The Elephant in the Locker Room: Can the Vikings Put the Big Hurt on the Hawks?
By Greg Wright
In a carbon-copy conversation from a year ago, the Seahawk D has been a popular topic in the press this week. And why? It’s simple.
The Seahawks have allowed the fewest points to opponents four years running. It’s almost entirely unheard of in the history of the game, and supposedly impossible in the “salary cap era.”
One particularly pleasing element to the conversation is that the offense is getting some love, too. One of the ways that teams can keep opponents from scoring points is by playing keepaway–by winning the time-of-possession battle and scoring plenty of points of their own. And as I’ve noted in recent weeks, the Seahawks have been doing that. What’s different this year, as plenty of other journalists have noted, is that the Seahawks now post a top-tier offense which has set a variety of club records.
Now, does that diminish what the defense has accomplished? Not entirely. There is, however, that yards-yielded-per-minute-of-possession issue I noted a couple weeks ago. As we saw in the Rams game, the Hawks are now most vulnerable when the offense falters because the defense seems to have more trouble getting the opposing team off the field than they have in the past. Two years ago, the Seahawks could lose the time-of-possession battle and still win the game. Not so likely now.
What’s really amazing nonetheless is that the Hawks’ defensive stats have been accomplished this year in spite of the fact that the D is no longer a surprise to the rest of the league. After four years, other teams know the formula for beating the Seahawks D–being patient with the short passing game, and exploiting seams in middle-of-the-field zone coverage. And yet only a handful of teams have been able to leverage that knowledge… and only one, Pittsburgh, was able to to do that consistently through four quarters of play. And still the Seahawks gave up fewer points than anybody else, even with Chancellor missing almost half the regular season. Remarkable.
Still, as I noted a year ago, Pete Carroll’s emphasis on “finishing” is a hallmark of the team’s performance. Once again, they’re peaking at the right time heading into the playoffs.
I’ve fleshed out my “Maximum Point Deficit” stats to include last year’s post-season and this year’s regular season–again because no one else has bothered to.
The following table lists the maximum points the Hawks have trailed by in every game under Pete Carroll.
Once again, on average, the Seahawks’ maximum scoring deficit at any point during a game is just over 5. That’s amazing. What’s even more amazing is that even in outlier games like this year’s 19-point-deficit affair with the Cardinals, the Seahawks are capable of overcoming those deficits and taking a lead.
And look at all those zeroes in the last eight weeks of the season! Pete Carroll’s teams really do know how to finish strong.
The numbers, of course, bode well for the playoffs.
And yet… you can see that Seattle’s post-season numbers (the Super Bowl season aside) don’t really match up to the regular-season stats. That’s natural, to a degree, as the level of competition is stiffer in the playoffs. But if the Hawks are going to make a serious run at four road victories and a Super Bowl win this postseason, they’re going to have to find ways to get the lead early and keep it. Coming from behind on the road is a tall order.
But the prognosis is still very good, as with last year:
- Seattle is almost certain not to trail by more than 10 in any post-season game this year… and that figure will likely be 7 or less;
- every game will at the very least be closely contested;
- the Hawks will likely hold a lead at some point in each…
- and the Seahawks know how to finish.
And again… what’s different this year is that offense. If it continues to click, Seattle will be back in the Big Show. If it doesn’t… the D is going to have to up its game and stop yielding so many yards per minute.
I love being wrong when my wrongness results in a Seattle win. I love it even more when I am so supremely wrong that the Hawks completely thump the division leaders when I predict a loss.
I’m not so happy about being wrong in my prediction that Lynch would be back in the lineup before the close of the season. I’m less than thrilled that he’s not even travelling to Minnesota.
Nonethless… the universal opinion this week is that this game will not be a repeat of Seattle’s beatdown when the Vikings and Hawks met a few weeks ago. With that much I agree.
I actually think it will feel worse, though, even if the scoreboard doesn’t show it. The Viking offense looked terrible against the Packers last week, and the Packers are in a world of hurt. With Chancellor back, the D will be whipped up in a frenzy. It’s going to look like a shark attack, and Seattle’s offense will keep doing its part. With the short field on the kicking game, Seattle will win the Special Teams battle as well.
Look for a big, big Seattle win. Seahawks 32, Vikings 12.
After two Super Bowl appearances in a row, everyone’s paying attention… yet even with all the scrutiny, it seems that there’s always some key issue that’s getting glossed over. It’s the elephant in the locker room, if you will, and gosh darn if I’ll let that ride. Join us on Saturday mornings for a little closer look at our NFC West Champions.