Is the 2014 Seahawks offense better or worse than last year's unit? With a Lombardi Trophy in the bag, it's easy for nostalgia to color our perception of even so recent a performance.
On the other hand, it's objectively true that Seattle won six regular-season games last year by a margin of 20+ points, compared to
only one such blowout just two blowouts thus far in 2014. Seattle has scored fewer offensive touchdowns. There are fewer deep passes and a lot more Russell Wilson runs.
On the other other hand...
Turnovers, A Lack Thereof
A query via Pro-Football-Reference.com shows 27 teams since the merger averaging no more than one turnover per game. The Seahawks are on pace to crack the top four in that category.
Caveat #1: Russell Wilson has about 9 fumbles this year (depending on whose stats you use), with zero fumbles lost. By contrast, Wilson had 10 fumbles in 2013 with exactly half being lost to the opposition. Fumble recovery is often contended to be a matter of luck, so there is no doubt an element of good fortune helping the Seahawks to a near-record pace. But some credit is due to the players who've jumped on loose balls. And more importantly, eight of Wilson's total fumbles in 2013 happened while dropping back to pass (based on the number recorded as sacks behind the line), indicating some difficulty with pass rush awareness and/or ball handling in the pocket. So far this year, only 3 of Wilson's fumbles were recorded as sacks behind the line of scrimmage, and two of these he recovered himself.
Caveat #2: Seattle is leading a league-wide trend, with several other teams (including the Packers and the Patriots) also in striking distance of the record. Changes in the rules, particularly the automatic review of all turnovers, are doubtless responsible for some part of this trend.
Caveat #... no, that's it: The similar performances by Green Bay and New England do not, by themselves, prove any rules-based trend that's benefiting all teams equally. A quick glance at the table shows that, with Rodgers and Brady at the helm, both teams are actually really good at avoiding turnovers, as both appear multiple times prior to this season (Packers 2009, 2011, 2012; Patriots 2007, 2010, 2012).
I also wondered if the partial season statistics were inherently misleading because the advent of cold weather increased turnovers. But this is not so. From 2011-2013, NFL teams committed 1.602 turnovers per game in their first 11 games. In that same span, teams committed 1.544 turnovers per game in their 12th-16th games.
It Gets (a little) Better
The PFR query includes all team turnovers, including those on special teams. Two of the Seahawks' recorded turnovers this season were a blocked punt and a blocked kick. By performing a team-by-team query on interceptions and lost fumbles, we can isolate offensive turnovers, and the stats get even more impressive:
|Team||Year||Games|| NT + |
| Off TO/ |
|Off plays||Off TO%|
(* Guesstimated for the 1990 Giants, as cumulative game queries were not available)
Cool, amirite? If the Seahawks offense commits just two turnovers over their final four games, they will tie the 2010 Patriots as the best ever. With one or zero turnovers, the Seahawks will hold the record all to themselves.
This also means that, while the rest of the league continues its yearly assault on passing records, the Seahawks are doing nearly everything that Pete Carroll believes important:
Good Defense: Seattle is #4 in points/game, #3 in yards/play, and #1 in yards/game.
Run the Ball: The Seahawks lead the league in yard/game and yards/carry, both by hefty margins.
Protect the Ball: op. cit. Sic. Q.E.D.