Much has been made of Pete Carroll’s apparent desire to return to a more balanced offense in recent weeks, after Russell Wilson lit the league on fire for the first two months of the season.
Following the Seahawks’ win over the Cardinals in Week 11, which featured a vintage Seattle performance on offense — unflashy, efficient numbers from Wilson and a healthy dose of runs — Carroll acknowledged the desire for balance himself. Of the Seahawks’ return to a more balanced approach, Carroll said, “Our football is better shaped when we’re balanced and we’re attacking you and we can play off of that. It fits the defense; it fits the special teams. It’s the statement of the way we play.”
The action of Seattle’s offense aligns with Carroll’s words, as their pass rate over the last three weeks is 56.3 percent, down from the season-long rate of 60.8 percent. While the Seahawks haven’t exactly blown teams out since their recommitment to balance, it’s hard to argue against Carlos Hyde and Chris Carson’s positive impact during that time.
In that regard, it goes back to what has always been the argument around Seattle’s philosophy on offense: it isn’t necessarily about running less, it’s about running smarter. Unfortunately, the Seahawks are not only running more often over the last three weeks but running at worse times.
In Weeks 1-9, Seattle was passing at the sixth-highest rate in the NFL on 1st and 10+ (57 percent). On 2nd and long (seven yards or more to go), they had the highest pass frequency in the entire league, throwing it 78 percent of the time.
Since the disaster in Buffalo, the Seahawks’ figures in those areas have dropped considerably. Over the last three weeks, Seattle’s pass rate on 1st and 10+ is 17th in the league, at just 51 percent. Similarly, their 2nd and 7+ pass rate has dropped to 67 percent, which ranks 19th in the league during that span.
Unsurprisingly, this has coincided with the Seahawks’ offense becoming less efficient and less productive, with their points per game dropping from 34.25 in Weeks 1-9 to 22.3 over the last three. Though the offense remains fourth in DVOA, their weighted DVOA does show a decrease in efficiency and the gap to the teams below them has shrunk.
Perhaps focusing on the small sample size of the last three weeks and ignoring the bigger picture is unfair. Entering the season, the hope was only for continued improvement in an effort to run smarter and that has happened. Looking at 2020 as a whole up to this point, their pass frequency has grown by two percent from last season; their pass rate on 1st and 10+ is up from 47 percent to 56 percent, and their 2nd and 7+ pass rate has grown from 63 percent to 76 percent.
The bigger picture of the Seahawks’ offense in 2020 is one that reflects what most want to see, with Wilson put in the best spots to succeed and the running game utilized in a smarter manner. A short-term view shows a worrying trend back toward an offense that habitually makes it harder on their superstar quarterback.
On balance, they have been able to find a happy medium between those two options and that’s what Carroll wants, right? Balance? For Seattle, it is going to be crucial to maintain that balance and not allow the trend of the last few weeks be an indication of what’s to come over the rest of the season.