The Seahawks beat the Cowboys 13-12 on Sunday, and can now sit back and enjoy their bye week coming off of a win. To break down some of the advanced stats from Seattle's big win (and yes, every road win is a big win when you're 3-4 or any record, really), I chatted with Jim Seki of Pro Football Focus, and here are some things he told me.
Jim's comments in blockquotes, with my notes following.
Russell Wilson failed to connect on four deep passing attempts but did excel over the middle, going 12 of 13 for 141 yds and a TD.
This stat factoid is great, and really confirms what I saw when I was putting together my piece from yesterday on Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson's effectiveness over the middle of the field.
Those four deep shots were, off memory, 1) a shot down the right sideline to Graham, which was just out of reach, 2) a shot down the left sideline to Doug Baldwin, where he was pushed out of bounds and had no shot, 3) a shot down the right sideline to Chris Matthews, and another deep shot to Baldwin down the right side (not sure if that's the order).
There were also some missed opportunities to Doug Baldwin, as Sheil Kapadia pointed out at ESPN. Per Sheil:
Russell Wilson deserves credit for making enough plays to get the offense in field-goal range on the final game-winning drive against the Cowboys. But the truth is, this was probably his most uneven performance of the season. The offensive game plan was sound, but the Seahawks only scored one touchdown on nine possessions and left plays on the field all game. Wilson threw behind Jimmy Graham on an over route early on. Later, he executed a beautiful play fake and had Graham wide open but was late with his throw, which hung in the air and was incomplete.
After the game, Wilson talked about missed opportunities to wide receiver Doug Baldwin, and those showed up on film. He had Baldwin wide open down the sideline in the second, but missed badly while throwing on the run. And on the final drive, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell dialed up a concept that got Baldwin open in the end zone, but Wilson took off and scrambled. Protection was good for most of the game, and maybe that's something Wilson wasn't expecting, given how the first half of the season has gone. Overall, his numbers are excellent (68.8 percent completions, 8.03 YPA). But Wilson missed several opportunities against Dallas in a game which the Seahawks easily could have won by two touchdowns.
Note that a few of these misses downfield were "redline" style shots, which really haven't had a whole lot of success this year. Maybe it's the personnel, maybe it's inaccuracy on Wilson's part, not sure. That's an area to watch as the season goes on, because we know that's been a big part of their offense over the years. Getting Paul Richardson back will be nice.
Per Steve Palazzolo, Wilson has gained 233 yards on his 33 scrambles this season (7.1 yards per carry), not including his 15 carries for 75 yards (5.0 yards per carry) on designed runs.
Wilson only has 15 true carries in eight games. I would have to think that's a huge jump down from last year. Most likely by design -- the Seahawks have gone away from the read option a little bit and really only pull it out at key times later in games, it seems. Or, at least, Wilson is more willing to run it up into the briar patch on keepers when the game is "on the line" so to speak. This makes sense. The team likely doesn't want Wilson taking too many shots considering how much he's being sacked.
Jimmy Graham was targeted six times over the middle of the field, hauling all but one of them in. Also interesting is that he caught six of seven targets when lined up on the left side of the formation while only one of three when on the right. Looking at those numbers on the year, things are balanced so it could just be a single-game, schematic type of thing.
I know that Graham had at least two nice catches on simple slant routes when aligned outside to the left. I'm guessing that Seki is right in that it was just a schematic matchup thing in this game, but something to monitor.
Lynch graded well even though his 21 attempts for 71 yards doesn't look that appealing. Twelve of his attempts were towards the left side of the line, five of which were off left guard (highest in terms of run position frequency). He also threw in six missed tackles forced, second-most on the week behind Devonta Freeman and Doug Martin.
Lynch doing Lynch things with regard to those missed tackles. At this point you almost take it for granted.
As ESPN's Kapadia wrote this morning,
Pete Carroll and Bevell have been pretty clear that their preference is to use less-zone read and more under-center runs. But in this game, the shotgun runs were what worked. Marshawn Lynch carried eight times for 38 yards (4.75 yards per carry) with Wilson in shotgun. When Wilson was under center, he ran 13 times for 33 yards (2.54 yards per carry).
Lynch is averaging 3.64 yards per carry this season, which ranks 40th out of 50 qualifying players, per ESPN Stats & Information.
As for the OL...
The starting interior offensive line graded out very well, each of whom finished with a +1.2 pass block grade. Though his struggles are well-documented, Justin Britt had a good run blocking game. In fact, he's the third-best run-blocking LG in the last two weeks.
Justin Britt! This nice grade by PFF jibes with things I've heard from a few other people this week that have watched the offensive line closely. If Britt can pick up his game in the second half that would be a huge boon to the Seattle line and offense in general, obviously.
Dallas blitzed on only three of Wilson's drop-backs, good for a 9.1% blitz rate. That's well below their 17.7% rate coming into the game so while Seattle only gave up six QB hurries on the game, they really only had to account for a four-man rush most of the time.
This tempers the whole "hooray, they didn't give up a sack!" thing a little bit obviously, but it's still a praiseworthy accomplishment considering how the year has gone. The Dallas strategy will be an interesting one to monitor going forward -- will teams lay off of blitzes considering Wilson's effectiveness in the face of pressure? Or is this a one-game anomaly?
Richard Sherman was absolutely dialed in, elevating his game to spoil Dez Bryant's first game back.
Sherman's alignment on pass plays: LCB 21, RCB 10, slot CB 1. His four passes defensed were double that of any other corner this week.
Sherman was all over the place making plays -- had several near-picks, was moving around and playing everywhere, as evidenced by the alignment tracking, and generally speaking he was playing like a shutdown cornerback. Which is no surprise. It bugged me earlier in the year when people were talking about how he's "fallen off" or something because he's been really, really good this year even without the interception totals we've come to know.
The Seahawks sent more than four pass rushers on only two of Cassel's 32 drop-backs. Against the Niners they sent five rushers only five times (30 dropbacks). Cassel only attempted three passes over 10 yards, one of which was the semi-Hail Mary at the end of the game, completing none of them.
Getting pressure with only four guys if you can is the name of the game. Considering Cassell's effectiveness in this game, and Colin Kaepernick's in the Niners game, it didn't make a whole lot of sense for Seattle to blitz. Just get pressure with four and blanket receivers downfield.
K.J. Wright is really playing well this year—he led Seahawks linebackers in overall grading and was the only other player to get a green coverage grade. Looking at the updated figures, he's currently the highest-rated coverage 4-3 OLB. His 7.3 yards/completion allowed 79.8 QB rating against are both top-five, enhanced even more when factoring in he's played more snaps than any other 4-3 OLB in the top 15.
The Seahawks had talked about getting KJ Wright's coverage errors fixed during the offseason so it's pretty cool to see that those adjustments (which they said were all they needed -- simple adjustments) have worked well.
The weekly Avril & Bennett summary isn't as good as past weeks simply because of Dallas' elite offensive line. Still, they did muster three QB hurries between them and buckled down when it counted in the end.
Yep -- that Dallas OL played well, but had this play counted (as it maybe should have), Cliff Avril would be getting his due propers.
We were all so concerned about fumble/incomplete we forgot to notice how Avril KILLED Free on this play. DESTROYED pic.twitter.com/uwPpVg6sbw— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) November 3, 2015
Wilson's QB accuracy rate has been steadily declining since the start of the season. Starting at about 80.0%, yesterday's game featured a season-low 69.0%. This could be something to watch for but an alternative hypothesis could be that he's more dialed in when under duress.
I'm guessing that this is more just "regression to the mean" than anything but we'll see. He was definitely inaccurate on a few big plays this week. As Seki points out, is it that "harder to make a wide open shot than one where you're being mugged" thing you see sometimes in basketball? Perhaps.
Graham was targeted ten times in the game and it's the second time he's hit the double-digit mark in the last three weeks. Over that span, his 25 targets and 2.76 yards/route run rank fourth and third, respectfully, among TEs. When he's lined up in the slot, his 34.4% target rate is the highest, averaging 3.22 yards/route run.
All good things here. All good things.
Seattle's OL allowed zero sacks and only seven QB pressures this week, ranking sixth in pass block efficiency at 84.1.
On the year, Sherman is only being targeted once every 10.6 coverage snaps and allowing a reception once every 18.4 coverage snap. Both rank in the top three among corners who've played more than half their team's defensive snaps.
Again: there is nothing wrong with Richard Sherman and he has not regressed. Stop it with that mess.
Opponent time to throw:
We've been tracking opponent time to throw over the past few weeks and after steadily creeping down (opposing quarterbacks were starting to get the ball out more quickly) of late, it went back up (longer to throw) a little bit this week. Might be due to Seattle's decision to pretty much not blitz the last two weeks, as Seki pointed out above.