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Seahawks defense is staying on the field forever (again)

Carolina Panthers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

We only have four weeks left in the 2022 NFL regular season, and as things stand no team has played more defensive snaps than the Seattle Seahawks.

Damn, that sounds familiar!

Oh right...

The 2021 Seahawks played the most defensive snaps by a country mile.

Damn, that sounds familiar!

Oh right...

The 2020 Seahawks played the most defensive snaps by a country mile.

You get the idea.

But I want to focus in on the 2021 and 2022 teams, because a lot of the discourse concerning last year’s lopsided snap counts was centered on an offense that was producing rapid-fire three-and-outs on a weekly basis. The Seahawks offense’s inability to sustain drives or really score with any consistency meant putting the defense in very difficult situations, tiring them out as they bent but didn’t break and finished 11th in points allowed. Advanced metrics like DVOA and EPA/play had the Seahawks as a bottom-tier defense, which frankly they were.

Enter the 2022 season and the Seahawks offense has one of the lowest three-and-out rates in the NFL, rank 8th in 3rd down conversions, and are in the top-10 in points per drive. Geno Smith and company sustain drives and put points on the board, although this is one of the more turnover-prone groups of the Pete Carroll era.

Meanwhile, the defense cannot get off the field. They are one of the worst at forcing three-and-outs and rank 31st in punts forced.

A year ago the Seahawks defense was 26th in Drive Success Rate, which measures the number of drives that result in at least one first down or a touchdown. This year they are 26th again, only this time they’re much better at generating takeaways than the 2021 unit was. That’s a pretty bad thing, because the story is either the Seahawks create a turnover or they’re giving up points.

Red zone defense is notoriously unsustainable year-to-year and the 2022 Seahawks are 24th in points per red zone trip. Last year they were 8th, aka “bend but don’t break.”

The grand conclusion is that scapegoating the offense for what is now a three-year problem doesn’t hold water whatsoever. When the offense is struggling, the defense is not dependable enough to get off the field. When the offense is thriving, the defense still isn’t dependable enough to get off the field. In the context of this year’s team, the defense is arguably not giving the offense enough chances to score.

This iteration of Seahawks defense creates their own fatigue by not putting opponents in difficult spots. Just within this 1-3 losing run Seattle has rolled out the red carpet for “3rd and manageable.”

It’s the perfect shitstorm that’s led to the Seahawks getting outsnapped by 110 plays. I won’t criticize the offense for scoring too quickly when it’s their job to put points on the board (which they have).

At this point we have to accept that this is not fixable this year. It better be solved next season, and I believe this all starts with winning in the trenches, where they are getting physically dominated on a weekly basis regardless of whether it’s a pass or a run.