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Seahawks playcalling trends in wins vs. losses

Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Feels good to have a win to write about again. In a season that has ranged from frustrating to downright painful, the Seattle Seahawks are in a position unlike any they have been in for the past 10 years; at 4-8, they are virtually out of the playoff hunt, and with no first round pick, they are stuck in a weird and unnerving purgatory from which they are unlikely to emerge anytime in the immediate future. That being said, while this team may have little left to play for beyond pride at this point, they still have several weeks left on the schedule to build some momentum heading into what is undoubtedly going to be a momentous offseason.

What I want to focus on in this article are the trends that we have seen from Seattle’s offense so far this season. More specifically, how has Shane Waldron’s playcalling trended in wins as opposed to losses? I am speaking directly towards the tendencies that we have seen from this team and how they have varied by game outcome. Of course, the elephant in the room here is that the Seahawks have twice as many losses to analyze as wins, so this data is far from a neat and tidy picture; regardless, there are still some tidbits of lucidity to be found in this otherwise murky portrait.

Passing/Rushing Stats in Wins vs. Losses

PASSING Completions Attempts % Yards TD Int Sacks
PASSING Completions Attempts % Yards TD Int Sacks
W 84 107 78.50% 794 10 1 13
L 155 247 62.8% 1894 9 4 26
RUSHING Carries Car/Game YPC Yards TD FUM YPG
W 107 26.8 4.3 460 5 1 115
L 163 20.4 4.3 704 5 1 88

In the table above, you can see that the Seahawks have struggled to throw the ball efficiently in losses, while their rushing efficiency — at least on a yards per carry basis — remains consistent. What changes the most is their commitment to the run; that is, as we have all seen, this team seems to get disjointed and the playcalling becomes one dimensional as struggles mount for the offense. Which leads to our next table.

Seahawks Rushing By Week

Week Opponent Carries Yards YPC TD Fumbles Lost
Week Opponent Carries Yards YPC TD Fumbles Lost
1 Indianapolis 27 140 5.2 0 1
2 Tennessee 18 77 4.3 2 0
3 Minnesota 18 106 5.9 1 0
4 San Francisco 28 105 3.8 2 0
5 LA Rams 25 92 3.7 0 0
6 Pittsburgh 27 144 5.3 1 0
7 New Orleans 28 90 3.2 0 0
8 Jacksonville 25 69 2.8 1 0
9 BYE - - - - -
10 Green Bay 16 75 4.7 0 0
11 Arizona 19 86 4.5 1 0
12 Washington 12 34 2.8 0 1
13 San Francisco 27 146 5.4 2 0
. TOTAL 270 1164 4.3 10 2

Above is a table of Seattle’s rushing performance game by game. Interestingly in this one, you can see how the team trended towards running the most during Russell Wilson’s absence, as they never rushed fewer than 25 times during Geno Smith’s stretch at the helm. The team’s 3.8 yards per carry and half of a touchdown in the three full games led by Smith are significantly lower figures than their season average of 4.3 (a full half yard better). This could obviously be indicative of a number of factors — it coincides with the injury to Chris Carson, who is unarguably the team’s best pure running back. Still, outside of an abysmal showing in Green Bay, this team has been far more efficient at picking up yards on the ground since the return of Wilson, averaging 4.6 yards per carry and .75 touchdowns per game. While I am hesitant to draw too many overarching conclusions from a pretty basic set of data, I believe that this is related to the fact that in the modern NFL, offenses run through the quarterback, who has an outsized impact on the entire team far greater than any particular running back not named Marshawn Lynch. This is something that shouldn’t go unmentioned, even in Russell Wilson’s worst season as a pro thus far. Which leads to our next component.

Seahawks Passing By Week

Week Opponent Completions Attempts % Yards TD Int Sacks QBR
Week Opponent Completions Attempts % Yards TD Int Sacks QBR
1 Indianapolis 18 23 78.3% 254 4 0 3 83.8
2 Tennessee 22 31 71.0% 343 2 0 3 55.6
3 Minnesota 23 32 71.9% 298 1 0 2 45.6
4 San Francisco 16 23 69.6% 149 2 0 3 65.7
5 LA Rams 21 33 63.6% 262 2 2 2 55.6
6 Pittsburgh 23 32 71.9% 209 1 0 5 21.0
7 New Orleans 12 22 54.5% 167 1 0 5 20.4
8 Jacksonville 20 24 83.3% 160 2 0 3 86.2
9 BYE - - - - - - - -
10 Green Bay 20 40 50.0% 161 0 2 3 12.0
11 Arizona 14 26 53.8% 207 0 0 4 24.7
12 Washington 20 31 64.5% 247 2 0 2 54.3
13 San Francisco 30 37 81.1% 231 2 1 4 30.9
. TOTAL 239 354 67.5% 2688 19 5 39 44.6

Similar to the rushing table above, this one breaks down the Seahawks passing game on a weekly basis. This chart seems to line up quite accurately with what the eye test has shown us; the Seahawks pass much more efficiently in wins than in losses. With the exception of the grinder that they just pulled out on Sunday, QBR has been above average in the team’s three other victories. Other statistics remain static, such as sacks per game (3.75 in wins AND losses), while items such as attempts per game has soared in losses. Obviously, Seattle has been playing from behind for much of the 2021 season, so this isn’t entirely unexpected. But this does create a bit of a jumbled mess, which in all honesty sounds like a fair representation of the Seahawks’ offense; they have moments of transcendence mixed in with an otherwise unappetizing swirl of inefficiency and vanilla. Earlier in the season, I chalked this up to installing a new system and playbook. At this point, however, this team should be able to field an offense that has something resembling an identity.

What does it all mean?

Professional Football is a complicated and strategy-filled game. There is rarely an answer as simple as “do this more” or “do this less.” Fixing an offense that is as dysfunctional and stagnant as the one that the Seahawks field on a weekly basis is going to take some hard work and intentionality on the part of the front office and the veteran leadership on this team. However, while I don’t have any pretenses of having discovered the key to all of Seattle’s offensive woes, I do think that the team would benefit from finding an identity and building on it.

This identity is not as simple and conventional as “run-first vs. pass-first.” And to be perfectly honest, I don’t know what it is going to look like with so many unknowns circling over the organization right now, but I do know that this team has struggled to be effective as a pass-heavy offense, while also failing to field a decisive running attack as the backfield has once again been beleaguered by attrition. But this is why the team moved on from Schottenheimer and brought in Shane Waldron; it has been years since we have seen a Seahawks team look consistently functional on offense on a weekly basis. And this could have far more to do with Pete Carroll and the roster building of the front office than it does with whoever is calling plays on the sideline. Or, more likely, it could be a combination of that with the fact that a first year coordinator is struggling to fill the shoes he has been given in his new role. Regardless, whatever issues plague this team, they now have the rest of a meaningless stretch of games to start to sort this out. While the season is likely going to be over for the Seahawks when the final seconds tick off the clock in week 18, this team could do itself and its fanbase a solid by using this final stretch to build a bit of continuity going into what is likely to be a wild offseason.