By John Boyle
Wait, what’s that? Seahawks fans should be happy that the rival 49ers are in the NFC Championship Game? Well maybe Seattle fans won’t celebrate San Francisco’s win, but there is some good in that result for the Seahawks. Same with Baltimore’s win over Houston.
Time and time again, we’ve heard Pete Carroll preach the value of defense, running the football and winning the turnover battle. That formula led to some success for the Seahawks in the second half of the season, but even as the Seahawks were winning, people asked if that formula can work anymore in the now pass-happy NFL. Well with four teams remaining in the playoffs, there are two—New York and New England—that do rely heavily on the passing game, but the other two teams still standing, Baltimore and San Francisco, got this far using the same formula Carroll is trying to win with in Seattle.
Now this isn’t a perfect comparison. For one, Baltimore and San Francisco, by almost all measures, were better than Seattle on defense despite the huge strides the Seahawks made in this are. The 49ers also won last weekend because the offense was able to twice drive for go-ahead scores late in the fourth quarter, something the Seahawks couldn’t do all season. But the fact that Green Bay and New Orleans are done for the season while San Francisco and Baltimore are still playing does show that, even in an era of passing records, defense and a rushing game can work in the playoffs.
Consider the following:
The 49ers were a pedestrian 26th in total yards and 29th in passing yards, but had the 8th-best rushing total, and were stingy across the board on defense: 2nd in scoring D, 4th total D, 16th pass D, 1st run D, and the 49ers led the league in turnover ratio.
The Ravens were also middle of the road in most offensive stats: 15th total offense, 12th scoring, 19th passing, 10th rushing. But they were 3rd in total defense and scoring D, 4th in passing D and 2nd against the run.
The Seahawks offense wasn’t particularly good, ranking 28th in yards, 23rd in scoring, 22nd in passing and 21st in the run game, but considering they were 31st in rushing offense through seven games, that number should be much better next year based on the growth we saw.
Defensively the Seahawks ranked 9th in total D, 7th in scoring, 11th against the pass and 15th against the run, while being 5th in turnover ratio. As young as Seattle’s defense is, there is no reason to think those numbers won’t improve next season. And based off what we’ve seen in these playoffs, good old-fashioned defense might just work in the playoffs after all.