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In defense of defense: Seahawks’ hasn’t been that bad

Despite some recent struggles against the run and on third down, the Seahawks defense ranks third in the NFL with 25 sacks. Above, Brandon Mebane celebrates a sack of Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. (AP)

For discerning Seahawks fans and aficionados of the sweet science of defense, there have been some accusations about the Seahawks defense over the past three weeks – they’re a disappointment and not living up to expectations.

If it would please the court, I offer the following for those who over-analyze and nit-pick between Sundays:

For the prosecution

• The San Francisco 49ers’ offensive coaches found an inconsistency in the Seahawks run defense. Frank Gore and the San Francisco offense gashed the Seahawks defense for 175 yards rushing using a variety of blocking schemes that included traps and fake double-teams that left Alan Branch and Jason Jones lunging into the backfield, allowing blocking angles on the linebackers.

• On-the-field adjustments must be made and the Seahawks defense really should’ve adjusted to the 49ers’ blocking scheme.

• The Detroit Lions converted on third down 12 times, extending drives that yielded 352 yards and four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) for quarterback Matthew Stafford.

• There’s no excuse for giving up third down conversions at a 75 percent rate. If the Hawks had stopped the Lions just once on third down in the second half, they might’ve come out of Detroit with a win.

• Minnesota Vikings super back Adrian Peterson rushed for 182 yards, 169 of those yards coming on just six carries that made the Hawks defense look downright silly last Sunday.

• Peterson is just 10 months off of a very serious knee injury and was the No. 1 rusher in the NFL. How do you not get that guy on the ground?

For the defense

• The Seahawks defense held the 49ers to 13 points.

• The Lions were bound to explode and unfortunately Stafford threw some of his most accurate passes of his career that day. Those guys get paid, too.

• Peterson will be a Pro Football Hall of Famer the very second his five-year waiting period is up. Even though he ran roughshod over the Seahawks defense, they held the Vikings to under 300 yards of total offense and got a win.


• The Dallas Cowboys, fresh off of a win over the World Champion New York Giants, were held to just seven points.

• The Seahawks limited the 2011 NFL MVP, Aaron Rodgers, to an 81.5 QB rating, no touchdown passes and 12 total points for the explosive Green Bay Packers offense.

• Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton won the AP rookie of the year last season after throwing for more yards than any rookie in NFL history. He was sacked four times and handed a paltry 56.8 QB rating by the Hawks defense.

• Although Tom Brady threw for 395 yards, he was intercepted twice and held to a 79.3 rating and the potent New England Patriots offense scored just six points in the second half.

Additional findings

• The Seahawks have the No. 4 defense in the league, giving up just 309 yards per game.

• They have the No. 3 scoring defense, surrendering only 17.1 points per game.

• They are No. 3 in sacks with 25, putting them on a pace for around 45 sacks, 12 more than last year.

Not bad, and I would argue that had the possibility of these numbers been presented at the beginning of the year, most Seahawks fans would’ve said, “I’ll take that!”

Yet we expect a lot from this defense, so in order to reach elite status, there are areas of improvement that must be satisfied in this case:

Run fits. On every running play, each gap is accounted for by a particular player. The good news for the Hawks is that I’m not seeing players getting overpowered or beaten at the point of attack. It’s more about assignment and subtle adjustments in technique like staying low, attacking blockers and not over-running plays. This is a fixable problem and I’m sure that coaches like former Pro Bowl linebacker Ken Norton, Jr. will get that problem squared away.

Third down. I know that one game is a small sample size, but last week against the Vikings, the Hawks got healthy in that situation by holding Minnesota to 30 percent, largely because of big plays. Three sacks and one turnover came in third-down situations. I think they’re on the road to redemption on third down.

Turnovers. In order to be considered an elite defense in this league, you’ve got to get turnovers. Head coach Pete Carroll will tell you it’s all about the ball. The Chicago Bears rank behind the Seahawks in total defense but have 28 takeaways compared to Seattle’s 13.

It’s true that the Hawks have not had as many opportunities present themselves, but you make that happen by playing with confidence and aggressiveness. Any time you can get your hands on the ball, you have to make that play, and the Hawks have let too many of those opportunities slip away. I predict a spate of turnovers the next seven games. They tend to come in bunches.

I rest my case.