Myth busting: Seattle’s offense vs Denver’s defense

One narrative I really don’t get is this idea Seattle’s offense is mediocre.

It isn’t.

Not unless a top-ten offense is classed as mediocre these days.

According to DVOA, Seattle had the #7 offense in the league in 2013.

Combine it with the #1 defense and #5 special teams unit — and it’s easy to see why they were ranked #1 overall as the most complete team in the NFL.

Yes — they had some issues late in the season and haven’t exploded in the playoffs either.

There’s a pretty obvious reason for that.

They’ve consistently faced elite or very good defensive units since week 13.

Here’s the list, with each teams DVOA defensive ranking in brackets:

New Orleans (x2) – #10
New York Giants – #6
San Francisco (x2) – #13
Arizona – #2
St. Louis – #12

It’s not really surprising that they’ve only averaged 22 points in those seven games.

In the three games before this stretch, they faced Tampa Bay (#8), Atlanta (#29) and Minnesota (#27).

They averaged 34 points in those three.

What some people perceive as a dramatic slump or evidence of mediocrity, is probably more the opposition performing to standard from week 13 to the NFC Championship game.

Seattle faces the #15 defense in the Super Bowl. Yet it’s the #15 defense without Chris Harris (Denver’s best corner), Von Miller (their best pass rusher) and Derek Wolfe (a very good defensive tackle).

What’s more, while certain media outlets have focused on Seattle’s offense — they’ve been willing to look beyond some of Denver’s defensive issues.

Yes — the Broncos played very well against an injury hit New England offense in the AFC Championship game.

But look at the complete schedule this year.

They conceded less than 15 points on just two occasions — to the Houston Texans in week 16 (#29 ranked offense) and the Oakland Raiders in week 17 (#28 ranked offense).

Suffice to say, neither team had a great deal to play for.

They also gave up a lot of points in 2013 for a 13-3 team.

Take a look for yourselves. I’ve included each teams DVOA ranking on offense in brackets:

27 vs Baltimore (#30)
23 vs New York Giants (#31)
21 vs Oakland (#28)
48 vs Dallas (#11)
33 vs Indianapolis (#13)
21 vs Washington (#23)
34 vs New England (#4)
28 vs Kansas City (#15)
28 vs Tennessee (#16)

Remember, Seattle has the #7 offense. So they’re ranked higher than Dallas and Indianapolis, who combined for 81 points against the Broncos. And slightly worse than New England, who managed to register 34.

You could argue there’s a lot of selective opining going on here.

Don’t get me wrong — Seattle’s offense can improve. Third down and red zone performance has been surprisingly weak recently.

Yet the Seahawks have still made big plays to offset these issues. And they’ve kept on winning despite that 22-point average since week 13.

Without doing any real homework it’d be easy to point to trends.

To the passer-by, Seattle’s offense is regressing and Denver’s defense is improving.

In reality, the Seahawks have come through a stretch where they consistently faced top defenses with enough points to make a Super Bowl.

Denver’s defense over the course of the year has given up a ton of points.

And if you want one other myth busted tonight — look at how many points Denver have scored in their last two playoff games.

Despite dominating T.O.P. against San Diego and New England, they put up 24 and 26 respectively.

San Diego’s defensive rank in DVOA? #32 and dead last.

New England comes in slightly better at #21.

On Sunday the Broncos face the #1 defense.

It might be worth adjusting some of those +30 point predictions for Peyton Manning and co.


  1. Scott

    Stop with all these facts. The media isn’t interested in intelligent analysis.

  2. Stuart

    While I have great respect for what Denver has done this season, I don’t fear them, not like I did against SF.
    Its more like the feeling I had for the rematch against NO, only a couple notches higher because it’s the Super Bowl.

    I remember the pre-season very well. Manning only played the first series of that game but we crushed them 40-10. Yes, yes I know it was only pre-season but it was our talent/depth against their talent/depth.

    Is it me or do Manning passes wobble?

    Go Hawks!

    • Michael M.

      Richard Sherman agrees with you: “His passes will be accurate and on time, but he throws ducks.”

    • Coug1990

      Actually, Manning almost played the entire first half. Here is a link to the play-by-play from that pre-season game. If you notice, Brock Osweiler does not come into the game until 6.42 minutes left in the first half.

      While manning was in the game, Seattle is up 27-7. Denver’s drives while Manning was in the game were as follows:


  3. Colin

    I think Denver’s defense this year is much like our 2005 defense- bend, don’t break, fly around and get a few turnovers for the offense and just don’t get drug up and down the field.

    Denver isn’t built to hang on. They’re made to add on. Play with a lead. Pin their ears back and fly around aggressively. It will be interesting to see how disciplined they are; I fully expect Bevell to have a few wrinkles in the gameplan attacking that very thing. Bucky Brooks did a great article on this today at

    I think if Seattle drops 28+, it’s game over. After watching the AFC game over again, Denver were incredibly lucky they didn’t blow that game. Brady missed countless wide open recievers and the offensive line flat out missed several assignments. Seattle won’t miss out on their opportunities like Denver did.

    I just have the feeling this is a breakout game for the passing offense.

  4. Tomahawk

    I have nothing but respect for Manning, but he seems to have gotten away with a lot of passes that float in the air for eternity. Unless he’s throwing slants and screens, every pass he elevates could get picked. My only concern in this game is Wilson and company completing third downs and eating away at the clock.

  5. norm m

    The more I look at this match up I see big opportunities for the read options and a few designed quarterback runs off the roll out. This of course mixed in with a heavy dose of Lynch will open up big play action passes. If Denver sells out to stop the run I really think RW will hurt them with both his legs and arm. I’m not saying a blow out but look at what Seattle did to the Saints the first meeting. Excluding the 9ers (because of their incredible defense) teams that stack the line have not played well against our offense. In this case if Denver plays a more traditional defense Lynch will have a very good day. Pick your poison.

  6. OakHarborHawk

    In my non homer biased opinion (don’t laugh) I’m predicting a 55-10 blow for the Seahawks. We’re like the Denver kryptonite and this whole defense is designed to beat the type of high volume passing offense that Denver is. Even if Manning keeps us in nickle using no huddle they won’t be able to run on us the way that Wagner and Kam are playing lately.

    But the one thing that gives me complete confidence, and I swear that I’m being completely serious, is that Denver is wearing orange for the Superbowl. They’re 0-3 while wearing orange and Elway only got his two rings when they wore white for the Superbowl. You just don’t mess around with juju like that.

    • Ryan M

      For the record, the Broncos:

      Wearing home orange: 0-3 (loss in XII, loss in XXII, loss in XXIV)
      Wearing home blue: 1-0 (win in XXXII)
      Wearing road white: 1-1 (loss in XXI, win in XXXIII)

      But winless in orange still remains true.

      Don’t understand why a team changes a color scheme that they’ve won multiple titles in. As if the Patriots would ever go back to the red with white helmets of the Eason days. Is Denver more nostalgic for the championshipless Three Amigos years than for the Terrell Davis teams?

  7. DJ

    Last week was the actual championship. This week is the coronation: 40-17 Seahawks.

  8. matt

    While I too am optimistic about a seahawk victory,and believe in their overall team superiority,I’m still not willing to overlook PM and their offense.Plus this is football,the bounces funny.So I sure
    hope it bounces our way Sunday.Go Hawks

  9. Dadders

    Good analysis. If the game is played on paper, on a stat sheet, the Seahawks will win. However the Broncos will win. They have the experience and the weapons

    • Rob Staton

      Experience and weapons? It’ll take more than that to beat the best team in the NFL.

    • Ben

      Experience didn’t win Kurt Warner a super bowl against Tom Brady, and look at the weapons that he had.

  10. Aaron

    I’m looking to order a Seahawks shirt soon. Wasn’t there a link to a site to buy a shirt that would benefit the SDB a little? Does anybody remember?

    • Rob Staton

      Top of the right sidebar – click on the image advertising NFC champions gear and it’ll take you to

    • Jon

      Ohh yes, I know. Go to the top of your screen and look to the right hand side. Their is an add that has the word Champions on it. click there and you might find what you are looking for.
      But it is actually a misprint, It should read NFL Champions. Some silly person got confused and wrote NFC. haha

  11. RJA

    The play on the first touchdown against TB would be so dangerous with the screen fake to Harvin. Hoping to see a lot of screen looks to get Denver’s safeties running all over the place.

  12. bigDhawk

    All these Denver noobs really have absolutely no clue what kind of buzzsaw they will be running face-first into on Sunday. I live in Dallas and CBS crammed almost all of Denver’s regular season games down our throat in this market. I’ve seen a great many of Peyton’s games this season. The one thing that always stood out was how all the secondaries he nit-picked apart paled in comparison to ours. It is really stunning to watch other secondaries around the league and then watch ours. The drop-off from us to the rest of the league is profound. Peyton is all about finding the weaknesses of lesser opponents and exploiting them. He will not be facing a lesser opponent on Sunday. There will be precious few weaknesses to exploit. The three teams that beat us this season did so putting forth a herculean effort in making one or two more athletic plays than we did. Peyton will not beat us with an athletic play. This is a very bad matchup for Peyton in particular – no weaknesses to exploit…no chance of being bigger, stronger, faster.

  13. AlaskaHawk

    I figure that Manning will have his shots, given time he is a more accurate passer then we have faced before. Our secondary just has to stay on track every play and not get frustrated. If they get burned then bounce back on the next play. Eventually the Seahawks will get a few shots at interceptions. They just need to keep their heads in the game and not put up a string of multiple defensive penalties because they are frustrated.

    Lets see a bunch of hard defensive hits in the first half to slow them down. Our offense will cleanup on the other side and take out the trash!!!

  14. Turp

    Percy gives this offense blowout potential. So excited. I can see Denver scoring over 30 points….after we are up by 3 TD’s. Otherwise, I think they will be trading FG’s while we score TD’s.

  15. Mylegacy


    Unlike most of our foes we KNOW Manning will not scramble (physically – his ankle is too bad and he is clearly past his scrambling days even if his ankle was not damaged goods). An inside rush could prove to be a big difference maker for us. All this year Mebane has surprised me (others too) with his previously almost never present bull rushing. It could be that Mebane, McDaniel and Bennett (from the inside not the end) might actually be more important in rushing Manning than Bennett, Avril and Clemons from the outside.

    The reality is we have options in how we go after this guy and we’ve weapons to make those options successful.


    He who’s name must not be spoken…His lateral speed HAS TO open up their defense, his vertical speed has to terrify them. He will be a factor. Interestingly, there is SO LITTLE on him as a Seahawk that they (and we) really don’t know how he’ll be used. We’ll find out to our joy and they’ll find out to their regret.

  16. Ed

    Regarding our offense being ranked 7th, I think that is largely a result of our plus 20 turnover ratio. If we were to measure points per drive, or yards per drive, I do not think we would be ranked so highly. I am nervous about our offense overall, though I am not nervous about this game since I think we match up too well against them.

    • Rob Staton

      DVOA isn’t just based on success rate in terms of points, so field position will not define the #7 ranking. It’s all explained here:

      It’s quite a complex formula. But the top ten ranking is legit.

      • Ed

        Got it, thanks Rob!

      • dave crockett

        Also, Seattle was 9th in points per drive. Seattle is middling but hardly bad in drive efficiency.

        Football Outsiders has drive based stats.

  17. adog

    I would like to see on final mock draft with the seahawks picking 32!

  18. CC

    Preach Rob Preach!!! My friends and I were just talkng about how the media thinks we are awful and haven’t a chance. I’m telling them – and you – we are gonna win!! I think this is based on statistics, team make up, mind set and well, just a feeling I have. I felt this way about the first NO game – where everyone was saying the same things – our D hadn’t played against an offense like this and our offense hadn’t played against a defense like this… 34-7 was the result. Now, I think the Broncos might get 17 points, but the Seahawks will get 24+ We are gonna win!

  19. Dude

    A few thoughts:

    A lot of the media seem to think Seattle will have no answer for Julius Thomas. Which after seeing how they stopped Jimmy Graham, a far superior player, is perplexing.

    I feel like Payton’s ability to keep different Defensive packages on the field with no huddle will have a smaller impact on Seattle, then it would most teams.

    Lastly, Marshawn is currently a top 5 historic Playoff RB. If can get 100+ yards against the 9ers, who ALSO tried to take him away, there is no way Denver can stop him.

    • Rob Staton

      I think the fact Seattle doesn’t blitz that much could be a big factor. A lot of the line calls he makes will have a lesser impact. The no huddle can be dangerous if it gets into a rhythm. Seattle has to make sure that doesn’t happen early on and they have to play damage limitations later in the game. It’s a big task, but not quite as impossible as some media members will have you believe.

      • MarkinSeattle

        Rob, I agree. I also wonder how much Peyton’s noted advantaged in acumen is reduced by the fact that they Seahawks play straight up so much. If you can read a blitz or an unusual coverage, it gives the thinking QB an advantage if he recognizes it and understands how to beat it.

        However, the Seahawks tend to play straight up. We didn’t do it with gimmicks and blitzes. Blitzes only work when the opposing O doesn’t see it, or recognize the shifts that they need to make to take advantage of it. That is why Manning is so good, for him a blitz is a gift opportunity to move the chains. We weren’t going to fool Manning with a lot of exotic blitzes, and we didn’t even try to fool inexperienced teams this year because our defense is good enough to win straight up defense. We just played them straight up and beat teams.

        It doesn’t take a NFL HOF QB to figure out how to attack the Seahawks. The key is, can they perform at the level they need to win the match ups and do it consistently? Can Peyton fit the ball into tight windows and not get picked off? Can the receivers create enough separation to give Manning windows to get them the ball? Or can they get separation early enough that Peyton isn’t pressured?

  20. MarkinSeattle


    One thing that hasn’t been discussed much is how Denver’s offense has performed since the end of the year. Looking at the simple points scored per game as a percentage of what the opposing defenses normally give up, Denver’s offense over the last five games has only averaged scoring 117% of the what opposing defenses’ averaged giving up (SD – 21.8, Den scored 20 for 92%; Hou 26.8, Den scored 37 for 138%; Oak 28.3, Den 34 for 120%; SD 21.8, Den 24 for 110%; NE 21.1, Den 26 for 123%).

    Granted, that is a very basic statistical comparison. But it does show a very real weakness in games that on the face of things, they appear to have been fine offensively.

    Now if you go back earlier in the season, you find a much more explosive offense. In the first 4 games of the season, they scored 186% of what opposing teams normally give up (granted, the best D was Bal at 22.0 ppg, then NY & Philly at 23.9, followed by two really bad D’s in Dallas 27.0 and Oak 28.3). In those five games, they averaged 46 ppg.

    The next 8 games, they averaged 141% of what opposing D’s gave up on average per game. Four of those games they scored between 140-150%, two were in the 125-130% range, and two were 180-214% (ironically, those were the last of two in that 8 game stretch). Since that Tenn game, Den has only broken 30 points twice, and that was against teams that averaged giving up 26.8 and 28.3 ppg. The other three games they scored 20, 24, and 26. Granted, those three games were against playoff teams, and included two playoff games.

    I only point to this because everyone is focusing on the Seahawks O and the recent performance on the Denver D. But there seems to be an ingrained narrative that Denver’s O is the greatest of all time with the greatest QB of all time, therefore there is no point in analyzing their recent performance. And any recent poor performance that they have had, was because they were running out the clock (because if you are running out the clock, you want to make sure not to score TD’s). Funny how this argument is accepted for Denver, but dismissed for Seattle (which was obviously the case in many of those recent games, that and protecting players for the playoffs).

    • Rob Staton

      There’s some very interesting points there Mark. Thanks for sharing.

    • MarkinSeattle

      I need to correct myself, it was the first 5 games of the year that they averaged 186% of what opposing teams averaged giving up on defense (not 4 as stated above).

  21. Christon

    I can’t believe how many people are jumping on the Broncos bandwagon. Thanks for the article Rob.

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