While there is much deserved praise for the Seattle Seahawks offense and their dominant display against the Detroit Lions, the defense continues to be a horror show in ways that are somehow worse than the way they started the previous couple of seasons.
Even with no Amon-Ra St. Brown, D’Andre Swift, D.J. Chark, or Jonah Jackson, the Lions still scored 45 points and racked up over 500 yards of offense. It was the most points Detroit had scored since Thanksgiving Day 2015 (also 45 points) and the 8th highest yardage total since 2000. Seattle’s defense did manage two takeaways (including Tariq Woolen’s pick-six) and forced a three-and-out, but special teams got caught out on a fake punt and Tyler Lockett lost a fumble. It’s still a rotten collective showing from a defense that seems to be getting worse with each week.
Football Outsiders DVOA has the Seahawks and Lions at 31st and 32nd respectively, which made Sunday’s shootout all the more fitting. It is actually miraculous that this group is even 19th in rush defense DVOA because they look like one of the league’s worst in that category, too.
But the key stat in today’s article is the rate in which the Seahawks are allowing points to be scored. In just 38 drives (tied with the Los Angeles Rams for fewest in the NFL), the Seahawks defense has given up either a touchdown or a field goal 55.3% of the time. The second-worst team in this statistic is the Atlanta Falcons at 47.5%. If you think the Lions game skewed the stats then you’re wrong; all four of Seattle’s opponents scored on at least half of their possessions.
Seattle is dead last in punts forced (7) and worst in points allowed per drive at 3.03. They’ve let 17 possessions enter the red zone, which is tied for second most despite having the fewest drives to defend. Seattle has given up the most yards per drive, the most average plays per drive, and longest time per drive, all while benefiting from the seventh-best starting field position in the NFL. Unlike last year, the Seahawks offense is actually sustaining drives even when they’re not scoring, so any notion that the Seahawks defense is tired because the offense keeps putting them back on the field is complete bullshit. Given Seattle’s defense faced the most plays in 2020 as well, I question whether that theory ever had any validity to it in the first place.
We are now at three consecutive seasons of writing about the Seahawks’ poor starts to the season on defense. This spans two coordinators, different schemes, different players, and different overall levels of experience on the roster. My immediate inclination is to pin this primarily on Pete Carroll, aka the defensive-minded head coach, and secondarily John Schneider, since they are the two biggest constants.
I’m not interested in binary “Good move = Schneider, Bad move = Pete” or vice versa splitting of the roster moves that is neither provable nor practical. Carroll having the final say on personnel and his coaching staff and who does and doesn’t get to play means he’s got the biggest slice of the blame pie. At a larger scale, this is a culmination of years of poor drafting (how’s that 2019 class of defensive players looking, right now?), bad free agent signings (long live Ziggy Ansah), one-year solutions to long-term pass rush problems (Jadeveon Clowney and Sheldon Richardson), and a certain splash trade used on one player to seemingly fix the pass rush, pass coverage, and run defense all at once.
In the coming weeks we should see the Seahawks defense improve — it’s hard to be worse than what we’ve seen — and we’ll also likely see the offense come back down to Earth a bit. I believe the Seahawks offense can be at least average by the time their regression hits. I’m not sure how much better this defense is capable of being any time soon.