The start to the 2021 NFL season has not gone the way many fans of the Seattle Seahawks envisioned. Following a tortuous 33-30 overtime loss to the Tennessee Titans, the Hawks went on the road and were absolutely obliterated by the Minnesota Vikings to fall to 1-2 and a full two games behind the Arizona Cardinals and the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC West standings.
There’s been no shortage of finger pointing at both coordinators, with Shane Waldron’s offense unable to score at all during the third quarter so far in 2021, and just two second half touchdowns through the first three games. On the flip side of the ball it’s a fourth consecutive season of asking how bad a Ken Norton Jr. defense has to be before he is fired.
That all said, as noted there’s been plenty of finger pointing at both sides of the ball, but has that been appropriate? One of the advanced analytics metrics Seahawks took pride in for many years, DVOA, has weighed in on the matter, and the results of that input might be a bit surprising. Specifically, Seattle has a top ten offense in the league by DVOA pending the Monday Night Football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys.
Here are the new top teams in DVOA. This is the last week without opponent adjustments. New No. 1 team.— Aaron Schatz (@FO_ASchatz) September 27, 2021
1 #AZCardinals 45.3%
2 #Broncos 43.9%
3 #Browns 41.0%
4 #Rams 40.6%
5 #Panthers 40.5%
6 #Bills 36.4%
7 #Seahawks (!) 25.1%
8 #Buccaneers 22.7%
9 #Bengals (!)
Obviously, just as with any metric, DVOA has its limitations in terms of value. Specifically, because it’s built around offensive and defensive performance on a per play result, DVOA places value in offenses that can generate explosive plays and defenses that prevent such plays. The Legion of Boom era Seahawks teams were fantastic at this on both sides of the ball. The current iteration of the Hawks, however, are much more lacking in their ability to prevent explosive plays.
There will, of course, be many who complain that this looks to place an unfair amount of blame on the defense and to absolve the offense of any wrongdoing, and the offense has certainly had its share of issues early in the season. But to date, with the exception of the impotent Carson Wentz led offense of the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1, the biggest issue for the offense has been the limited number of drives because the defense is unable to get off the field by getting the ball back for the offense, having forced just eight punts so far this year. And of the eight punts the defense has forced this season, half punts came in Week 1 against the Colts. Just for reference on how bad that is, the 2013 Seahawks forced an average of more than five punts per game, including eight punts in just the 23-0 destruction of the New York Giants in Week 15.
So, yes, the offense has issues and needs to start putting some points on the board in the second half, but the bigger issue facing the Seahawks right now is that the defense needs to start getting some actual stops against quarterbacks not named Carson Wentz.