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Why the Seahawks’ inconsistent offense is still 11th by DVOA

Yeah, the Seahawks offense is more efficient than they look.

Washington Commanders v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Did the headline already catch you off-guard? Yes, the Seattle Seahawks have the No. 11 overall offense by DVOA metrics. They probably would have remained at No. 10 entering Week 11 had the Dallas Cowboys not put up over 600 yards and 40+ pts against the hapless New York Giants, skyrocketing them from 17th to 10th.

Pass: 9th
Rush: 19th

How can this be? How can an offense that has only put up more than 20 points twice in the last five games still be ranked that highly?

Prior to last week’s win over the Washington Commanders, I got the chance to speak with FTN Fantasy’s Aaron Schatz, aka the creator of DVOA and one of the pioneers of football analytics. I asked him if the Seahawks have essentially “broken DVOA” like they did with the 2021 offense, which finished in the top-10 despite a huge punt rate and 3-and-out rate.

The red zone struggles are well-documented, but it’s the rest of the field where Schatz says the Seahawks are excelling.

“It’s the red zone,” Schatz said. “That’s why you’re not feeling it. If you look at the splits by zone, Seattle is the No. 1 offense in the league between the 40s. Then they’re good from the 40 to the 20. Then they’re 30th [by DVOA] inside the 20.”

Using regular statistics, the Seahawks’ red zone TD conversion rate is just 48.7%, which ranks 25th in the league. However, Seattle’s also had 33 offensive possessions reach the red zone, which ranks an impressive 8th. Only two of those possessions started in the red zone, and one of them was the end-of-game kneeldown against the Cleveland Browns.

This falls in line with the stats regarding Seattle’s ability to move the ball in other areas outside of the red zone.

“The red zone is what you feel,” he added. “You see those touchdowns not happening and you’re frustrated. That creates frustration and the feeling like they’re not getting it done. On an efficiency basis they’re above average.”

Schatz did also note that the Seahawks offense ranked 23rd in variance (now 22nd) entering Week 11, which means they are as inconsistent as they look based on week-to-week DVOA.

You may recall Seattle’s 2022 offense was also poor in the red zone (but better on 3rd downs). The Seahawks mitigated their red zone issues by having explosive play touchdowns, which this year’s team has not managed. In 2022, Seattle had 16 offensive touchdowns longer than 20 yards, whereas this year’s Seahawks have just 2.

The Seahawks have 53 explosive plays (10+ yard rushes, 20+ yard passes) through 9 games, compared to 63 last year. Believe it or not, the Seahawks have more explosive pass plays (27 in 2023 vs. 25 in 2022), but the explosive runs have dropped from 38 to 26.

Here are some other notable Seahawks stats that explain why they aren’t actually the worst offense you’ve ever seen in your life:

Rate of drives ending in a score: 11th
Points per drive: 12th
Turnovers/drive: 7th
3-and-outs/drive: 17th (last year was 13th)
Punts/drive: 13th (last year was 15th)

I know this is a “broken record” thing to say, but it really is the combination of 3rd down offense and red zone offense that’s holding the Seahawks back. Their late-down rushing offense is 27th in success rate (compared to 12th on early downs), while Geno’s dropback success rate is 29th (compared to 2nd on early downs).

If the Seahawks aren’t going to improve in those categories, then they have no choice but to increase their explosive plays and do their absolute best to avoid 3rd down entirely. Otherwise, we see what ails Seattle’s offense. The frustration is not with the group failing to function across every down, but the situational football that has prevented them from scoring more points. They’re a generally efficient offense that is being held back by wildly inefficient offense in two key areas. Not ideal, but not impossible to fix!

Should the Seahawks finally course correct on their 3rd downs and red zone trips figured out, then we may see this unit turn into the top-10 group we hoped they would be at the start of the season.