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The defense is who we thought they were

Wild Card Round - Los Angeles Rams v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

After waiting all offseason for some actual, real, meaningful football, fans of the Seattle Seahawks are left entering Week 4 of the regular season somewhat disappointed. Following a Week 1 win over the Indianapolis Colts the Hawks sit at 1-2 having dropped consecutive games to the Tennessee Titans and the Indianapolis Colts. With the San Francisco 49ers on tap for Week 4, the team is suddenly in a position where a loss Sunday would put the Hawks three games behind the winner of the Arizona Cardinals showdown against the Los Angeles Rams.

Under new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron the offense has been nearly unstoppable in the first half of games, but unable to get out of first gear in the second half. Meanwhile, outside of facing a bad Colts team in Week 1, the defense hasn’t really done much to stop opponents besides watch Julio Jones and A.J. Brown combine for four drops in Week 2.

In any case, it brings things back to the question of how impactful a defense can truly be, and whether or not it even matters. I’m not here to argue one way or another, and will simply provide some data and let fans draw their own conclusions.

Obviously, neither of those correlations are very strong, but here’s a table that sort of illustrates how the 2020 Seahawks defense “improved” over the second half of the season.

Defense only matters in so far as the opponent it is facing

Week Quarterback Points Allowed Opponent 2020 Mean Opponent QB 2020 Mean Opponent 2020 Team Median Opponent 2020 QB Median
Week Quarterback Points Allowed Opponent 2020 Mean Opponent QB 2020 Mean Opponent 2020 Team Median Opponent 2020 QB Median
Week 1 Matt Ryan 25 24.8 24.8 25.0 25.0
Week 2 Cam Newton 30 20.4 21.1 21.0 21.0
Week 3 Dak Prescott 31 24.7 32.6 30.5 37.0
Week 4 Ryan Fitzpatrick 23 25.3 25.7 26.0 24.0
Week 5 Kirk Cousins 26 26.9 26.9 28.0 28.0
Week 7 Kyler Murray 37 25.6 25.6 27.0 27.0
Week 8 Jimmy Garoppolo 27 23.5 25.3 23.0 25.5
Week 9 Josh Allen 44 31.3 31.3 27.0 27.0
Week 10 Jared Goff 23 23.3 23.6 21.5 23
Week 11 Kyler Murray 21 25.6 25.6 27.0 27.0
Week 12 Carson Wentz 17 20.9 21.1 20.5 20.5
Week 13 Colt McCoy 17 17.5 11.5 18.0 11.5
Week 14 Sam Darnold 3 15.2 14.8 13.5 13.5
Week 15 Dwayne Haskins 15 20.9 17.8 20.0 16.0
Week 16 Jared Goff 9 23.3 23.6 21.5 23.0
Week 17 C.J. Beathard 23 23.5 21.5 23.0 21.5
Wild Card Jared Goff 30 23.3 23.6 21.5 23.0

Readers are free to interpret the table however they like. However, if the big defensive performances for a team on a season involves slowing down an Adam Gase offense and not giving up double digits to a team whose quarterback broke his thumb on his throwing hand, those don’t seem to be signature performances upon which to hand one’s hat. And that, of course, means that there is a distinct possibility that the reason that the Seahawks defense has performed exactly as expected through the first three weeks of the season because the improvement over the second half of 2020 was little more than a mirage created by facing a string of bad quarterbacks.

Add in that in the nine games the Hawks played over the second half of the 2020 season they faced only one quarterback - Kyler Murray - who is the starting quarterback for the same team in 2021, and it would appear as though the front offices of the opponents the Seahawks faced during that stretch agree on the quality of the quarterbacks faced.