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Forget the Pass, Seahawks Lost Super Bowl Long Before


The ending of Super Bowl XLIX will forever be remembered for the Seattle Seahawks giving the game away just one yard from clinching their second consecutive ring. While the play call by Darrell Bevell and Pete Carroll is undoubtedly one of the most controversial decisions in the game’s illustrious history, it is far from the sole reason Seattle is void of celebration this morning.

If we are going to point fingers, and it seems as though that is what everyone is doing today, there are two glaring areas in which we must focus our attention – the league’s “best” defense and Seattle’s mighty struggles on third down.

Aside from 13 minutes of play between the end of the second quarter and halfway through the third, the Seahawks offense struggled mightily. Take a look at the statistical differences between the Seahawks’ four scoring drives and the remainder of the game:

Scoring Drives Remaining Drives
Time of Possession 12:24 13:50
Total Offense 272 yards 118 yards
Marshawn Lynch 68 yards 34 yards
Russell Wilson (rushing) 32 yards 7 yards
Russell Wilson (passing) 141 yards 106 yards
Russell Wilson (accuracy) 7/8 5/13
Third Down Conversions 2-3 1-7

On those four drives, the Seahawk offense was nearly indestructible – moving the ball with ease and at an alarming rate. Not only were they scoring, but they were effective keeping New England‘s most potent weapon (Tom Brady) off of the field. During those 12 minutes and 24 seconds, Seattle showed the peak of their talent and why this team was so dangerous.

However, the remaining 13:50 featured an offense that looked stagnant and, at times, dumbfounded by the New England defense. Punting the ball six times in just under 14 minutes kept Dan Quinn‘s defense on the field longer than what they preferred. Not only that, but their inability to move the ball on offense consistently gave the Patriots strong field position. Of Seattle’s four scoring drives, three of then were 70 yards or longer. By contrast, only one of New England’s four scoring drives faced a longer distance than 65 yards.

The inability of Bevell’s unit put the Seahawk defense in less than ideal situations, but few could have expected the unusual performance that was given by the “Legion of Boom”. After finishing the regular season first in total defense, allowing just 267.1 yards per game, the Seattle defense allowed an astonishing 377 total yards of offense.

Only once this year (regular season and three playoff games leading up to Sunday) did the Seattle defense allow more yards – 401 yards to the Dallas Cowboys on October 12. In fact, of their 16 regular season games, the Seahawks held opponents to under 300 yards in 11 games. Adding more insult to injury, the Seahawks had not allowed more than 296 yards of passing offense in a single game during the 2014 season – regular or postseason games.

Sunday, Brady had a net of 320 passing yards.

To put it simply, the Seattle defense could not get off the field – whether it be because of their offensive inabilities or their own struggles. During the season, Seattle allowed opposing offenses to convert third down plays just 37.5 percent of the time. Like every other stat, that number ballooned on Sunday as New England converted 57 percent of their third down plays.

Scoring Drives Remaining Drives
Time of Possession 15:00 18:46
Total Offense 277 yards 100 yards
Tom Brady (passing) 246 yards 82 yards
Tom Brady (accuracy) 23/28 14/22
Third Down Conversions 5/5 3/9

The majority of the defensive struggles for Seattle came in the fourth quarter as Brady went 13/15 (86.7 percent), 124 yards, 2 touchdown, no interceptions, 8.3 yards per attempt and a passer rating of 153.2. He turned the vaunted Seahawk defense into just an average group of players. The organization that took so much pride in its “legendary” defense was left watching Brady’s legacy pass by in the rear-view mirror.

After watching the offensive struggles of Seattle in the NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers, perhaps their occasional struggles Sunday were to be expected. At the same time, perhaps we shouldn’t be so dumbfounded at the equal struggles of their defense.

Despite being astounding during the regular season, the production by this Seattle defense in the postseason has been uncharacteristic, to say the least.

Regular Season Average Playoff Average
Average Yards/Game 267.1 348.3
Average Rushing Yards/Game 81.5 108
Average Passing Yards/Game 203.2 240.3

Injuries to key defenders could have easily played a part in the recent struggles. Yet, whatever the reason, the Seattle defense that was present during the playoffs seemed to be a shell of its regular season self. There would be waves of brilliance, but they were lost in a sea of mistakes. It was an unfortunate end to a season that featured 17 weeks of truly dominating performances by the Seattle defense.

Super Bowl XLIX will always be remembered for Malcolm Butler‘s goal line interception, and rightfully so. However, the Seahawks lost their chance for another championship long before Wilson’s ill-fated pass failed to reach the hands of Ricardo Lockette. Instead of placing the blame squarely on the the final play call, perhaps it is time we lay blame on a unit that is more accustomed to laying big hits.

 

Cover Photo: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Grant E. Doepel

Grant E. Doepel

Founder at Sports Grumble
Editor in Chief and co-founder of Riverfront City Sports and Sports Grumble, Doepel is a Cincinnati native who lives and breathes Queen City sports. A University of the Cumberlands graduate with degrees in Journalism and Communication Arts, Doepel still resides in the Greater Cincinnati area to provide easy access to the riverfront stadiums.
Grant E. Doepel

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