O’Neil: What flaws? The undefeated Seahawks are proving to be extraordinary in many ways
The Seahawks have been 4-0 two times under Pete Carroll. They’ve gotten there two dramatically different ways.
In 2013, Seattle was driven by a defense that didn’t allow more than 20 points in any of the team’s first four games. This season, the horsepower is being provided by an offense that has yet to score fewer than 30 points. But if we’re being honest, the Seahawks’ offense has been better so far this season than its defense was through those first four games of 2013.
Seattle gave up 476 yards of offense to the Houston Texans in the fourth game of that year, winning in overtime despite finishing with 90 yards passing in the game. Compare that to this season where Seattle has held a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter of every game this season.
Yet there seems to be more suspicion about this Seahawks team. We’re poking at this unblemished record as if we’re looking for sore spots. Maybe it’s because Seattle needed to stop Cam Newton at the goal line on the final play of Week 2. Perhaps it’s because the Seahawks needed to intercept Dak Prescott on the second-to-last play the next week. Could be that we’re just spoiled by all this success and being unbeaten in October doesn’t provide the same whiff of destiny that the city smelled seven years ago.
But for all those people pointing at the close calls, it’s worth remembering that Seattle needed a goal-line stop to preserve a Monday night in St. Louis back in 2013 – a game in which the Rams outgained Seattle 339 yards to 135 – and needed overtime to beat a thoroughly terrible Tampa Bay team at home no less.
The Seahawks have always had a penchant for cutting things close. They’re just doing it an entirely different way this season, and that – more than the margin of victory – is what we should be paying attention to. This season feels different because this Seattle team is playing different.
The Seahawks are scoring more in the first half, trailing less often at halftime. They’re throwing more passes and being penalized less. They’re getting ahead on offense, laying back on defense, and it’s going to take a little bit of getting used to.
We also need to stop fixating on the flaw. Because that flaw might be singular. Pass defense seems to be about the only thing this team doesn’t do well and it’s more than made up for by the ways in which this team is extraordinary.
Seattle is averaging 6.7 yards every time it snaps the ball on offense, second-most of any team in the league. It’s gained the third-most passing yards in the league and the Seahawks average 4.4 yards per rush, which is 11th in the league. That doesn’t sound all that great, but it’s pretty darn close to last season when the Seahawks averaged 4.6 yards per carry. That ranked 10th in the league, and Seattle finished second in the league in rushing yards. The difference this season is that Seattle isn’t running the ball nearly as often.
The Seahawks’ run defense was an issue last season, but has been a strength this season. Seattle ranks third in the league in both rush yards allowed per game and in yards per carry. Seattle’s special teams has been buttoned up as anyone’s in the league.
Seattle has given up pass yards. A boat load of them, and no amount of situational justification will erase the danger it poises. The Seahawks have allowed two different opponents to not just throw their way back into a game, but to come within a play of pulling out a victory.
The Seahawks need to get better in coverage. They need to stop more than half of the opponent’s third-down conversions, too. Right now, they’re allowing 51.9 percent of those opportunities to be converted, third-worst rate in the league.
But we shouldn’t let this flaw obscure what has been an otherwise incredible start to this season. Actually, it has been better that. It has been a perfect start.
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