Week 14 Game Recap: SEA vs. NYJ
Dec 16, 2020, 1:10PM PST
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When was the last time you felt this comfortable during a Seahawks game? Geno Smith took over for Russell Wilson late in the 3rd Quarter with Seattle dominating the Jets 37-3. The second-team defense promptly entered the game on the next Jets possession and both second-teams continued to coast through the 4th Quarter. In fact, Seattle’s second-teamers outscored the Jets 3-0 in the 4th Quarter, symbolizing the level of competition the Seahawks were facing (sorry, Jets fans).
Courtesy of three missed field goals by since-released Jets kicker Sergio Castillo, the Seahawks defense produced its lowest points allowed this season. True, the Jets are the league’s worst scoring offense but were averaging 15 points per contest entering this game. The Seahawks held them to just 3. All three levels of the defense were in sync, producing 3 Sacks, 7 Tackles for Loss, 5 Passes Defensed, 7 QB Hits, and allowed just 3.0 Yards per Carry.
The defensive resurgence that began during the 2nd half against the Rams continues. The Seattle defense, over its past three contests, now ranks 1st in: Points Allowed, Yards per Game, Yards per Play, Pass Yards per Game, and Yards per Pass Attempt. This is definitely not without caveats, as they’ve faced Carson Wentz, Colt McCoy, and Sam Darnold during this span, but considering this defense allowed Cam Newton to pass for nearly 400 yards and allowed Nick Mullens to pass for 238 yards in just over a quarter of play, this is a SIGNIFICANT improvement.
For anyone concerned about the quality of opponent, the Seahawks defense allowed fewer points than their opponents’ season average over this three-game span. A truly bad defense would typically allow a bad offense to score much higher than their season average and a good defense should allow much lower than the average. The Seahawks allowed 5.0 points less than average to the Eagles (22.0 PPG), 2.5 points less to the Giants (19.5 PPG), and 12.0 points less to the Jets (15.0 PPG). Dating further, Seattle allowed 8.6 points less than Arizona’s average (29.6 PPG) and 1.1 points less than the Rams’ (24.1 PPG). In all five games, the Seahawks defense allowed fewer points than their opponents’ season average entering their games. Over these five contests, the Seahawks defense has allowed on average 5.8 points FEWER than their opponents’ average. This provides evidence that the resurgent Seahawks defense is arguably above-average or just average at worst, a HUGE improvement from earlier this season.
Praise, Frustration, and Everything in Between
● The pass rush held up well even without prized-acquisition Carlos Dunlap. The defense produced 3 sacks on 27 dropbacks for an 11.1% sack rate. For reference, the Eagles currently lead the league with a 9.1% sack rate.
● Brandon Shell missed the past two games, but returned against the Jets only to leave yet again after reaggravating his ankle. The result? 1 sack allowed and 3 QB hits. Yes, sacks and pressure rates are certainly a function of a quarterback’s ability to diagnose pressure schemes, but there’s no doubt that having adequate blockers also helps. Shell has been a huge contributor to Seattle’s improved offensive line and remains an underrated offseason signing. Hopefully he’ll be healthy enough to play against Washington’s stacked defensive line.
● Seattle’s first offensive drive was a thing of beauty and well balanced. Ball distribution was excellent and included two sweeps, each by David Moore and Penny Hart. DK was involved with a 14 yard catch and run over the middle and the touchdown pass went to Freddy Swain. Balance doesn’t just mean having a 1:1 pass-to-run ratio, it can also mean spreading the ball around the offense. Great schemes utilize a variety of players, each playing to their strengths. This should be the goal for the offense moving forward.
● Wilson added another interception to his total and surpassed his previous career-high, but the decision wasn’t terrible. He was being chased out of bounds and had little choice. Yes, Wilson had a tight-end open for a short dump-off pass but decided to gamble on a 50-50 ball down the sideline to the NFL’s most athletic receiver. If the pass were to fall incomplete, no one would’ve batted an eye, but because of a truly incredible play by Marcus Maye, Wilson is scrutinized.
● The Jets should have scored at least 9 points in this game, but only wound up with 3 due to three missed field goals from 7, 41, and 43 yards out. However, one could argue that the point differential could have been much larger if not for THREE dropped interceptions by Seattle defenders. In fact, the Poona Ford/KJ Wright dropped interception came on a drive where the Jets missed a field goal, hypothetically negating that drive. The point is: the defense still played well even if the Jets were supposed to make a couple more field goals.
● Snacks Harrison has become an important part of the defensive line rotation, especially after Bryan Mone went down with injury in Week 8. The third DT spot is so important, as it gives Poona Ford and Jarran Reed time to rest. Mone had been doing a fine job prior to his injury, chipping in 1 TFL, 0.5 sacks, and a safety. Snacks made his first big play in Seattle this past weekend by forcing a fumble on Frank Gore.
● Myers remains perfect in field goals for the season and has made 29 in a row dating back to last season. However, Myers did miss another PAT giving him 3 misses on the season. Not too concerning considering that his PAT conversion rate is very average at 93.5%.
● A high, short kickoff and poor kick coverage allowed the Jets to return a kickoff for 66 yards. After being great in kick coverage to begin the season, Seattle special teams have now allowed two long kickoff returns, one to the Bills and the other to the Jets. These are things that need to be cleaned up if the Seahawks are to make a deep playoff run.
● DJ Reed got flagged for illegal contact on 3rd down to extend a Jets drive following a Seattle punt. This penalty was especially crucial at the time, because Seattle was only leading 17-3 and the Jets eventually reached the red zone. If not for a KJ Wright 5 yard TFL and botched kick by Castillo, the Jets could’ve have made the Seahawks’ lead uncomfortable. Nonetheless, DJ Reed has been a surprise outperformer this season, taking the starting RCB spot in lieu of injured starters Dunbar and Flowers. Reed also filled in for Griffin at LCB and Amadi at Nickel. Reed is likely the immediate backup at all three cornerback positions and provides incredible depth in the secondary, especially for a player that was originally waived by San Francisco with an injury designation.
● The Seattle defense was sloppy in defending the Jets’ two-minute offense to close the first half. Griffin missed a sideline tackle on a short pass to keep the Jets player inbounds and blown coverage left Braxton Berrios all alone for a 34 yard completion, setting the Jets up in field goal range.
● For whatever reason, the Seahawks can never seem to run screens correctly. One reason could be due to Wilson’s height. Being shorter than most quarterbacks forces Wilson to throw a higher-angled pass to the running back in order to lob the pass over a defender. This does two things: 1) allows more time for the defense to rally to the ball carrier, and 2) creates inaccurate throws. The latter held true on a 3rd quarter screen to Chris Carson, who himself dropped a screen pass earlier in the game.
● It was such a relief to see the Seattle backups play meaningful snaps in this game. Geno Smith looked poised during his second possession following the disastrous first possession, completing 4/4 on the drive including a 3rd down conversion to Colby Parkinson. Smith also loss yardage on a sack, fumble, and a designed run.
● Other backups that produced notable performances include the aforementioned Parkinson who was 2/2 for 16 yards including a 3rd down conversion. Ben Burr-Kirven also flashed and laid a huge hit on Josh Adams for a TFL. BBK finished the game with 5 tackles, the same as Jamal Adams, despite playing just two defensive drives. A tackling monster at UW, fans had long hoped BBK would get more chances to show his playmaking ability in the NFL. Between Brooks, Barton, and BBK (triple B’s?), the linebacker group looks very deep.
Next on Deck: Winning in Washington
Next week’s matchup against the red-hot Washington Football Team will mark the end of Seattle’s “easiest” stretch of their schedule, where they faced/will face: the Eagles, Giants, Jets, and Football Team. Washington now has rattled off four wins in a row, including wins over the previously undefeated Steelers and NFC West rival 49ers.
Alex Smith has been such an inspiring story this season, but has been uninspiring from a performance standpoint and may miss this upcoming game due to a calf injury. Dwayne Haskins filled in and is equally uninspiring. While the Seattle defense should have little problem slowing down the Washington offense, the Washington defense is outright vicious. The Washington defense ranks 6th in Points Allowed (21.2), 4th in Yards per Play (5.0), 4th in Yards per Pass Attempt (6.1), and 4th in Sack Percentage (8.3%). The weakest spot on this defense seems to be the rush defense, which is still above average and ranks 10th in Yards per Carry (4.1) and 9th in Rush Yards per Game (107).