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Seahawks defense reasserts itself into the top 5

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NFL: International Series-Seattle Seahawks at Oakland Raiders Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

Whether they’ll remain this way after they face an expectedly tougher offensive schedule than the one they’ve seen over the first six weeks remains to be seen, but the Seattle Seahawks have set themselves up for higher expectations with a mostly-dominant performance on defense to open the season. Much of that success over the first five games was generated by forcing turnovers that helped stop some bleeding on third downs, but Sunday’s 27-3 win over the Oakland Raiders was the complete performance they’ve been looking for and the Seahawks are now back near the top of some key defensive categories.

Six weeks in, Seattle’s defense ranks:

  • Fifth in points allowed
  • Third in passing yards allowed
  • Fourth in net yards/pass attempt
  • Fourth in interceptions
  • 11th in sacks

The Seahawks entered Week 6 ranked ninth in DVOA on defense and based on Sunday’s results, I’d expect them to potentially move ahead of two or three teams that were ahead of them. They ranked eighth against the pass and then held Derek Carr to 4.58 yards per attempt — his lowest of the season — with no touchdowns. In a season so strange that Ryan Fitzpatrick was one of the most efficient passers of all-time before being benched, Seattle has held four of six opponents under 200 yards passing.

The Seahawks have allowed 117 points, averaging 19.5 points per game. However, over the first six games of 2017, they allowed 95 points, and ended up finishing 13th in points allowed. In their seventh game of 2017, Seattle gave up 38 to the Houston Texans, and two weeks later they lost Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman ... forever. In the final 10 games of last season, the Seahawks allowed the 11th-most points and had a point differential of -6 on their way to going .500 in those games and 9-7 on the year.

To turn their current 3-3 record into the 10-6 variety that could get them into the playoffs, Seattle will need to avoid a collapse (I use that word loosely, because there are a lot worse things than going .500) like the one they had last year.

Next up is Matthew Stafford, who has four straight games with a passer rating over 100 and has thrown nine touchdowns to one interception over that period of time. After that is a home date against Philip Rivers, who is having the second-best start to his career (he went off just slightly more in 2014) with 15 touchdowns and three interceptions in six games. Then their rematch against Jared Goff and the LA Rams. And on short rest, Seattle hosts Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers on a Thursday.

For more: “22 Days in November”

To win three of those four games, the Seahawks defense will need to be as good as they were in London against the Raiders. And then some, because those teams will all have better offensive lines, better quarterbacks, and better wide receivers than Oakland has. Hopefully, the formula works as well as it has in the last four games.

Since Week 3, only three teams who’ve played four games have allowed fewer points than the 66 given up by the Seahawks: The Ravens, Bills, and Titans. Baltimore is also the only team with a better point differential (over four games) in that time. And Seattle is seventh in yards per play allowed since Week 3.

Much thanks to the rising play of some of their younger or newer faces.

Bradley McDougald is the best value on the team. Jarran Reed has four sacks, putting him on pace to be only the third defensive tackle in franchise history to record double-digit sacks, something even Cortez Kennedy only did once. (John Randle had the other.) Frank Clark has 5.5 sacks in six games, making him a legitimate challenger to set the franchise record (Michael Sinclair, 16.5, 1998) for sacks in a season.

These are just a few examples, but it’s not about what Seattle has done, it’s about what they will do ... and we simply don’t know yet how they will do in these next 10 games.

As we see year after year, teams grow and shrink not just with offseason moves but with midseason changes, maturation of young players, deterioration of old ones, and so on. I don’t see why the Seahawks will be any exception this season, especially since the Seahawks always seem to be among the teams that change the most in the second half of every year under Pete Carroll. The quarterbacks they face will be tougher, but perhaps so will their own players.

Perhaps we’re just seeing the surface of what Tre Flowers can do as a rookie.

Perhaps Dion Jordan will be 100-percent and tap into whatever it was that helped him get four sacks in five games in 2017.

Perhaps K.J. Wright will be as good as new.

Perhaps Tedric Thompson won’t suffer as much as an Earl Thomas replacement as Steven Terrell did. Perhaps he’ll even show that he’s the future at free safety.

And perhaps we won’t.

Perhaps Seattle doesn’t find a third pass rusher this year.

Perhaps Flowers struggles or another injury befalls the secondary.

Perhaps Wright’s return is short or he just doesn’t get right this season.

Perhaps 2017 happens all over again. Or worse.

We can prepare for either outcome, but the good news either was is that the Seahawks are in a position for success. They aren’t fighting their way back from 2-4. They aren’t winning games by a hair and losing in a landslide. They aren’t that much different from the previous iteration of the defense despite being very different from the previous iteration of the defense.

Things could be better, but considering it all, they Seahawks are actually doing quite well.