Don’t forget the offense played part in the Seahawks’ success
While you’re busy giving appropriate praise to the defense, give Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and Co. credit for what they’ve become this season.
Times staff columnist
Think of the Seahawks’ offense as the straight man in a brilliant performance starring the defense.
The acclaimed, legend-chasing defense is the hilarious headliner, the primary source of your Seahawks entertainment, the unquestioned reason the Seahawks have a chance to win another Super Bowl. In coach Pete Carroll’s system, the offense’s job is often to make the defense look good, or rather, to ensure the Seahawks maximize their greatest strength.
It’s a dirty job for what is traditionally the more glamorous unit on a football team.
And while you’re busy giving appropriate praise to the defense, save some time amid all the shouting and wrangling about what the offense isn’t to give Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and Co. credit for what they’ve become this season.
The perfect straight man.
An ideal fit for a defense nearing all-time-great status.
A unit deserving more than the frequent bellyaching it receives.
For sure, you need a rather durable notebook to list all the ways the Seahawks offense can annoy. But its offensive efficiency, production and improvement over the course of the season turned out to be a huge factor in the Seahawks re-establishing their might after a disappointing 3-3 start that included getting rid of disgruntled top receiver Percy Harvin.
The Seahawks won their final six games of the regular season by showcasing a level of defense that the franchise may never be able to replicate. But when you’re done lauding the defense for allowing just 6.5 points and 202.2 yards per game during the season-ending winning streak, consider what the offense accomplished.
In the final six games, the Seahawks averaged 392 yards per game — 170 rushing and 222 passing. If you look at the entire second half of the regular season, an eight-game sample size, those numbers rise to 404.3 yards per game. That’s 196.8 yards rushing per game and 207.5 yards passing.
Because of their flaws — penalties, red-zone inefficiency and third-down inconsistency among them — the Seahawks haven’t converted all those yards into an acceptable number of points. They averaged just 24 points in the final eight games, just 22.3 during the six-game winning streak. But when you have the best defense in the NFL, you don’t need to score 30 points a game.
As great as the Seahawks defense has been on its own, it wouldn’t seem this invincible without the offense moving the football consistently, dominating time of possession, avoiding turnovers and wearing down teams with Lynch and the run game.
Ignore your frustrations about the offense, and you learn that the Seahawks enter the playoffs as the most balanced team Carroll has had in Seattle. The defense allowed the fewest points and yards in the entire NFL. The offense finished ninth in total offense (375.8) and 10th in scoring (24.6 points per game). The Seahawks set a franchise record with 6,012 yards gained this season, besting Mike Holmgren’s 2005 team, the gold standard for Seattle offense. And they did this while committing only 14 turnovers, the fewest in franchise history.
It would be foolish to declare the current offense the best in franchise history. Offenses are more explosive now, and the rules keep changing to make it easier to move the ball. If the 2005 Seahawks played in this era, they would average more than 30 points and 400 yards per game.
The Seahawks’ 2014 offensive production still qualifies as good when measured against today’s standards. When you include the efficiency of a team that doesn’t turn over the football much, this is one of the league’s most effective offenses.
I use the word “effective,” as opposed to “best,” because you have to evaluate the Seahawks’ performance against the expectations of a defensive-oriented team and head coach. Carroll doesn’t aim to have the NFL’s best offense. If it happened, he would be OK with it, but only under two strict conditions: 1) There must be a commitment to running the ball. 2) There is no tolerance for committing turnovers and putting the defense in bad situations.
It’s a conservative approach that doesn’t lend itself to racking up yards and points. So it’s more worthwhile to note that the Football Outsiders’ advanced statistics rate the Seahawks as having the league’s fifth most efficient offense.
This is a solid offense that can look great when it protects Wilson and doesn’t make silly mistakes. And for half the season, as the Seahawks returned to greatness in November and December, the offense functioned at a level much better than solid.
You’ll go into the playoffs believing that only the offense can hold the Seahawks back. It’s true in a sense, but don’t go too far and think the offense has to play at an even higher level.
If the offense plays to its second-half averages, the defense could slip a bit, and the Seahawks would still be a legitimate Super Bowl challenger.
And look at what the straight man has overcome. Harvin is gone. Tight end Zach Miller was lost to injury after three games. Fullback Derrick Coleman was lost for the season. Pro Bowl center Max Unger missed 10 games, and the true starting offensive line hasn’t been on the field together since Week 5.
But offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell found a way to make this work, returning to a run-first mentality after Harvin was traded. Lynch had one of his best seasons. Wilson ran more. Luke Willson, Cooper Helfet and Tony Moeaki exceeded expectations at tight end. Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and the unproven receivers behind them surpassed doubters’ expectations.
“I like where we’re at right now,” Bevell said. “I like how all our guys stepped up. I mean, we’ve had so many guys step up in so many different positions.”
The offense was a mess the first five games. It has since turned into a streamlined and formidable unit. Most important, it has become a great complement to the baddest defense around.
Give the offense its due. The defense looks even better now that it has a good straight man.
About Jerry Brewer
Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports.
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