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Seahawks advanced stats, Week 8: The difference between good and great

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Seattle got fooled in St. Louis on Sunday, but maybe they're not that far away from being as good as they can be, or as great as they want to be.

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

There are a lot of happy people in and around the NFL this week. For instance, down in Jacksonville, Red Bryant and Chris Clemons got their first win with the Jaguars, as head coach Gus Bradley helped guide them to a 24-6 win over the Browns. Over in Detroit, Golden Tate had 10 catches for 154 yards and a touchdown, helping the Lions beat the Saints by a point and remain in a tie for first place with the Packers.

The Jets lost again (to Brandon Browner and the Patriots) but for the first time all season didn't turn the ball over, and players like right tackle Breno Giacomini found out that his general manager John Idzik had acquired wide receiver Percy Harvin. The Eagles had a bye week, which gave someone like Chris Maragos an opportunity to revel in his team's 27-0 shutout of the Giants a week earlier; at least Walter Thurmond only has to watch these losses from the sidelines. The Bucs also had a bye week, so at least Clinton McDonald could take a week off from getting their asses handed to them. Hell, even Michael Robinson heard rumors he might get to play again.

The Seattle Seahawks, however, are having a shitty week.

A lot of people are left wondering if the 2014 team is that much worse than the 2013 team even though going into the year it seemed like they would be close, if not better. After all, all of the "best" players were still going to be around, Harvin would take the field, younger guys would get an opportunity to show what they could do with more snaps ... it seemed so easy. But as we see on a week-to-week basis, when a team like the Bengals can get shutout by the Colts or the Browns can do a reversal of fortunate against the Jags, the difference between great and good in the NFL is a fairly thin margin.

I think it's obvious by now that a player like Tate, even if he does max out at 800 or 900 yards in Seattle compared to 1,400 or so in Detroit, is a significant cog in that margin of error between the upper echelon and the middle tier. I think the collection of veteran presence that went away left a heavy burden of leadership responsibilities on the shoulders of Russell Wilson, perhaps something that has been putting even more pressure on him this year and maybe something that could cause additional friction with a player like Harvin.

I don't do good with the usage of intangibles -- if it's worth mentioning, make it tangy -- but what does it mean to have someone like Robinson in the locker room after two straight losses? And that's not even intangible, really, we saw it on video. A guy who can play loosey-goosey and brighten spirits and remind everyone that there's still a chance tomorrow.

Also not intangible is the Seahawks inability to pressure the quarterback, because they have gone from 1st in the NFL in percentage of plays where they pressured the QB to 32nd. Last time I check, that's what the call a "first to worst" situation, and it also happens to be one of the most important things you have to do in order to win.

I've said many times in this series that Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril are among the league leaders at their position in QB hurries, and for Bennett, QB hits as well, but in the grand scheme of things what does that actually mean when you're not getting sacks? Or when you're not forcing turnovers? Or when you don't have a pass rushing linebacker and Bruce Irvin is almost entirely forgettable?

Only one player on the team has more than one sack, and Bennett only has three. Only two players on the team have an interception. Seattle has generated five forced turnovers in six games, after they produced 17 turnovers in their first six games a year ago. In fact they didn't even have a game where they forced less than two turnovers until Week 9.

Even if the Jaguars are 1-6, I'm sure it feels like a feather in the cap of Clemons and Bryant to know that the Seahawks defense has helplessly fluttered without them. I'm positive that Tate gets a giggle seeing things work out this way with Harvin and knowing that the special teams and offensive units both miss him dearly.

Yes, the Seahawks are struggling and they are just not quite the same team they were a year ago. Many of the players that helped them win a championship are off doing other things, and witnessing a decline that few predicted. It's hard to stay positive at a time like this knowing that a loss in Carolina this week, will feel like doom.

But ...

The difference between good and great is a very thin margin, remember?

Seattle lost by two points in St. Louis in a game where special teams trickery was paramount in victory for the Rams and they were playing without a myriad of important pieces like Bobby Wagner, Byron Maxwell, and Zach Miller. Tharold Simon started in place of Maxwell and left in the second quarter with an ankle injury. No Derrick Coleman. No Jordan Hill. No Max Unger. No Luke Willson.

There are significant differences between the team that lost in St. Louis on Sunday and the team that won the Super Bowl in February, but it's not as though those differences can't be made up in time.

The Seahawks are first in the NFL in yards per carry, thanks to Wilson, and second in yards per carry allowed. They haven't forced many turnovers, but they've given up even less -- just four turnovers in six games. They have faced three elite quarterbacks, a guy on the next tier, an up-and-comer, and Kirk Cousins. Teams don't typically face three division leaders and a wild card leader in a five-game stretch, and it'll happen again this week with the Panthers.

There's very little that's "typical" with how Seattle wound up at 3-3, and if it wasn't for Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Earl Thomas, and Richard Sherman, even getting three wins might be a stretch. And guys like that, plus a healthy Wagner and a number two corner, could be the reason why making the playoffs isn't much of a stretch at all for this team, just like the last Seahawks team.

A win over Carolina, and we're all having a pretty good week.

Here's some advanced stats for y'all.

Seahawks at Rams Win Probability Chart (via PFR)

ramswpc

The Seahawks started out as 69% (lol) favorites to win this game but the Rams kept climbing and climbing, even reaching the point of 95% before halftime. Then Wilson got chompy-chompy and started eating away at their odds, with his 52-yard run accounting for more than a 20% difference in Seattle's odds. In the end though, it really came down to just one play.

Play of the game

Jeff Fisher must've been playing the advanced odds on this one because even with the Rams holding a two-point lead, the Seahawks were finally back as favorites again when they forced a punting situation late in the fourth quarter that would give Wilson an easy opportunity to get into field goal range.

Fisher wadn't havin' it, doe.

Playing the odds, there really wasn't a huge risk in going for the fake with John Hekker. The worst case scenario is that you don't convert and you shorten Seattle's field, giving you time to counter if they score a field goal, which was almost certainly going to happen even if you punted it. If they hadn't converted, sure people would've second guessed the decision, but it did so good for them.

Hots and Nots (chart via AdvancedFootballAnalytics)

anastl

Even in losses there can be incredible performances, and in the second half, Russell Wilson was incredible.

Russell Wilson - He's so hot right now

How quickly things turn in this league, eh? Makes you almost not wanna completely judge a team after a couple close losses. A week ago everyone was talking about the worst performance of Wilson's career and how this is what "experts" were predicting would happen, like the QB version of Tim Lincecum. And then on Sunday he literally takes the game over beginning in the third quarter.

Wilson had 44 dropbacks and 36 of those were throws. He completed 23 of those, but five of his 13 misses were throwaways. He turned five of those dropbacks into scrambles, including one one third-and-nine that went for 52 yards that had Wilson show more emotion on the field than we knew he had. Which is to say he does actually have emotions?

It really feels like something in Wilson did change on Sunday, probably for the better. Who knew there was "better" with Wilson?

These new receiver guys - Pretty hot, imo

The exorcising of Harvin from the roster allowed much more playing time for rookie Paul Richardson, and he was targeted five times, catching four passes for 33 yards. Fellow rookie Kevin Norwood actually made an appearance as well, and he managed to get one catch for four yards, which actually had five yards after the catch, so that's something.

Cooper Helfet came into the game with three targets on the season, but finished with six targets, three catches, and 61 yards plus a touchdown. It makes you wonder how much more playing time Helfet has earned, even when Willson and Miller are healthy.

Even Doug Baldwin found some seasonal resurgence, benefiting from nine targets and catching seven passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. Baldwin accumulated two broken/missed tackles.

How much of the Harvin deal had to do with Pete Carroll and John Schneider believing that these guys could do just as good of a job, if not better, without Harvin around?

Richard Sherman - Covering ground hot like a space heater

Sherman's assistance in the run game has been spectacular, racking up four tackles and three stops on Sunday. His nine stops on the season are well above-average for a corner. He was thrown at three times, allowing two catches for four yards and a pass deflection.

This season he's been targeted 23 times, allowing 12 catches for 191 yards, one touchdown, two pass deflections, and a two-point conversion. The interceptions aren't there, but this isn't a guy you can throw against and expect much success.

"Exposed."

What's that exposed'a mean?

Marshawn Lynch - Kinda cold

Running behind not-the-best offensive line, Lynch had 53 yards on 18 carries. He hasn't rushed for 100 yards since Week 1 and he's down about nine yards per game from where he was last year. That being said, there are still plays you see and recognize "oh yeah, that's Marshawn Lynch" and his 4.3 yards per carry is actually 0.1 higher than 2013.

Christine Michael and Robert Turbin each got two carries, but didn't do much with them, so I can't see Lynch losing many touches moving forward. Not that he should be, but he's a 28-year-old running back. There's only so much in the tank.

On the bright side, this game allowed Lynch to currently have 420 yards on the season, so ... You know.

Special teams - Ice cold, baby

Getting tricked twice is one thing, allowing a long kick return by Benny Cunningham is another. It's just a failure, period. The special teams unit was among the best in the NFL in 2013 and now they're the difference between being 3-3 and 4-2, or even better.

This is probably part of the reason why special teams coaches don't often get head coaching gigs - We have no idea how good you really are. On Sunday, the Rams ST coach, whoever the hell he is, won the day. Next week, maybe he won't.

DVOA, it's F.O.r you health (via FootballOutsiders)

dova

Seattle has been too good to see their fall in DVOA go at anything other than a molasses pace. They remain a top seven team on offense and defense, but their ST dropped from ninth last week to 21st. (Meanwhile look at the Miami Dolphins, screaming into the top 10 with a great defense and the worst ST in the NFL.)

The Denver Broncos will hold a firm grip on the number one spot for awhile, and they're one of the best-rated teams in the DVOA era through seven weeks. Their loss to the Seahawks is certainly helping Seattle's case as a top five team, when healthy.

Russell Wilson stats update

23-of-36, 313 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions, passer rating 110.1, 8.69 Y/A, seven rushes for 106 yards and one touchdown, 132 DYAR (fourth)

From Football Outsiders:

As you've probably heard by now, Wilson became the first player in NFL history to gain 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in a single game. In a case of too little, too late, Wilson was dominant on Seattle's last three drives, going 11-of-14 for 142 yards with two touchdowns and seven other first downs, while also rushing six times for 105 yard with another touchdown and three other first downs.

Wilson has already set the rushing record on Monday Night Football for a quarterback.

It was his second 100-yard rushing game of the season, which is really uncommon for quarterbacks. Even in this era, whether they're throwing for 300 yards or not. Michael Vick is the only player in NFL history to have three 100-yard games in a season and he did it twice: 2004 and 2006. He had two 100-yard games in 2010.

Wilson, Vick, Donovan McNabb, and ... Bobby Douglass and Terrelle Pryor ... are the only QBs to have multiple 100-yard rushing games in a season. Wilson still has 10 more games to get one or two more.

And even though people clamor for "yardage!" and "how many 300 yard games does this guy have?!" as if that's what makes a good QB, he's now 2-2 when he throws for 300 yards. He's 18-3 when he has a passer rating over 100.

He really willed his team to victory, like a father takes care of a son. Yeah, I'd say he really "Will-son'd" this game. Unfortunately, much like a couple games he had at Wisconsin, it just wasn't quite enough of a team effort. In this case, a special teams effort.