Crushed Optimists

We are twin brothers who grew up in Central Washington. This blog is devoted to the life of Seattle sports fans, as well as various other topics that we will espouse for your enjoyment. We could be called another OFFICIAL SEATTLE SEAHAWKS site, but we'll take our uneducated crack at the Mariners, Sonics, and Huskies as well. A Seattle Sports Blog? Must be the land... of crushed optimism!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Hawks at the Halfway Point

I wanted to take some time to correct a wrong assumption about why our beloved Seahawks are 5-3. Most people blame the departure of Steve Hutchinson and the other offensive injuries (Hasselbeck, Alexander, Engram). They look at the offensive dropoff from the juggernaut of a year ago and throw up a "of course" at the team.

"Of course", they're wrong. Don't misunderstand, the offense hasn't been good. However, it's virtually impossible to put together a decent statistical analysis of their efforts. It's been like a season of one-game sample sizes, what with all those injuries. When we get to the end of the season and look back, who's going to care about our overall ranking? I sure hope the answer is no one, because we're going to be a heck of a lot better than currently constituted with the NFL MVP and best QB in the NFC.

No, my friends, the reason we are 5-3 is because of a wildly inconsistent defense. The easiest way to see this is simply taking a look at the scoreboard. We held the Lions to 6 points, the Cardinals to 10 points, the Giants to 3 through three quarters, and shut out the Raiders. You could even argue they were the biggest reason for the defeat of the Rams in the second half of that one. When we lost they got dominated, giving up 37, 31, and 35 points respectively.

The question begs some similarities between our defense and Rex Grossman. You put the season together and it looks mediocre, but that's a lousy analysis. Either you've been great, or terrible beyond belief.

So, are there threads between the wins and losses that can be tied together? Are there further discrepancies?

Of course, there are the big plays. We've gone over these before, but it's worth mentioning again. The ONLY reason Minnesota beat us was because we could not contain the big play against a mediocre offense.

Next up are third down conversions. Chicago (6-15), Minnesota (5-14), and Kansas City (6-13). That's actually not too bad, although (and I can't find the appropriate data) I know we've given up far more than our share of third and longs. In our wins Detroit (5-14), Arizona (6-14), NY Giants (2-9), St Louis (8-15), and Oakland (3-15) all (except Oakland, of course) had similar success on the down, and the Rams were almost dominant (not a good sign for Sunday). I'm actually moderately surprised by this, as I thought we'd done a lot better during our wins. Overall, we give up 37.6% of third down opportunities, obviously very very bad (although not as bad as the Rams, who are at 47.2%). To be where we thought we'd be, that number has to be closer to 30%.

How can we improve this? Well, it should definitely start by stopping other team's third WRs and TEs. We are allowing an absurd 56.0% DVOA for third, fourth, and fifth options for opposing teams. To understand how bad that is, 2005 Steve Smith, tops in DVOA, was at 30.7%. Seriously. TEs are at a bad 25.6%, pretty much equal to 2005 Santana Moss.

So besides facing #1 and #2 WRs (and we aren't great in those categories), we're also facing Steve Smith and Santana Moss... EVERY WEEK. Unbelievable. Many of those catches are on third down.

There are good signs. We're still good against the run, ranking #5 in STUFFED, with a nice 31% percentage (better than San Diego, for example). Our big play tendencies bite us here, as we rank 31st in 10+ runs, as an absurd 24% of runs against us go for 10 of more yards. That should be something we can quickly address and goes to the lack of consistency and overpursuit from our aggressive linebacking corps.

We're also not bad at rushing the passer (although those numbers are padded with the St Louis and Oakland affairs), sacking at an adjusted 8.6%.

We can do this. We have the talent to be a good defense. It always starts with stopping the run, and we stop the run well. We just have to add discipline to the mix that we had last year to cut down on third down completions and role player susceptibility.

I started this post with the intent to see if we really are a bad defense. I think the answer is a qualified "no". The peripherals are there for success. It comes down to execution.

posted by Gavin @ 4:25 PM  0 comments

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