What makes the Seahawks so similar to Chiefs a year before Super Bowl win

Nov 11, 2020, 1:47 AM

Seahawks Russell Wilson...

The Seahawks handed the 2018 Chiefs one of their four losses in the regular season. (AP)


If the Seahawks ultimately fall short of their quest to get to the Super Bowl this season, it will be disappointing for the team and the fan base for obvious reasons. It would also be repeating the story of the team that this installment of the Seahawks look so much like: The 2018 Kansas City Chiefs.

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Those Chiefs started 5-0 and finished 12-4 in the regular season, good enough for the best record in the AFC, and ultimately made it to the conference title game but fell short of reaching the Super Bowl.

The Seahawks also started 5-0, are currently 6-2 at the midway point (putting them on pace for a 12-4 record), and depending on how things go with the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints (and maybe the Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals), could be good enough for the NFC’s No. 1 seed.

But the similarities are much more than just basic math when it comes to wins and losses. The 2020 Seahawks are walking in the footsteps of the 2018 Chiefs in so many different ways that it’s worth diving deep to truly see just how similar the two teams are.

New-look explosive offenses

By now you’ve heard the rallying call of Seahawks Twitter that has been co-opted by commentators and analysts across the nation: Let Russ Cook.

Let Russ Cook, in a nutshell, is letting Seahawks star quarterback Russell Wilson be the focal point of Seattle’s offense more than he already was. He’s passing more, especially early in games and on early downs when the team would have previously tried to establish the run, and the Seahawks’ offense is being more aggressive in general, particularly in short-yardage situations.

Since Pete Carroll took over as Seahawks head coach in 2010, Seattle has been known for a tough, physical brand of football led largely by a power running scheme. Marshawn Lynch and Chris Carson have been the bruisers the Seahawks have ridden to victory while Wilson, though still able to make incredible plays, often played second fiddle.

But while Wilson continued to grow as a player and passer, the Seahawks’ once historically good defense was anything but in the past few seasons, resulting in Wilson having to lead his team to come-from-behind wins by taking over games late. It worked most of the time but hardly seemed sustainable. Now, the Seahawks are letting Wilson throw more than ever and he has them at 6-2, putting up the best passing totals of his nine-year career.

How does that compare to the 2018 Chiefs?

The year before, the Chiefs had a really good offense with Alex Smith running the show, but they still ran the ball well while Smith was known more for making accurate short and intermediate passes. In 2018, that changed when second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes took over. And with his cannon of an arm, Kansas City’s offense took off.

In 2018, the Chiefs were first in points per game and yards per game with 35.3 and 425.6, respectively. Mahomes threw for 50 touchdown passes and over 5,000 yards, and he won the MVP award.

In Seattle this season, the first with the “Let Russ Cook” mindset for the Seahawks and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, the Hawks have been nearly as great.

Currently, the Seahawks lead the NFL in points per game with 34.3 and are third in yards per game at 415 – pretty darn close to what Kansas City put up two seasons ago. Wilson is also fourth in the NFL in passing yards at 2,541, which puts him on pace for over 5,000 yards for the first time in his career, and he’s tops in the NFL in passing touchdowns through Week 9 with 28, on pace for 56. That would be the most in a single season in NFL history.

So basically, with new-look offenses, the two teams and their quarterbacks either set the league on fire with gaudy numbers or are currently doing so. But wait, the similarities aren’t even close to being over.

The defenses are and were … not great!

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but since the start of the 2019 season, the Seahawks have been pretty darn bad on defense, especially this year.

And, you guessed it, it was a similar situation in the state of Missouri in 2018.

Seattle is currently allowing the third-most points per game at 30.4 and are also giving up the most yards per game at 455.8. Kansas City’s defense struggled in 2018 that year, though not nearly as bad as the Seahawks this season. The Chiefs allowed the ninth-most points per game at 26.3 and the second-most yards at 405.5.

A big reason why the Chiefs were so successful despite the porous defense was due not only to an explosive offense but because the defense was opportunistic.

Know how Carroll preaches turnovers? Well, the Chiefs were ninth in turnovers forced and were third in turnover ratio. And even after turning the ball over four times while forcing none on defense in their most recent loss to Buffalo, the Seahawks are ninth in turnover ratio and are fourth in turnovers forced.

One big difference, though? Sacks.

After a seven-sack surprise on Sunday, the Seahawks are 17th in the league with 19, on pace for 38. The Chiefs, meanwhile, were tops in the NFL in 2018 with 52 sacks.

With all those various offensive and defensive statistics out of the way, let’s look at how Seattle’s Week 9 loss to the Bills really seals how similar these two teams are.

Their losses are nearly identical

As noted, the Seahawks are 6-2, on pace for 12-4. The 2018 Chiefs went 12-4 and lost in a playoff game. Those five losses line up really similarly to Seattle’s two 2020 losses.

The Seahawks’ defeats have come to good teams in the Arizona Cardinals and the Bills. The Cardinals entered the Week 7 game at 4-2 and the Bills were 6-2 before they beat the Seahawks. The Bills won 44-34 in Week 9 while the Cardinals won 37-34 in overtime in Week 7. Average amount of points Seattle allowed in those two games: 40.5. The average points the Seahawks scored: 34.

The Chiefs’ 2018 losses also all came agains good teams.

The first was a 43-40 defeat to the 3-2 New England Patriots. Next was a 54-51 loss to the 9-1 Los Angeles Rams. The third loss was also close, a 29-28 loss to the 10-3 Los Angeles Chargers. And the final Kansas City loss of the 2018 regular season came in Seattle against the Seahawks, dropping the Week 16 contest 38-31.

In the playoffs, the Chiefs had another shot at the Patriots, but fell again, this time 37-31 in the AFC title game. The Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl over the Rams.

In those five losses, the Chiefs allowed an average of 40.2 points while scoring 36.2 points per game.

The quarterbacks’ numbers are also extremely similar when you compare Seattle’s two losses to the first two games Kansas City dropped.

Overall, Mahomes had 18 touchdowns and seven turnovers in five losses. In the first two losses, he had 10 touchdowns to seven turnovers, and the only non-Mahomes touchdown was a defensive one, giving the Chiefs 11 touchdowns in the two games.

Wilson in the Seahawks’ two losses this season has six total touchdowns and seven turnovers. The Seahawks also had rushing touchdowns from players not named Wilson in each loss, so eight touchdowns for the offense in those two games.

Sum it up

Despite the two losses and the ugly defensive numbers, the Seahawks are still having a great season. The 2018 Chiefs also had a great season, especially on offense.

Is it the worst thing in the world to be compared to a team that made the conference title game? No. Would it be better if the Seahawks surpassed the Chiefs and made the Super Bowl? Totally. But the numbers are just too close to not see similarities.

So what does that tell us? Maybe that 2020 won’t be the year for the Seahawks.

It’s awfully hard to consistently win with those kinds of numbers on defense, even if your offense is great. Just look at the 2018 Chiefs’ five losses. The bright side if you’re buying into the comparison, though, is that the Chiefs took a step forward on defense and went on to win the Super Bowl in 2019, ending a 50-year championship drought.

For the Seahawks, a 2021 Super Bowl title would break an eight-year drought. That wouldn’t be too bad, even if you may be holding out hope for it to end at seven.

Follow Brandon Gustafson on Twitter.

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