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April 7, 2014 at 5:59 PM

Pro Football Focus: Seahawks blitzed less than almost everybody last year, but were better at it than anybody

Interesting stuff today from ProFootballFocus.com in a story detailing how much — and how well — NFL teams blitzed in 2013.

As you can see, few teams blitzed less in 2013 than the Seahawks, who ranked 28th among the 32 NFL teams, blitzing just 21.35 percent of the time.

That might come as a surprise to those who remember how in the off-season there was lots of talk that the Seahawks might be more aggressive under first-year defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who replaced Gus Bradley, who left to become the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars after the 2012 season.

Quinn, though, was always careful to say that aggressiveness could be defined in ways other than just what the average football fan — whose idea of aggressiveness often is defined by how often a team blitzes — might think.

Here’s a quote from Quinn prior to the season:

“I think that we just have a mindset that we like to play aggressive. Even if you play tight coverage or you are playing man-to-man or something like that, it might feel like it’s more aggressive. But that’s certainly my nature of being a defensive line coach. I’ve been a defensive line coach for a long time. That’s part of my background to play that style and that’s how I like to be and coach does too. So maybe they are feeling that as well.”

The key part there is where he defines aggressiveness as playing man-to-man or tight coverage.

The Seahawks, in fact, pride themselves in not having to pull out a lot of bells and whistles to hammer down foes. Remember Pete Carroll saying after the Super Bowl that one of the things he was proudest of was that the Seahawks won the way they did but did so playing their regular defense.

“We didn’t change anything for this game,” he said afterward. “We just played the way we always play. I’m thrilled we put our stamp on the championship.”

Or as Earl Thomas once said when asked the key to Seattle’s defensive success: “personnel.”

Not that Seattle doesn’t have good schemes, or doesn’t alter things from week to week. But the numbers bear out that Seattle often does just line up and play and let its players do the rest.

The PFF numbers, though, also reveal that when Seattle did blitz in 2013, it did so better than any team in the NFL, ranking first in PFF’s ratings of pass rush productivity while blitzing. As the numbers show, Seattle got a sack a hit or a hurry on 42.7 percent of its blitzes.

An even bigger key to Seattle’s defensive success in 2013, though, is found in the final PFF rating in that piece — pass rush productivity without blitzing. There, Seattle ranked third, getting a sack a hit or a hurry on 29.2 percent of dropbacks. That’s a number that favors both the pass rush — which was undoubtedly better in 2013 than in 2012 — and the secondary for often covering receivers long enough for the rush to get there.

The numbers also bear out that Seattle blitzed less last season than in any of Carroll’s first three years. Here are PFF’s breakdown of blitz percentages for the 2010-12 seasons (it’s the second item under the Mailbag heading) showing the Seahawks blitzed 30 percent of the time during those three seasons, with a high of 33 percent in 2010, Carroll’s first season. That, of course, was a year when the Seahawk defense under Carroll was still finding its way. With only four fulltime starters who were still with the team in 2013 — Thomas, Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane and Chris Clemons — Seattle allowed 407 points that season.

But as the personnel improved, the blitz numbers went down, as did the points allowed — the Seahawks gave up just 231 during the regular season in 2013, fewest in team history in a 16-game season.

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