A regular complaint about the Seattle Seahawks offense is that unless they are absolutely forced into doing so, going uptempo is not their thing. How many delay of game penalties have happened or timeouts been wasted as a result of waiting to snap it with :00 on the play clock? Probably too many to count.
NFL data analyst Michael Lopez released a graph last week showing the breakdown of all 31 teams and the percentage of snaps (4th quarter exempt so as to keep it in neutral game script situations) that occurred based on how much time was left on the play clock. Believe it or not, the Seahawks are not the slowest and in fact not even close. That honor belongs to the Green Bay Packers.
Another play clock chart, inspired by @owenlhjphillips— Michael Lopez (@StatsbyLopez) February 9, 2021
- The Packers ran about 50% of plays in last 5 seconds of the play clock
- The Cardinals ran 28% of their plays with 16 seconds or more on the play clock
- Rams somehow rank in top 4 in both snapping early and late pic.twitter.com/6QtKB4BfRV
Just eyeing the chart, the Seahawks were 6th at snapping the ball in the final seconds of the play clock, behind the Rams, Eagles, Panthers, Ravens, and Packers.
Now obviously pace of play and quality of offense are not connected. The Packers are incredibly slow and Aaron Rodgers won MVP. Rodgers also likes to run the clock down not just for pre-snap reads but his annoyingly effective ability to get teams to jump offside for a free play. Meanwhile the Cowboys got that ball snapped with plenty of time to spare and usually it led to rapid failure.
Russell Wilson has said about umpteen times that he wants to play faster and with tempo. Football Outsiders says the Seahawks have only finished in the top-half of the NFL in pace once under Wilson, and that was the year that got Darrell Bevell fired. As you see in the embedded chart, the 2020 Rams were capable of playing early and late in the clock. We don’t know how much of that style will transfer over with new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, but the Rams’ offensive pace almost seems like a mixture of what Wilson would want (more tempo) and what Carroll would want (slow the game down at times).
There’s another chart that I found interesting with a larger sample size that could spur discussion over whether sacks occur more often with a late snap compared to an early snap. Based on five years of data, it appears that late in the clock snaps increase the chance of a sack.
A loyal follower asked if play clock was related to sack rate. One could make that argument pic.twitter.com/FYVAxJUamO— Michael Lopez (@StatsbyLopez) February 9, 2021
Splitting by down, and filtering into relatively pass-neutral states only, the relationship seems to still hold to some degree pic.twitter.com/lniNBAVhxT— Michael Lopez (@StatsbyLopez) February 9, 2021
Those 3rd down numbers seem significant. Russell Wilson’s sack rate is astronomical on 3rd down but the league-wide sack rate in general seems to be that way on that down.
While not the reason, a reason for increased sacks late in the clock could be that defenses can time their jumps better knowing the situation at 1-5 seconds, compared to no-huddle or uptempo offenses with quick snaps that don’t really allow the defense to get set.
Given Seattle’s historically heavy reliance on a lot of pre-snap identifiers to determine coverages, the right read to make, the blocking assignments, etc. I don’t know if we’ll necessarily see drastic change to how the Seahawks offense operates, but I do know I’m tired of watching them not even out of the huddle with 10 on the play clock and hauling ass to avoid a penalty.