The Seattle Seahawks stress out their fans every season for the first couple of months until they find their midseason groove. The Seahawks offense looked like a total mess to start this year. They escaped with wins in a couple of close games, and in one instance, they even tied.
Yet, ever since a win against the New England Patriots in Week 9, Pete Carroll’s team has looked like it’s back to its Super Bowl contending form.
That is what the Seahawks do, and it’s what they have done since Russell Wilson’s arrival in 2012:
- 2012 - 4-4, finished 11-5
- 2013 - 7-1, finished 13-3
- 2014 - 4-3, finished 12-4
- 2015 - 4-4, finished 10-6
- 2016 - 4-2-1, currently 7-2-1
In those five seasons, the Seahawks are 31-6 from November on through to Week 17, a better record than any other team in the NFL. This season, it’s more of the same. Since their Week 8 loss to the New Orleans Saints — a team 22nd in total defense and 29th in points allowed — the Seahawks have reeled off three straight wins.
Whatever kinks they need to work out, they get worked out, and the Seahawks contend in the NFC year in and year out now.
This is how they do it.
Defense has played a big part
The one constant for the Seahawks since 2012 has been their defense. Between 2012 and this season, they’ve been ranked 4, 1, 1, 2, and 8 respectively in total defense. “Defense wins championships” isn’t something that your grandpa says because he’s an old-timer — it’s more often than not true, and it keeps teams like the Seahawks contending.
Their defense might not be quite as stout as it’s been in past years, but the Seahawks have dealt with injuries on that side of the ball all season. Defensive end Michael Bennett has been out since Week 7 after having surgery to repair cartilage in his right knee. Kam Chancellor also missed Weeks 6-9 with a groin injury.
Despite that, they’re first in points allowed, giving up just 173 on the year. That’s been especially important this season, after the offense struggled mightily in Weeks 7 and 8.
The ground game is a part of the recipe, except this season
Along with the defense, one of the staples of the Seahawks for years was a bruising ground game. Marshawn Lynch set the expectation after his Beast Quake run in the 2011 playoffs that knocked out the defending Super Bowl champion Saints. After that, Lynch continued to impress with his bullying-like runs that wore out opposing defenses like a slow burn.
Lynch gave the Seahawks rushing seasons of 1,590 yards, 1,257 yards, and 1,306 yards from 2012-2014, and then injuries limited him to 417 yards in seven games in his final season before retiring. Thomas Rawls came through in 2015 with 830 in Lynch’s absence. Those yards were some of the most important on the team and helped give the already impressive Seattle defense a chance to catch its breath.
The one difference between this season’s early November turn for the Seahawks is that the running game hasn’t been prolific as it has been in past years. Currently, the Seahawks are 29th in the NFL in rushing yards. It appeared they had found just what they needed at the position in rookie C.J. Prosise out of Notre Dame. After a great performance against the Patriots, Prosise followed it up with a first-quarter 72-yard run against the Eagles the next week, the longest by a Seahawks player at CenturyLink Field. But Prosise injured his scapula in the second quarter and is expected to be out at least until the playoffs.
So is this season’s team capable of sustaining similar success?
It is, but it looks like it’s doing it in a different fashion. Prosise’s injury is going to make things tougher, but if Rawls is able to do some of what we saw last season for the Seahawks, things might not be that bad. After missing seven games, Rawls appears to finally be healthy, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for Seattle.
Wilson’s ascent the past few weeks is reason for great optimism, no matter how Rawls turns out the rest of the way. In Weeks 9-11, he’s completing over 67 percent of his passes, has thrown for 902 yards and six touchdowns against zero interceptions. He’s boasting a quarterback rating of 119.2 and even has a receiving touchdown, much to the displeasure of Doug Baldwin.
A key for the Seahawks as the season progresses is that they have the easiest remaining strength of schedule in the NFL. The combined win-losses of their opponents is 22-37-1, and none has a winning record. This serves them well, as they wait for Prosise to heal up as they try to make a push in the NFC en route to a third Super Bowl appearance under Carroll. Once the defense returns to full strength as well, there’s no telling how good they can be.