At first glance, the Seattle Seahawks had a good day offensively this past Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. The running game was solid, 29 rushes for 124 yards, 4.3 yards per rush, which is lower than normal, but still above average. Russell Wilson had 17/22 passing, 9.6 yards per attempt, and a touchdown with no interceptions. But in reality, the Seahawks struggled mightily to move the ball. They scored on 3 of their first 4 possessions. That sounds great, right? Not exactly. Those drives started on the Ari 49, Sea 39, Sea 44, and Ari 48. The offense failed to take advantage of great field position and only managed 3 field goals. On their next possession, they again received the ball on the Ari 48, but couldn’t move the ball and settled for another field goal that was blocked. In the 3rd quarter, their special teams came up with a huge blocked punt, giving them the ball on the Ari 24. 4 plays and 2 yards later, Steve Hauschka kicked his 4th field goal. If the Seahawks received the ball on the 27.4 yard line, the league average, this would have been a 3-0 game in favor for Arizona in the middle of the 3rd quarter.
The Seattle Seahawks traded Percy Harvin on October 17th for a conditional draft pick in the 2015 draft – a shocking move nobody expected. Fans had just spent an entire offseason dreaming of jet sweeps and exciting kick returns for touchdowns. Harvin put on a show opening night against the Green Bay Packers, catching seven balls for 59 yards, and rushing for 41 more.
While Harvin did not quite meet expectations over the next 4 games, he was a constant threat. As the fastest player on the field, he has the rare ability to turn a slant into a long touchdown from any point on the field. A skill the Seahawks offense is severely lacking right now. When Harvin wasn’t getting the ball, the Seahawks used him on miss-directions, and as a decoy to make life easier on the other offensive skill players
Before week 12, the Seahawks played five games with and without Percy Harvin. Lets compare Russell Wilson’s numbers before and after the trade:
Wilson’s QB rating and completion percentage both went down significantly after Harvin left for the New York Jets. Somehow, his struggles have come against poor defenses. The Raiders, Giants, and Panthers rank 25th, 20th, and 22nd respectively, in pass defense DVOA. His yards per game actually increased 195.6 to 208.2, although that can be attributed to one huge game against the Rams. He threw for 313 yards, only his 3rd career 300 yard game. If you don’t include that game, his average over the other four games drops to 182. His TD/INT ratio went from 8-2 to 5-3 without Harvin in the lineup.
What the Seahawks have lacked in the passing game, they have made up for in the running game:
Both Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson have seen their attempts and yards increase considerably, easily making them the best running team in football. Wilson now averages 58.5 rushing yards per game, 19th in the NFL. He averages 202.7 passing yards per game, 30th in the NFL!
Wilson’s increase in rushing attempts and yards is a bad sign. Many of these are not designed runs. If you watch a Russell Wilson highlight video, he has an incredible ability to elude the pass rush and gain positive yards. Many times, however, Wilson can’t find anybody open downfield and scrambles as a last resort. That’s not efficient offense and the Seahawks cannot rely on that week in week out. As more teams put eight in the box to slow down the number one rushing attack in the NFL, the Seahawks need to be able to move the ball in other ways.
The Seahawks no longer have a wide receiver that is capable of beating man to man coverage on a consistent basis. Doug Baldwin is a number two receiver acting as the number one. Against the Cardinals he had 2 catches for 6 yards. His 491 yards lead the Seahawks, but that ranks 59th in the NFL. Paul Richardson who they drafted 45th overall, is more of a sprinter than a NFL wide receiver at this point. In big games, the offense can’t rely on players like Cooper Helfet for catch and runs. Some of their receivers have come up with big plays, but it’s a lot to ask of unproven players.
This Thursday night, and twice in the next three weeks, the Seahawks face the San Francisco 49ers, the number one pass defense according to defensive DVOA. Over the last couple seasons the Seahawks have dominated the 49ers, but if San Francisco can get out to an early lead or stop the running game, the Seahawks will struggle to keep pace.