DANNY ONEIL

What We Learned: Reports of Seahawks’ defensive demise were greatly exaggerated

Dec 26, 2017, 1:07 PM | Updated: 1:13 pm
Seahawks linebackers...
The Seahawks linebackers were back at full strength on Sunday with K.J. Wright (middle) intercepting a pass and Bobby Wagner (right) anchoring the defense. (AP)
(AP)

Turns out the reports of Seattle’s defensive demise were greatly exaggerated.

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One week after the Seahawks were diagnosed with a fatal case of age and injuries, their defense showed this team is still stout enough to win a game in spite of its offense. That’s exactly what Seattle did on Sunday in Dallas, its defense scoring more touchdowns than it to win a game that kept the Seahawks’ playoff hopes and alive and proved that they’ve still got something to teach us all:

What we learned

1. Seattle’s run defense is this team’s weathervane.

Yes, the secondary gets most of the attention. First, there was the catchy nickname as the “Legion of Boom.” Then, it was the injuries to safety Kam Chancellor and cornerback Richard Sherman. Now, it’s for a certain All-Pro’s post-game solicitation of employment opportunities from Sunday’s opponent. But for all the time we spend talking about the defensive backs, Seattle’s run defense is what has decided things for Seattle this season. When Seattle falters in that regard, the results are ugly whether it was a Week 3 loss in Tennessee or the Week 15 reckoning against the Rams. But it’s also been the story of Seattle’s victories whether it was squeezing off the Eagles offense back at the beginning of December or what happened in Dallas as Seattle gradually cramped down on Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott rushed for 51 yards in the first quarter, that came on 11 carries. He didn’t have a single explosive run in the game, and his production waned, dropping to 22 yards rushing in the second quarter, 17 in the third and 9 in the fourth.

2. The offense has been terrible for eight quarters and counting.

The Seahawks’ offense has crossed midfield four times in the past two games. Two of those drives never got inside the opponent’s 40-yard line, which means that Seattle’s offense has moved itself into scoring position exactly twice in the past 120 minutes of play. Yet somehow Seattle found a way to go 1-1 in that stretch in spite of the fact that the Seahawks lost more yards in penalties on Sunday (142) than they gained on offense (136). It was fewest yards in net offense that Seattle had in any game since October 2013. Of course, the Seahawks won that game, too, beating the Rams 14-9 in St. Louis on a Monday night, a game in which Seattle finished with 135 yards of net offense.

3. Jimmy Graham is the second-most valuable member of Seattle’s offense.

Sounds weird, right? The guy has a total of two catches over the past three games for a grand total of 2 yards. There are sneezes that accomplish more than that. But one of those catches was worth six points, and his 10 touchdown catches are the reason the Seahawks have a winning record despite the fact that the run game goes from generally terrible to absolutely gawdawful whenever Seattle gets the ball inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. Twice, the Seahawks had first-and-goal on Sunday in Dallas. Twice the Seahawks handed off to a running back, and in each instance Seattle lost 4 yards. Graham is the most consistent scoring threat the Seahawks have, and he very well may have been the difference Sunday. Dallas had six scoring chances in the game and settled for six field-goal attempts, two of which the Cowboys missed. Seattle’s offense had two scoring chances on Sunday and got a touchdown on both trips in large part because of Graham.

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What We Learned: Reports of Seahawks’ defensive demise were greatly exaggerated