The first #1 conference seed to be an underdog to a #6, this team will once again find themselves on the short end of the media stick. And since information about the Seahawks at a deep-blue level will be a bit tough to come by, perhaps it’s time to share the following secrets about the most invisible Super Bowl team since the 2001 New England Patriots.
If the result is the same for the Seahawks, they’ll take the same preamble of indifference…every day, and twice on Super Bowl Sunday.
1. Matt Hasselbeck’s hot postseason shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.
Seattle’s quarterback has completed 36 of 54 passes for 434 yards, 3 touchdowns, no interceptions and a 109.7 passer rating in two playoff games. If you’re at all surprised by this, you obviously didn’t pay attention to his December. In his four games in the final month of 2005, Hasselbeck completed 76.1% of his passes – the best percentage of any quarterback in NFL history who played in at least four games in the month. His 135.5 December passer rating tells the tale – 67 completions in 88 attempts for 777 yards, 10 touchdowns and one interception. He’s certainly been helped by the fact that defenses key on Shaun Alexander, but Hasselbeck proved he could carry the team in the divisional playoff versus the Redskins when Alexander left the game with a concussion in the first quarter. Dismiss him at your peril.
2. Seattle’s defense might be better-equipped to stop the run than you think.
If you’re of a mind to believe that Pittsburgh’s “Thunder and Lightning” rushing attack will automatically shred Seattle, you may want to look at the numbers. In 18 games this season, the Seahawks have allowed a 100-yard rusher - the Giants’ Tiki Barber. Seattle allowed the second-fewest regular-season rushing touchdowns in the NFL (five – which is twenty-four less than they scored!) and has not allowed one in the playoffs. The Seahawks are not only fifth in the NFL in run defense (a franchise record 94.4 YPG), but they are first in the NFL in Adjusted Line Yards, Football Outsiders’ innovative statistic which rates defensive lines and their specific effectiveness
3. The Seahawks may have led the NFL in sacks in 2005, but they’re not blitz-happy.
Seattle accumulated 50 sacks in the regular season, which you probably already know. What you may not know is the extent to which blitzing doesn’t play a part in that. Eleven players contributed to their quarterback takedowns, and 32.5 sacks came from the defensive line. 11.5 came from rookie linebackers Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill. 3.0 from the defensive backs, and 3.0 were listed as team sacks. Seattle’s ability to bring pressure without over-committing personnel at the line allows their linebackers to integrate into some very creative coverage schemes. The “Steve Smith Obstacle Course” in the NFC Championship was perhaps the premium example of this factor – there’s no way the Seahawks could have put as many as four men on Smith unless they knew their front four could get consistent pressure.
4. Over the last three regular seasons, the Seahawks are the class of the NFC.
This might be a surprise to many who think the Philadelphia Eagles have the NFC’s best record from 2003 through 2005. But with the ascent of Seattle and Philly’s circus of a season, the Seahawks jumped ahead with a 32-16 mark over that period, one game better than Philly’s. Only Indianapolis (37-10), New England (38-9) and Denver (33-15) are better over the last three years than Seattle. For the record, the Steelers share Seattle’s 32-16 mark.
5. Seattle has the red zone covered.
If games are won and lost in the red zone, the Seahawks are better-prepared for victory than any other team. On offense, they converted 71.7% of their trips inside their opponents’ 20-yard line into touchdowns, the NFL’s best. When their opponents made inroads inside Seattle’s 20, they weren’t nearly as fortunate, scoring TDs only 40.4% of the time. The Seahawks are the only NFL team to rank in the top five in red zone offense and red zone defense. When they get there, they score, When you get there, you don’t. That’s how you win ballgames!
6. The Seahawks made their way to the Super Bowl in the face of some serious roster turmoil.
In their 21-18 home-opener victory against the Atlanta Falcons on September 18, Seattle’s defense featured eight players who hadn’t started in the 2004 opener – linebackers Jamie Sharper, Lofa Tatupu and D.D. Lewis, defensive end Bryce Fisher, defensive tackles Marcus Tubbs and Chuck Darby, cornerback Andre Dyson and safety Michael Boulware. Then, safety Ken Hamlin was lost for the season after an altercation in front of a Seattle nightclub on the morning of October 17, allowing Marquand Manuel to step in and step up.
On top of all that, defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes suffered a stroke on September 4, which forced linebackers coach John Marshall (a former defensive coordinator himself) to step into the booth and navigate the defense.
The Seahawks went 9-0 without their #1 receiver (Darrell Jackson), and beat the Rams, Texans and Cowboys without their #2 receiver (Bobby Engram) as well.
7. Seattle’s head honcho passed up the NFL Owner’s Meetings to scout college players down South.
Less than a month after he was hired as the Seahawks’ GM and Team President, Tim Ruskell faced a crossroads: Sip Mai-Tais at the NFL’s Owners Meetings in Maui, or jump a plane to Auburn to start scouting for the upcoming draft? There was little doubt as to what this football lifer with over 20 years of scouting experience would do – while most men in his position were working on their short game, Ruskell was where he’s comfortable – holding a stopwatch and putting a dollar sign on the muscle at Auburn’s Pro Day. Ruskell’s ability to draft high talent in low rounds and pluck undervalued players away from unappreciative teams was an enormous part of Seattle’s ability to hit the peak of the NFC mountain.
8. When the Seahawks beat the Redskins in the Divisional Playoffs, Mike Holmgren found the last piece of a rather large puzzle.
Washington was the last of the NFL’s 32 teams that Holmgren hadn’t defeated in his 14 years as an NFL head coach with the Packers and Seahawks. Holmgren holds a 14-2 record against the Chicago Bears (his best) and a 1-4 mark against the Redskins (his worst.) Holmgren is 1-2 against the Packers as the Seahawks’ coach, and 1-0 against the Seahawks during his tenure in Green Bay (he’s also 4-1 against the Steelers!)
9. Seattle’s offense is “good”? Try “great”.
What would you call an offense that led the NFL in touchdowns (57), fourth down efficiency (7/8), points scored per game (28.3), red zone offense (71.7%), scoring drives of 80 yards or more (24), and scored 40 or more points in three games?
Probably the same thing you’d call an offense that finished 2nd in the league in total yards per game (369.7), yards per play (5.8), first downs per game (22.6), rushing yards/attempt (4.7), first down plays (361), and didn’t give up a sack in three games.
Frighteningly efficient, and unequivocally explosive!
10. Dropped passes? Not anymore.
An infuriating 43 in 2004, down to 23 this season, according to Mike Holmgren after watching the film. We should probably dispense with all the other national stereotypes as well – the Seahawks don’t have a barista stand on the sidelines, grunge died about seven years ago, and just because their owner co-founded Microsoft doesn’t mean their coaches wear pocket protectors and carry slide rules, Mr. Broadcaster/Comedian!
And there you have it – just a few words to the wise, Vegas and America. If you’re still discounting the Seahawks because you truly believe Pittsburgh’s the better team, fair enough. But if your nose is upturned and headed east by default, don’t say we didn’t warn you…this bunch way up there in Deep South Alaska has everything it takes to be the best team you’ve never heard of.
Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET. Feel free to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.