SEATTLE'S DEFENSE STILL A FORCE, BUT WITH LESS THIEVERY
We continue our in-depth series on the Super Bowl today with a look at the DEFENSE of the NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks. Yesterday we studied their offense. We'll devote Thursday and Friday to the same format for the AFC Champion New England Patriots. To pick the winner you need to understand the teams!
Yesterday, we saw that Seattle's offense was productive and balanced. They can beat you in a variety of ways...with the most potent running attack in the league and a smart passing approach that picks its spots for big plays.
Last year's Seattle defense was historically great. The league had rarely, if ever seen anything quite like it. In 2014, the defense maintained much of those strengths, but really fell off the map when it came to forcing turnovers. Let's run the numbers so you can see what we're talking about...
267.1 yards-per-game (#1 in the NFL by a lot)
4.6 yards-per-play (#1 in the NFL)
It's very difficult to move the ball on this team unless you have an elite offense. We talked about the offense's slow pace yesterday...and how that pace keeps the defense fresh and rested. That's what takes the best YPP defense...and pushes them even further ahead of the pack in yards-per-game. It's hard to move the ball when they're on the field...and they're not on the field as often as everyone else!
81.5 yards-per-game (#3 in the NFL)
3.4 yards-per-carry (#2 in the NFL)
23.8 carries-per-game: (fourth fewest in the NFL)
A very slight step backward here from the very best to just one of the best. It's not like you can control your destiny on the ground against them. They'll let you chip away here and there before lowering the boom. Note that few teams run a lot against Seattle because they see a brick wall...and because they're often trailing by enough that it's a losing proposition. Teams don't want to run out the clock on themselves when trailing.
185.6 yards-per-game (#1 in the NFL)
6.3 yards-per-pass (#2 in the NFL)
31.7 passes-per-game: (fewest in the NFL)
This is where the "freshness" of the defense really kicks in. Seattle opponents are often trailing in the second half, and therefore HAVE to pass to try to stay in the game. Yet, the Seattle pass defense faced FEWER passes than any other team! The offense runs so much clock that opponents just don't run all that many plays overall. And, for that matter, the defense's tendency to "keep everything in front of them" also runs a lot of clock. Seattle is the masters of getting a game over with when they're ahead.
23 in the regular season (#21 in the NFL)
This was the big surprise of the year. Last season's team had 39 takeaways! That's exactly one takeaway less per game this season. Think about that for awhile. Take this year's defense...add in one extra steal per game...and that gives you last year's defense! This is why the 2013 defense was historically fantastic...but why the 2014 defense is more vulnerable against good offenses.
In summary...Seattle's defense is still extremely difficult to deal with. But, talented offenses can at least drive the ball for field goals more often...and even touchdowns if they can make a play in the red zone. Also worth noting, it's harder for Seattle to run away and hide from opponents because they aren't getting cheap field position points off takeaways.
All told...Seattle is still playing like a champion. If you believe that DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS, then this is the best defense in the league at the point of attack and at denying yardage overall. The offense is balanced and dangerous. There is nothing in the raw numbers to suggest Seattle can't repeat. To this point in our handicapping process, it looks like Seattle should be the favorite. Let's see what we learn over the next two days with the Patriots.
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Back to the statistical grindstone tomorrow. Here's what's ahead this week in the NOTEBOOK.
Thursday: Analysis of the New England Patriots' OFFENSE
Friday: Analysis of the New England Patriots' DEFENSE
Saturday: Super Bowl preview with JIM HURLEY'S key indicators
Sunday: Super Bowl game day notes
Now you have a fuller understanding of what makes Seattle tick. We'll pin down the same parameters for New England in short order. Then, you'll be ready to make the right choices this weekend. When championships are on the line, YOU NEED WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!
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