Why Seattle remains the best and continues to improve

Russell Wilson, like the Seahawks, are leaping towards further progression

KJR’s Dick Fain asked a very valid question today. Are we expecting too much from the Seahawks?

Earlier in the day, Mike Holmgren admitted on the same radio station he expected more from Seattle in Washington. He’s not the only one. Former Seahawk Nate Burleson told the NFL Network after the game he didn’t believe Seattle was as “invincible” as last year.

The Seahawks have entered this peculiar world where only the complete and utter destruction of an opponent will be acceptable. Not necessarily to the fans who follow the team every week, but to the outside world. The non-Seahawks fan has been sold the idea of a team so good they might as well be from another planet.

Most of that expectation comes from the surprisingly easy Super Bowl victory over a historically good Broncos team. If they can do that to such a dominating opponent, what are they going to do to the rest of the league?

In reality, this is a false position. And it’s creating an unfair level of expectation.

Sure, they beat the Broncos 43-8 in the Super Bowl. Yet as Fain correctly points out — they also had a few stinkers too. They lost at home to the Cardinals despite a four-interception game by Carson Palmer. They struggled mightily against an 0-8 Tampa Bay team at home, squeezing by in overtime. They probably should’ve lost road games in Houston and St. Louis — but found a way to win. It’s still remarkable how they beat the Rams that night.

Last season was not a relentless series of beat-down’s culminating in the ultimate Super Bowl performance. It was a struggle at times. There were games where they couldn’t do anything to stop the run. There were games where the receivers couldn’t make a play. Marshawn Lynch had a little tough stretch. Russell Wilson had the most average spell of his career to finish the regular season.

One of the great characteristics of this team isn’t that it blows everyone away week after week. It’s battle tested. It keeps things tight.

The Seattle Seahawks will never go into a game like the Bengals did on Sunday night and be beaten on the first drive. Cincinnati had no answer to a pumped up New England team. As soon as Tom Brady led that first scoring drive they could’ve boarded the plane back to Ohio. The body language screamed, “Oh crap.”

Seattle had a tough day in San Diego facing a similarly prolific Philip Rivers in 120 degree heat. They were pushed around, they struggled. And yet late in the fourth quarter they had the ball with a chance to drive for the game winning score. That’s Seahawks football.

Beating a pretty pathetic looking Washington side 27-17 shouldn’t be seen as a negative. They won the game handsomely despite having to combat the laundry list of penalties and miscues. Without those fixable mistakes this could’ve been the 40-0 bullying people seemed to expect.

We’ve seen a quarter of Seattle’s season now and here’s my take on it — they don’t have the same depth as 2013, but the overall quality of the two starting units is superior.

The run defense is hitting new heights this year (conceding just 62.2 YPG) and while the sack totals are low (six in five games) this is a league-wide trend through five weeks. Sacks also don’t equal guaranteed success, given the five teams at the top of the sack charts are the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs and Washington. Seattle’s defense has faced Rodgers, Rivers and Manning already and generally done an exceptional job — particularly against Denver. For all the concern over the departure of Red Bryant and Chris Clemons — Kevin Williams has been a revelation and Bruce Irvin had a terrific performance last night at defensive end.

Seattle’s defense in terms of its starters is getting better, not worse.

Football Outsiders currently has Seattle ranked at #4 on defense — down from #1 last year. Remember who they’ve faced though. According to DVOA the Seahawks have had the toughest opening schedule in the NFL. The rest of the way they have the 28th toughest schedule. The defensive ranking will be back at #1 soon enough.

Percy Harvin has provided the offense with a new dimension and a legit top-five weapon. Marshawn Lynch is as productive as ever and despite last nights problems with penalties — the offensive line is improving (particularly the play of the two guards). Russell Wilson continues to progress as a quarterback and playmaker. Only Philip Rivers has been more prolific in these opening five weeks. You could make a case for the NFL MVP race going 1) Rivers 2) DeMarco Murray 3) Wilson at this early stage.

DVOA ranks Seattle’s offense at #2 this year so far, up from #7 at the end of 2013. In four games they’ve faced the #2 defense (Denver), the #12 defense (Green Bay), the #13 defense (San Diego) and the #18 defense (Washington). Sunday’s opponents, Dallas, are ranked at #24. They then face St. Louis (#30), Carolina (#27) and Oakland (#22). So there’s a chance to be even more prolific over the next few weeks.

This is a superior team. Believe it, embrace it. And don’t be surprised either — the youth of the roster always leant itself to continued development.

They don’t need to blow-out bad teams to prove it. They just need to keep winning.


  1. David

    i try to convince my dad this too. think hes slowly getting there
    he was saying the defense doesnt look as good. i told him that compared to last year maybe they look worse. but thats because we’re spoiled. last year was full of sacks and picks and fumbles. i think the fact it looks like that is why alot of the fan base feels the D might of fallen off a bit.

    we’re still a great D and ill take a after bye week win on the road over a loss, wouldn’t you? go hawks!

  2. rowdy

    Great write up rob. Every time I here someone say where not as good as last year I wonder if people even remember where we were last year. At this point we were playing 4 back up o linemen with Miller out as well. We weren’t crushing anybody but playing sound football limiting turnovers and getting them. We haven’t gotten many yet this year but that’s because the ball hasn’t bounced are way but will in time. We may not be as deep as last year but I think we’re better overall. Most teams play 16 chess matches a year, I’m convinced Carroll plays 1 that last the whole season.

  3. Sam Jaffe

    I agree that expectations and perception are becoming too important in coverage of the Seahawks. As someone whose been watching the NFL very closely for 38 years (all of which as a Seahawks fan and never having lived anywhere close to the Pacific Northwest), I know that there is no such thing as winning an NFL game by getting off the bus. It’s an extremely competitive league and variations in excellence are razor-thin. The fact that the Seahawks are on the plus side of that razor right now is extremely gratifying for me right now. It’s like I spent the last 36 years in a dark cave, jus so I could appreciate last year and this year. Being a successful NFL franchise is more like wine-tasting–with it’s subtle hints and barely recognizable aromas–than it is like being the U.S. Olympic basketball team, where hubris is literally the only obstacle to victory. The media coverage of the Seahawks, however, is pretty infantile. They’re often portrayed as either “over-rated” or they’re “unbeatable”. I’m satisfied with them just being “pretty damn good”. Especially if Schneider and Carroll can extend that label for a few more years before I have to go back into my cave.

    By the way, I’ll be at Sunday’s game against the Cowboys too. It’s my first ever experience watching the Seahawks at CLink. I went to a preseason game at the Kingdome a couple of decades ago and I always go to see them when they come to Mile High Stadium, but this will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. So any fellow SDB regulars suggestions on where to sit (I’ll be getting my tix tomorrow on Ticket Exchange) would be greatly appreciated. We can’t afford midfield or a box, but I’m wondering what’s the best “bargain” section to get a true sense of the experience?

    • Rob Staton

      Enjoy the game Sam. From my own experience there aren’t many ‘bargain’ seats available for the Cowboys game — the prices are very high across the board with it being Dallas and Seattle now the reigning Super Bowl champs. Razorgator was the best bet I found.

      • Miles


        I will be at the game too. Would love to shake your hand if I see you there. Been reading the blog for awhile.

        • Rob Staton

          Hope to see you there Miles.

  4. Greg Dorsett

    I know this sounds cliched but there really isnt a bad seat in the place. We have sat in the upper deck multiple times all the way at the top and enjoyed it just as much as when we were in the lower bowl. Have a blast!! Go Hawks!

  5. Curt

    I envy you Sam, living here in Florida the last 20 years I haven’t been back but I need to get to the CLink. Watching on TV or internet and listening to Raible and Moon is very cool though.
    Agree with your perspective on the Hawks Rob and appreciate your take on the Hawks. Any chance you can evaluate some players who might actually be available at the end of the 1st an on from there? Don’t think Jon/Pete will ever trade up do you? Unless it is a franchise type player I can’t see them giving away the farm. Of course as soon as I say this, they will.
    I really think they are tinkering with Percy to see what opens up. As of now it really is helping Lynch on the inside. I remember last year it was pretty tight in there because the D’s main focus was stopping Lynch. This year it’s going to be stopping Percy. It’s how we counter that should open up the long ball and some fun to watch Lynch runs. (IMO of course)

    • Rob Staton

      It’s difficult to project late first round picks this early Curt. Right now my plan is to try and identify as many potential first rounders as possible and sift through the hype.

  6. JeffC

    All true, and I think part of that is the intense rivalry with other teams in the NFC West, not just the niners. Do we make last year’s sb without home field advantage? There is the “certainty” that if we get home field thru the playoffs, we’re in the sb, so every regular season game gets scrutinized, every play, every drive, every decision is intensely watched. The injury report pregame is followed with fear and anticipation. This is what we asked for, this is what we want. At the same time, every loss on the schedule will be a heartwrenching end of the world feeling. Every close victory will seem like a loss. In our division, because of the competiveness, we don’t see blowouts very often, but we want and expect it. I almost feel that the 4-5 games at the end of 2011 was the real thing that spoiled us. I don’t know if I’ve seen a more utterly dominant combination of offense and defense in one stretch since I started following football in 1974.

    So my own feelings about Bruce Irvin, for example, I have to question them after yesterday’s performance. And he looked BIGGER with the same quickness. He was matched up with Trent Williams and he played like I’d hoped as a first rounder. I still think Robert Turbin is a career backup at best. I still question Darrel Bevel’s halftime adjustments or lack thereof. The oline will constantly be questioned for its lack of cohesive protection. Russell Okung is the new whipping boy of badness and he was the one guy I hoped we’d luck into during that first Schneider historic draft. The pass rush is iffy, but the lb’s have been spectacular, playing at a 2011, 2012 niner level.

    And Russell Wilson has now set a new bar of expectation. When he has an inevitable bad game, we will freak.

    So when this team doesn’t meet the new perception, I will continue to freak. But that doesn’t mean we don’t believe in this team or love what it is. It’s just the nature of getting to the top and desiring to stay there. Everyone wants your crown, the barbarians are at the gate.

  7. PatrickH

    I wonder whether the ways that the close games had played out also contributed to the different perceptions. Last year, the close games (Houston, Tampa Bay, NFC championship game) had the Seahawks started out behind and then came back to win. The last impression that the audience got from those games was that the team was mentally tough and found a way to win. This year, the close games (Denver, Washington) had the Seahawks started out dominant but then let the opponents came back and got close. So the last impression from those games was that this team is vulnerable, event though objectively the team strengths and weaknesses may be the same as last year.

    • Ben2

      Comeback victories are trending up in the NFL….the fact that the Hawks didn’t allow comeback wins is impressive.

  8. Barry

    Forgive me if I’m repeating anythng thats already been said its late and just wanted to say something I’ve observed.

    For one the guard play has been horrendous. We cant pound it up the middle when we need to the most witch leads to another problem. Getting to cute on the WR screen flare passes (or play calling over all). We use Bladwin and it is rare that he even picks up 3 yards. hes a great route WR in the traditional sense but hes no stellar athlete.

    Another problem I’ve notices it Wilson’s in-ability to make second level reads over the middle. Hal the time we have a two read play on a simple design due to the fact our guards cant block 4th string DTs.

    If it wasn’t for Lynch this team would be at one win. Wilson has had his development slowed and its hurting his ability to shift and read lanes in the pocket to find a second or third read.

    On the defensive side we are still getting killed for the second week in a row by the twist rout. Denver showed the league and the DC’s also figured it out in the second half.

  9. Barry

    I do have to say I agree Irvin’s play was some of the best and natural since being in the league last night. Definitely deserves cred in the locker room

  10. Barry

    I wanted to mention in relation to the line/guard play the cute plays come in to effect at third and short. this is an issue dating back to last year and when it shows up, normally due to the offense not getting into a rhythm and then the second plays worked on that week being ineffective. Some plays are a high chance of success (Havin is involved or they were set up great) rest the time I’m not sure if Bevell knows the strength of all his offensive players who have suited up. In turn makes it seem as if the offense has a small play book. I think this is dictated by the line play and what plays they feel will work based on how the game is going. Once we have the lead plan is to play it safe.

  11. Dumbquestions

    Generally agree on all points. Thoughts:

    Offense –
    a. Clearly better than 2013, even if it frustrates me. I still long for that last piece of the PC vision – the pterodactyl WR who complements the speedier types. Some version of that component in this offense would be devastating.

    b. This is still a run-first team; it just looks different. The three-headed jet sweep/option look is not a gimmick. It’s what they’re going to do, and they’re leading the league in rushing. (looking at you, Dallas defense).

    Okung is banged up. Unger is banged up. What year is it? The OL is spotty, but I don’t think they’re as bad as that Washington game. Look what they did when flags *weren’t* thrown. Carpenter is the anchor right now, for better and worse. Trying in all senses, but the biggest physical force. So far the best season of his career, surely.

    c. Also strikes me that the offensive scheme makes the most of Lynch and could extend his career. The scheme puts him in space more often, trades a few rushing attempts and replaces them with receptions. Potential result: fewer hits, longer gains, more scores.

    Beast has 6 TDs through four games: 3 rushing, 3 receiving. He had 14 TDs through all of last year, a career high – 12 rushing, 2 receiving. His three TD receptions this year are a career high already. He’s on pace for 52 catches and 500 yards, according to the Moron Projection Machine. He could wind up north of 20 TDs total if this continues.

    Full Moron projection:
    24 TDs – 12 rushing, 12 receiving
    Rush att/yds – 276/1224
    Pass rec/yds – 52/504
    Total yards – 1728

    d. The apparent lack of a mid-to-deep passing game is maddening. People smarter than me are suggesting it’s a season-long playbook. Is that a real thing? I wonder. I just have a beery reaction to it. I covet that bomb to Richardson. I know it’s coming. I keep expecting more use of Harvin downfield, but maybe they feel he’s more likely to get creamed out there (fair)…and maybe RW is playing it safe…mostly I sit around asking, really?…no one open downfield, Russ? Ever…oh no!…oh WOW that was great…

    Defense –

    a. Just figure out that damn wheel route and I’ll be happy. Would somebody do a breakdown of the wheel route on this thread and tell me how they can fix it?

    b. Bobby Wagner is hitting the star button. Make sure Michael Bennett gets some rest.

    c. Tharold Simon is coming back. Lane is coming back.

    d. Hawks rank near the bottom right now in turnover recoveries. Lots of near misses. They’re due.

    e. Hawks have the best run D, and Dallas has the second best rushing attack. Great matchup.

    f. Dez Bryant is the best receiver the team will face in the regular season. If Sherman won’t move, the Cowboys will line Dez up on Maxwell all night. Dez will torch Maxwell while Sherman holds Cole Beasley scoreless. I generally agree with the LoB scheme and keeping Sherm on his side, but not this Sunday. Bryant – like Boldin last year – should be the exception. Cue all the experts.

    – dq

  12. Forrest

    I could not agree more…*slow claps*

  13. cha

    I’ve been all over the stadium and the ‘bang for the buck’ areas IMO are the 300 sections in the corners, maybe a section or two closer to midfield (about 15-25 yard lines). You get great views of the action at your end, and the other end isn’t so far you have to watch the video board.

    I like the SW and SE areas of the stadium, so before gametime I can get some food/drinks, stake out a spot by the 12 man pole to see who comes out to raise the flag (was 5 feet from Walter/Tez/Largent raising the flag at the Packer game), then get to my seat right before kickoff.

  14. AlaskaHawk

    For me it started with frustrations with the offense last year. They really struggled for most of the season. Fortunately the defense saved our bacon through a number of low scoring ugly games. Some of which were against poor opponents yet we still struggled. Then the offense started improving and peaked during the playoffs. I won’t say they were that great before the playoffs because they lost that home game to Arizona – come on….

    So this year we drafted a bunch more players. Backups for the line, a deep threat wide receiver, and Michaels was going to rotate with Lynch and everything would be grand. Unfortunately instead of the offense being a well oiled machine they have long periods of 3 and out. That is unacceptable for a running team that wants to dominate clock time. Now I know the offensive stats say the offense is better. They should be better with Percy Harvin at full strength, but they don’t pass the eye test. The offensive line is raggedy – just like last year. We don’t have backups – just like last year. And Russell Wilson is scrambling for his life – just like last year. Marshawn is rotating with Harvin on running plays. How long will Harvin or Wilson last if they keep getting smacked around and group tackled? Who knows….

    Defensively our line seems to have gotten better but our secondary is a little worse. I’m not picking on the new guys here, they have played okay. It just seems like our secondary doesn’t play as close to the receivers, or make the big hits, or ever jam at the line. They don’t pass the eye test. Of course they will improve as the year goes along.

    So for me I saw the Seahawks playing at a high level at the end of last year, and now they have fallen back to where they started last year – and I have realized that I just have to lower my expectations and let the coaches and players work through their issues. It is a long season. The trophy doesn’t go to the team that sprints out of the starting gate. The trophy goes to the team that finishs the race.

    • Don

      The secondary doesn’t seem as strong this year because the NFL changed the rules in the off season. Because Seattle was so good with DB’s hand checking the receivers, the NFL didn’t want other teams to copy them and shut down offenses. Fantasy football fan interest depends on offensive numbers, so the NFL wants to see high scores and statistics. It was because the Hawks were so good in the secondary last year, they changed the rules for the FFL.

      • Miles

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but the biggest catalyst for less production from the secondary seems to stem from the zone defense. Last year we were playing a lot more man to man. Now we’re playing zones and we’ve gotten beat deep a few times playing it. Man to man suits our personnel, but are the rule changes causing us to completely flip our defensive game plan this way? Personally, I’d like to see our guys playing more man.

    • Ben2

      Our secondary is the shizit! Plus we’re getting simon and Lane back in a bit- then we’ll be good & deep! LOB

  15. cha

    Dallas’ defense currently ranks dead last on Rush Defense DVOA through week 5. It might be a good opportunity at home to both get some Michael reps and take a couple downfield shots.

  16. Mylegacy

    If this was the pre-CAP era Seattle would have signed a few of those stars that came looking to sign – but just couldn’t because the Hawks just COULD NOT AFFORD to sign them. They were willing to take less – just not a lot less.

    We’re already seeing the impact of the CAP. Next year the CAP will strangle the team some more and the year after it’ll strangle it some more – after that who knows what might be left. Wagner and Wright? The list goes on. The CAP will dethrone us – we’ll be bled to death trying to keep the team together.

    IF – this team (if any team) ever wins 3 SB’s in a row again it will be a miracle – might even take a miracle to win two in a row. We might just get that miracle – at least the two year version.

    • CHawk Talker Eric

      CAP went up about $10M from 2013 to 2014. Currently at $133M, it’s expected to reach $160M by 2016. Probably not going to be as big a factor as people think.

  17. Miles

    Off topic – Does anyone think the Hawks benching Malcolm Smith last week indicates they no longer need him and, on the last year of his contract, that they’ll be looking to trade him before the deadline?

    • Rob Staton

      I think it’s unlikely. I can’t imagine there’s much to be gained from trading Smith — and you impact the depth at linebacker significantly.

  18. James


    – lights out on D are Bobby Wagner, Brandon Mebane, Kevin Williams, Kam Chancellor, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. Avril and Bennett don’t have the sacks because the QBs they have played are too good at getting rid of the ball before the sack. Still, they miss Clemons. Irvin is proving outstanding as a standard OLB, but he still has shown few natural pass rush skills, instead getting there a tick too late because of his speed, but without the moves to beat his man. McDonald was a mistake when he was let go when they could have signed him for $3/mil/yr, but Williams has bailed them out. KJ is super solid. Sherm has been all pro but not hall of fame, maybe he is just not able to get into a groove because so few balls come his way. Maxwell is hanging in there against the weekly onslaught, and getting a solid B. I expected a huge season from Earl, but so far he has missed out on a number of tackles and ints. That said, he may well be playing assignment-perfect FS for all I know.

    – lights out on O are Russell Wilson, of course, Beast, Percy and Zach Miller before getting hurt. Baldwin and Kearse seem to be off stride to me, maybe because Percy is getting so many touches, but I believe RW will hit a groove and get the full passing game in gear. Lockette is doing great, which has knocked Richardson off the field.. would love to see him get a few deep balls, but he has to prove himself worthy first. Carp and Sweezy have been inconsistently dominant, if that makes any sense. Unger has been good… hope is is ok soon. Okung seems to be playing hurt, and we have to hope that he hasn’t permanently lost a step to his bum ankles. I am in the camp that thinks Britt is doing very well… A+ on run blocking, B+ on pass pro, only a few lapses to speed rushers due to tentative drops, but no harm done. If this offense could really start to click, be really consistent in mis-direction runs, play action, sprint outs, more downfield gash plays to Baldwin and Kearse, then they can put up 30+ points every game, which with this D means they would never lose.

    – want to see more from: Cassius Marsh, Tharold Simon, Angry Doug and Jermaine, the OL get in step and stay in step, and dare we wish for a few lightning strikes from Christine Michael.

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