offensive values from 2012-2016 and their percentage rank to avoid issues with different teams facing different numbers of drives. The defensive numbers will be coming during the bye week.

Drive Stats, 2012-2016

Type of Drive Total Total Percentage Seahawks' Offense Percentage Rank
Type of Drive Total Total Percentage Seahawks' Offense Percentage Rank
Failed 16863 58.44% 53.07% 5th
Successful 5826 20.19% 22.10% 5th
Money 6048 20.96% 22.06% 13th

Now, to Week 3.

The Seattle Offense

Offense Failed Drives

Stat Result
Stat Result
Number 8
Drives 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10
Yards/drive 6.5
First downs/drive 0.38
Conversions 0/8
T.o.P/drive 1:37

The offense had a bimodal performance this week: 8 Failed Drives and 4 Money Drives, with only one Successful Drive. When the offense was bad, it was bad. The offense gained only one first down on its eight failed drives and did not convert a single third down opportunity. It was an ugly performance. Fortunately, it seems like it was execution errors, whether Russell Wilson was sailing some throws or receivers dropping passes. I have faith that those can be significantly reduced. The offensive line was far from dominant, but I would not put them near the top of reasons the Seahawks lost this game.

Offense Successful Drives

Stat Result
Stat Result
Number 1
Drives 12
Yards/Drive 47
First downs/drive 4.00
Conversions 0/2
T.o.P 2:49

One successful drive is worse than each of the previous two games. Also, I doubt fans watching at home considered this a successful drive, as it was the one where Wilson’s intentional grounding penalty turned a 2nd and 10 from the Tennessee 16 into a 3rd and 27 from Tennessee 33. (Watch Coleman’s video on that play here.) However, the offense was humming along right until that play and, if the game situation was a bit different, a long field goal may have been a perfectly fine result. I’m not going to punish Seattle offense for the game situation.

Offense Money Drives

Stat Result
Stat Result
Number 4
Drives 7, 8, 11, 13
Yards/Drive 77
First downs/drive 4.25
Conversion % 5/6
T.o.P 1:54

The Seahawks quadrupled their season best for number of Money Drives by generating four of them against Tennessee. More impressively, they went 5/6 on third/fourth down and marched an average of 77 yards down the field. If they can get these four drives every week, the offense is going to be one of the league’s best by the end of the year, and fans might be attending our second Super Bowl Parade

Seattle Defense

Defense Failed Drives

Stat Result
Stat Result
Number 6
Drives 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 13
Yards/drive 3.5
First downs/drive 0
Conversions 0/6
T.o.P 1:23

Tennessee’s Failed Drives were worse than those of the Seahawks: 3.5 yards/drive, 0 first downs, and preventing six out of six 3rd down conversions is damn good defense. Unfortunately, the Titans had 14 drives, so Seattle forced Failed Drives on fewer than half of Tennessee’s drives. That is well below the historical expectation of 60%. The upside is that the Seahawks looked utterly dominant on 40% of the Titan’s drives and they had eclipsed that performance on over 60% of opponent drives through the first two weeks of the season.

Defense Successful Drives

Stat Result
Stat Result
Number 4
Drives 5, 6, 8, 12
Yards/Drive 53.75
First downs/drive 3.00
Conversions 6/9
T.o.P 4:16

Four Successful Drives translated into 12 Tennessee points and over 17 minutes of time of possession. Those four long drives that kept the ball out of Russell Wilson’s hands for nearly a third of the game. However, 12 points out of 17 minutes of possession is two thirds of a point per minute and 12 points is eclipsed by two TDs, which can happen extremely quickly. The Titans went 6/9 on 3rd down during these drives, which is too good over too many third downs for a defense that should be elite. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the best that the Tennessee offense looked.

Defense Money Drives

Stat Result
Stat Result
Number 3
Drives 9, 10, 11
Yards/Drive 68
First downs/drive 2.33
Conversions 0/0
T.o.P 1:50

Ok, there is one absolutely bonkers stat here. Tennessee did not face a single third down in any of their Money Drives. More than anything, that has to piss the defense off. That means that the Titans were converting on 1st and 2nd down and hitting explosive plays. These drives averaged 68 yards and took just 10 plays combined. That means Tennessee was averaging 6.8 yards/play. These drives accumulated 204 combined yard on just ten plays for a whopping 20.4 yards per play (Thank you, KWStenman for catching my mistake). The silver lining is that this yardage was concentrated into just three plays. A 24-yard pass, 55-yard catch-and-run, and a 75-yard run combined for over 75% of the Titan’s yardage on those three drives. This just illustrates how slim the margins for victory are in the NFL. Three slightly different angles on three different plays might have led the Seahawks to a hard-fought road victory.

Overall

The awful start by the offense was a frustrating way to start the game and I understand why people are reaching the end of their patience with it. However, the defense gave up 33 points and had three consecutive atrocious drives. Moreso than the first half three-and-outs, or even Wilson’s intentional grounding penalty, those three drives cost the Seahawks the game. However, there is ample reason for hope. Despite a slow start, the offense had its best performance of the season and the defense uncharacteristically fell prey to the big play.