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December 9, 2014 at 1:09 PM

Putting Seattle’s recent defensive play into historical perspective

For my story for the Tuesday paper, I wrote a bit more about the standout performance of the Seahawks defense against the Eagles and the last few weeks. It’s a story that’s being written a lot, but also one that the play of the team compels you to keep writing over and over — it’s impossible to ignore.

But while it’s tempting to largely couch this as the Seattle defense having turned around the last three weeks, some of the numbers show that the Seahawks have been playing pretty darn well on that side of the ball for a while now.

Certainly, the last three weeks have been above the norm, allowing just 20 points and an average of 169 yards per game.

But as I noted in the story, over the last eight games, Seattle has allowed 1,896 yards.

The yards per game total, stretched out for an entire 16-game season, equals 3,752 yards.

And how impressive is that?

Since the NFL schedule expanded to 16 games in 1978, and excluding strike seasons, only one team has allowed fewer yards for a season — the 1991 Eagles who allowed 3,549. That team is widely regarded as one of the best defenses ever, if often overlooked because the Eagles didn’t make the playoffs despite going 10-6.

As I noted in the story, the yards per game average the last eight games for Seattle is better than teams regarded as having some of the best defenses in history, such as the 1985 Chicago Bears (who allowed 4,135 yards) or the 2000 Baltimore Ravens (who actually didn’t even lead the AFC in yards allowed that season, that honor instead going to the Titans at 3,813).

Obviously yards per game isn’t everything, and the Seahawks had a couple games in there where they gave up enough points to lose — 28 to the Rams and 24 to the Chiefs. But anyone who watched the Rams’ game knows how some special teams plays really turned the tide in that one. And the KC game came without Bobby Wagner, Brandon Mebane and a still slowed Kam Chancellor.

As also noted in that story, that run started with the Rams’ game, the first the team played following the trade of Percy Harvin.

I’m not sure I’d read anything into the idea that the defense decided to start playing better or something once Harvin was gone.

But there could be something to the idea that a return of the offensive focus to one designed more around the running game and Marshawn Lynch has played a role, allowing the offense to become more ball-control.

Seattle had time of possessions of 17:45 and 22:21 in the two games it lost this year with Harvin — at San Diego and against Dallas —- but hasn’t had a TOP of under 29:00 since (in the win over Oakland) and has been above 32:24 in every other game since then, topped by the whopping 41:56 of Sunday.

And in the big picture, it’s the kind of defensive play that is obviously good enough to win a Super Bowl.


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