FanPost

The Curious Case of Seattle's Benjamin Button Wilson and the Incredible Shrinking Rush Defense of the Lucky 8-1 Seahawks

Carolina

Hawks are good narrative: Seattle opened the season a million miles from home at 10am against a great front-7. They came out sleepy but eventually woke up. RW completed 75% of his passes for 320 yards and one spectacular TD pass to Kearse. In the end, the defense forced a turnover and RW was able to ice the game with a 5:34 12 play dive.

Hawks are lucky narrative: Lynch was bottled-up for just 43 yards on 17 carries. CAR drive chart: punt, punt, punt, TD, punt, punt, fumble on the 8 yard line going in. CAR rushed for 134 yards, the last play being a 16 yarder right up the gut. Hawks were penalized 9 times for 99 yards, mostly holding penalties on Okung and the standard DPI and unnecessary roughness in the 2ndary. CAR defense dominated, sacking Wilson twice including a strip-sack causing a turnover and also causing a few 3-and-outs. The CAR offense did nothing, scoring just 7 points. Actually, the offense ran the ball very well; it was Cam who couldn't convert when needed. SEA didn't do anything either, having scored only 12 points, but escapes with a lucky road win. OK.

San Francisco

Hawks are good narrative: SEA dominated SF 29-3 in a resounding blow-out in front of the loudest crowd ever.

Lucky: Eric Reid went out with a concussion with 2:00 in the first half. Vernon Davis popped a hammie on an interception play. Ian Williams had his ankle broke by a block similar to the one that took Gerald McCoy out of his contest against the Hawks. With 2:25 left in the 3rd this was a 3-12 game when Nnamdi Asbeencut was called for a questionable DPI that gifted 40 yards to a struggling Seattle offense, giving them the ball on the SF 24. Seattle then had a holding penalty putting them in 3rd and 28 from the 42, which was luckily converted to a first down after an unnecessary roughness penalty on Aldon Smith – against the same OLman who had compelled a similar act from a CAR defender the week before resulting in his ejection. Then the replacement Dahl blitzed ineffectively leaving Lynch with the walk in TD reception. RW completed 8 passes and didn't find any luck until Reid went out. SF turned it over 5 times. Lots of holding, lots of noise, lots of injuries, and lots of luck all going against SF.

Jacksonville

Good: Win probability was never below 91% for Seattle. In fact, just 4 minutes in to the game it was >97%, and would become 99.9% by the end of the first half.

Luck: They faced the back-up QB on the 2nd worst team in the league, at home.

Texans

Good: In another 10am game Sherman ties the game to cement a 17 point comeback, Seattle wins in OT.

Lucky: Seattle was down 20-3 at half. RW completed 12 passes for 123 yards and an INT. Like CAR, HOU was able to bottle-up RW in the pocket and keep his scrambling to a minimum, while holding him to less than 50% completion. SEA was being dominated by talent and scheme. It wasn’t until Brian Cushing’s steroid-addled limbs exploded (yet again) that Seattle’s offense started doing the only thing it can do against smart defenses, the scramble drill. He rushed 10 times for 77 yards and many key 1st downs, mostly after that injury to his ‘spy’. Then, up by 7 with 5:00 to go, Schaub executed his now patented pick-6 for what feels like the 15th consecutive game to Texans fans. Seattle still didn’t kick the game winning FG until 3:00 left in OT. Again, injuries, offensive ineptitude, and luck.

At this point Seattle sits atop the power rankings behind the narrative that they are a juggernaut who is unbeatable at home, that they will have HFA in the playoffs and therefore are de facto Super Bowl participants. Nobody in Seattle is wearing pants. Yet, the blueprint for smothering Seattle’s offense is out. Do not let RW out of the pocket. They posted a -8 EPA in this game, against CAR it was just +2, and vs SF it was -2. Not doing so hot. Can anybody capitalize?

Colts

Good: Seahawks lost because the Colts 2ndary holds a lot. Another 10am game where Seattle played a good team real tough.

Lucky: RW completed less than 50% of his passes, 15-31, for 210 yards and an INT, but also 2 TDs. This is the only winning team Seattle has played, and they lost.

The Hawks now return home to play the Titans before going on the road for ARI and StL. These 3 teams are currently a combined 11-16. They played against 2 back-ups and an interception-perpetual-motion-machine, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Palmer, and Clemens. In these 3 games their offensive EPA were all negative, -1.7, -5.2, and -8.9 – sharply and deeply trending downwards. But that’s OK, as the story goes, RW is short but he can get out of the pocket and their OL might not be great healthy but it’s atrocious when injured. So their offense will come around as the defense wins games… so the story goes…

Against Tennessee the Hawks did hold them to 66 yards rushing, but they were facing (again) the 2nd string QB (at home). A dynamic scrambler like Locker makes a huge difference, just ask Seattle’s offense. Seattle won 20-13. Fitzpatrick threw 2 INTs and TEN fumbled 5 times as a team, losing 2, for a total of 4 turnovers on the road. This was a 10-13 game at 11:00 of the 4th qtr when Fitz threw his 2nd interception. Fitz rebounded by immediately driving for a FG to make it 13-20, and then, the defense had Seattle on 3rd and 4 at mid-field with 2 timeouts in their pocket after the 2:00 warning. On the next play a TEN defender went off-sides, gifting Seattle a first down another lucky win. Good teams do need a bit of luck.

Arizona

Good: Seattle went in to ARI and pounded the Cardinals 34-22.

Lucky: Seattle was penalized 10 times, again, lots of holding on the OL and DPI per usual. RW lost 2 fumbles, as a team they fumbled 4 times. They have turned it over twice in 6 games this season. The key to the game; Palmer threw a quick INT, leading to a quick 14 point deficit. As such, ARI ran it only 14 times for a paltry 30 yards and surrendered 7 sacks as Seattle had their ears pinned back from start to finish.

And this, my Faithful friends, is where the worm turns.

Rams

Good: Seattle goes into St. Luis on a Monday night against a game pass rush to squeak out a tough divisional game 14-9. Golden Tate is a clutch player who makes big catches and Seattle has a great defense that only gave up 3 FGs.

Lucky: Seattle again commits 10 penalties - but does not turn the ball over, in what could have been the difference in the game. Clemens is a wildly inaccurate QB who also makes poor reads. He gifted 2 easy INTs in the early portion of the game when the Rams were otherwise moving the football. We’ll get back to that. Let’s talk about Seattle’s offense.

Outside of that 80 yard 50/50 jump-ball Tate was lucky to come down with, RW threw for just 11 (e-l-e-v-e-n) yards. He completed just 10 passes and was sacked 7 times. They rushed for 44 yards as a team, 16 by RW, 5 by Turbin, and just 23 yards on 8 carries for Lynch (2.9ypc). Their 1st touchdown came on a 26 yard drive off an INT. Their 2nd TD was a 2 play 00:16 drive from their 20. Outside of that they punted 9 times (9 times?) and amassed a whopping 28 yards of offense. Legatron missed a FG late in the 4th which proved important after the Rams subsequently forced another 3-and-out. Seattle’s vaunted defense had second-string Clemens pinned on his own 3 yard line with a few minutes left in a 1 score game. 7 plays later the Rams had 1st and 10 at the SEA 21 yard line. Then they stopped rushing the football.

Let’s highlight a particular issue with the Seattle defense: the Rams rushed for 200 yards on 37 carries (5.4ypc).

The Rams dominated Seattle by following the blueprint; rush the football and smother RW inside the pocket. He doesn’t like that. If he can throw the ball to the sidelines he’ll be comfortable from within the pocket, and if he can scramble he’s particularly dangerous. Also, his WRs are well coached on the scramble drill and to go up for jump balls in addition to his own ability to pick up 1st downs on the ground. But, if you have a good DL, like CAR, HOU, SF, StL or ARI, making him very uncomfortable inside the pocket can be accomplished rather easily.

But there’s something else. Here is your breaking news, Ninersnation. RW's dirty little secret: he hates the middle of the field. He has not attempted a single deep pass down the middle of the field in 9 games this season. Not a single one. How about shallow-middle? On 231 passes he’s targeted the short middle area just 40 times, 17% of all attempts. In their game at Indianapolis, RW attempted zero passes inside the numbers, shallow or deep. Their only loss. A coincidence? I think not. Sugar-rush him in the pocket and give him the middle of the field – just the opposite of really any QB in the NFL. Most QBs you try to flush while taking away the easy dumps in the middle of the field. This is a profound limitation. His limitations plays severely into the hands of any good defense - outside of the Prison Yard. It's mildly preposterous. So what would happen when the win-less Bucs and the gangly rookie QB travel into the (2nd) greatest HFA we've ever seen..?..

Tampa Bay

Good: Hawks got trapped by a game team down on their luck, giving up some gimmicky plays called by a staff with their back against the wall, but did what good teams do and that’s win ugly. 9-1 fools!

Lucky: RW was intercepted twice but not sacked - the sugar rush. He was running in circles behind the LOS as TB blitzed to the launch point rather than to the QB. Really not hard to do for even the worst team in the NFL. Tampa jumped out to a 21-0 lead, but at 9:53 of the 3rd qtr they scored their final points of the game, a FG to go up 24-7. After that, they punted 6 straight times as SEA ran the ball down their throats (McCoy, their star DLman, had gone out after getting his ankle chopped much like Ian Williams) as SEA slowly came back to tie it and then win in OT. For the final stalemate 2.5 quarters Tampa's rookie QB failed to get into FG range for the would-be game winner. Tampa Bay rushed for 205 yards on 38 carries (5.4ypc). The exact total and proportion the lowly Rams achieved the week prior. 37/200 and 38/205. That's a soft run D.

In 5 of their wins SEA has faced at QB: a rookie on the only win-less team, the now-fired Schaub who gifted them a victory, and 3 back-ups on horrible teams. Somehow, they have gotten to play 2 of the worst teams in modern NFL history, at home. Their last 2 opponents have a combined record of 3-14 and were each led by QBs who were not the starter to begin the season. Despite no requirement to keep men in coverage to protect against the pass, the Hawks allowed 5.4ypc on a combined 75 rushes for 405 yards in just two games. That's either bad coaching (by an 'established' staff) or a lack of talent (as a fully healthy defensive squad). There is no help on the way. They aren't going to get more talented or tougher or better coached overnight. The worm has turned. People say Seattle’s problem is their injured OL. Yeah. That is a problem but is it not the problem. There are actually 2 additional problems that are much more fatal. Their front-7 isn’t going to get any better at stopping the run and Russel Wilson isn't suddenly going to begin knifing darts over the middle - and definitely not from the pocket. But back to the other thing, look man, their OL sucks. It wasn't great when healthy. They have more holding penalties than any other team and no that's no longer an adjustment to having their QB scrambling in curly-Q's behind them. Their FO has not made it a priority. In the last off season they signed no OLman of consequence while only spending a 7th round pick on the OL. They lack the talent. We know how valuable holding can be when you don't have the talent to compete can be, in a Super Bowl game, for instance. We also know first-hand, as the Bucs learned, how devastating cut-blocks from behind can be to a DL.

Even though their OL sucks and isn't going to get much better if ever healthy, this isn't their biggest flaw. With Lynch breaking tackles, their OL breaking ankles, and RW breaking outside the pocket, this dearth of talent and coaching along the OL might not even matter. What we are talking about is an offense that can't pass to the middle of the field let alone from the pocket, and a defense that cannot stop the run at all. These aren't minor, let alone fixable, issues. This is who we'll see at the Stick.

Now, the best teams create their own luck, so please don't think I’m purporting that they are a team who is worse than their record. I'm saying they are lucky - but that doesn't mean they aren't dangerous. Lucky teams do win championships. Then again, sooner or later, good luck does come up against The Inconvenient Truth.

With Aldon, Tank and Dial in the lineup, I’m really interested to see if we can follow the blueprint to bottle-up Russell Wilson while unleashing the league’s #1 rushing offense on what is at present moment the worst rush defense in the NFL. Without the half-second jump their HFA awards their defense, it's going to be a different game, especially as they try to stop Gore. Keapernick is a dynamic down-field passer, but without a guy who can get separation on the outside our entire offense struggles a bit. Getting 1 or both WR's back should be huge. We have become accustomed to having the fiercest front-7, but without our NT things have weakened. Let's hope Dial or Tank can help bring our defense back to the top. The main advantage is this, we are getting a lot more talented in the coming weeks and our players nor our scheme are flawed in any a major way.

Seattle hasn't won in SF since ... whenever... and it's not like RW lit it up last time.

So the question is, Do you feel lucky, punk?

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors.

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