There really is no getting around the idea that if the Seattle Seahawks have any hope of being in playoff contention this season, the offense has to be significantly better than what we’ve seen through two weeks. Even league-average feels like major progress compared to Monday night against the Chicago Bears.
In fairness to Seattle, they’ve started out with consecutive road games, and you have to go back to 2013 for literally the only time in the Pete Carroll era that the Seahawks have prevailed in a September road game. Sunday’s home opener is against the Dallas Cowboys, the very team Seattle’s final win of the 2017 season came against.
I’d like to think that the Seahawks offense will get into gear at CenturyLink Field, but in what is admittedly a small sample size, they’ve really had problems dealing with the Cowboys defense, coordinated by Rod Marinelli.
The Seahawks offense has played the Rod Marinelli-coached Cowboys defense three times.— Mookie Alexander (@mookiealexander) September 21, 2018
Subtracting D/ST scores, Seattle has averaged 14.33 pts per game and never scored more than 16.
This is highly encouraging.
In 2014, Marinelli’s Cowboys group held the Seahawks to just nine first-downs and 206 yards of offense, including just 14/28 for 126 yards and an interception from Russell Wilson. This game was admittedly famous for being Percy Harvin’s unceremonious farewell before being traded, but it was nevertheless a piss-poor showing. Three of Seattle’s four scoring drives went for 14, 5, and 12 yards, while Mike Morgan got Seattle a blocked punt touchdown. The Seahawks lost 30-23 in a game that should’ve been a blowout, and would certainly be a blowout for the 2018 group.
The following year, the Seahawks traveled to JerryWorld and needed a late field goal from Steven Hauschka to win a 13-12 slog over the Matt Cassel-led Dallas Cowboys. Seattle racked up 323 yards on 61 plays, didn’t allow a single sack, and Jimmy Graham had 7 catches for 75 yards. And yet, they went three-and-out on four of ten drives, knelt on the final one, intercepted on another, and had a field goal blocked. So three scoring possessions in total, but none more important than the thoroughly impressive 17-play, 79-yard clock-killing game-winning drive by Russell Wilson, including three third-down conversions en route to the decisive Hauschka FG.
Last season, with their backs against the wall, the Seahawks kept their wild card hopes alive at the expense of Dallas on Christmas Eve 2017. The final score was 21-12, but in doing so became the first team in the post-merger NFL to win a game with more penalty yards (142) than offensive yards (136). Seattle had more rushing yards than they did passing... and Wilson had 60 net yards because he only threw for 93 and was sacked three times for a loss of 33 yards. Out of eleven possessions, seven ended in punts, two in kneeldowns, and two in touchdowns, with one of them off a short field. Justin Coleman scored on a pick-six, so the offense only contributed 14.
The absolutely puzzling thing about these three games is that the Cowboys end-of-season DVOA ranking has been consistently bad. At the time each game was played, they were 24th in 2014, 25th in 2015, and 23rd in 2017, but still repeatedly managed to limit the Seahawks offense.
In case you’re wondering, Brian Schottenheimer has played Marinelli defenses three times and come away with a 1-2 record. Schotty was the OC for the New York Jets while Marinelli was head coach of the Detroit Lions in 2006, and the Jets prevailed 31-24 thanks to 221 yards rushing. Four years later, the Jets came up short 38-34 against the Marinelli-coached Chicago Bears defense. Seven points came off of a pick-six, but otherwise a solid showing against the eventual #2 seed in the NFC. Most recently in 2014, Schottenheimer’s Rams offense racked up 448 yards against the Dallas Cowboys, but they blew a 21-0 lead and lost 34-31 at home. Again, seven points were off a pick-six courtesy of Janoris Jenkins.
Two weeks into this season, the Cowboys are 13th in defensive DVOA, one spot ahead of Seattle. Kris Richard appears to be settling in nicely as Dallas’ passing game coordinator, and they’ve held the Carolina Panthers and New York Giants to a combined 29 points through two games. With the offensive line banged up and Doug Baldwin out for another week, I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised if the trend continued and the Cowboys once again make life hell for the Seahawks offense.