The Seattle Seahawks dropped to 1-2 after blowing another double-digit lead and surrendering 23 unanswered points in Sunday’s 30-17 road loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
Here’s the post-Week 3 edition of a weekly numbers-based look at notable trends and storylines surrounding the Seahawks:
440.3 — Yards allowed per game: Through three games, Seattle’s defense has allowed the most yardage of any NFL team. And as bad as its second-half collapse was last week — when the Seahawks surrendered 532 yards and blew a 14-point fourth-quarter lead in an overtime loss to the Titans — the defense was even worse Sunday. Minnesota marched up and down the field with incredible ease, scoring on six of its first seven possessions. There was virtually no resistance from Seattle’s pass defense, with receivers left wide open seemingly almost every play. That made things easy for quarterback Kirk Cousins, who played pitch and catch all afternoon while completing 30 of 38 passes for 323 yards and three touchdowns. And the Vikings were productive on the ground too, churning out a healthy 4.1 yards per carry. The Seahawks have allowed opponents to score on 50% of their drives this season, which is tied for the second-highest rate in the NFL. And over the past two weeks, that rate has been a jarring 61.9%.
51.7 — Pass coverage grade: Any discussion about Seattle’s defensive woes has to begin with its cornerbacks. Heading into the season, cornerback was widely regarded as the team’s worst position group. And the first three games have only furthered that notion. Pro Football Focus has given the Seahawks a 51.7 pass coverage grade (out of 100) this season, which ranks 24th out of the NFL’s 32 teams. And on Sunday, they received a particularly dismal 45.9 coverage grade. Some of the issues appear to be schematic. Seattle played ultra-conservative coverage against Minnesota’s elite receiving duo of Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson, which left it vulnerable to easy underneath completions over and over again all afternoon. Also, the Seahawks often looked lost and confused over their coverage responsibilities, which only further contributed to the constant stream of wide-open receivers. And in a Seattle secondary that’s looked completely out of sync as a whole, Tre Flowers’ play has been most concerning. The fourth-year cornerback has a 54.1 coverage grade this season, which ranks 63rd out of 85 cornerbacks in the league who have played at least 100 snaps. On plays in which Flowers was the nearest defender, he’s given up 14 receptions on 16 targets for 208 yards and a TD, according to PFF. With Flowers struggling mightily, it’ll be interesting to see if the Seahawks replace him with preseason acquisition and former University of Washington star cornerback Sidney Jones.
2 — Defensive takeaways: In addition to surrendering the most yardage in the league, Seattle’s defense has failed to generate turnovers. The Seahawks have just two takeaways through three games — and one of those takeaways was simply the product of a mishandled snap by the Colts in their season opener. If not for that gaffe by Indianapolis, Seattle would be one of just five teams in the NFL with only one takeaway this season. Much of that is a product of the secondary’s struggles. Not only have the Seahawks yet to come up with an interception, but their defensive backs have hardly even been in position to make plays on the ball. According to Pro Football Reference, Seattle’s secondary has combined for a grand total of one pass breakup through three games. The other contributing factor in the lack of turnovers is the pass rush. That was supposed to be one of the team’s biggest strengths. But so far, the Seahawks have been just average in that area. Seattle ranks 12th in PFF pass rush grading (73.4) and is tied for 15th in ESPN’s pass rush win rate (46%).
4.1 — Points per possession in the first half: The good news about the Seahawks’ offense? They’ve been world beaters in the first half. Seattle has averaged a league-best 4.1 points per possession in the first halves of its games, with eight TDs and two field goals on 15 first-half drives. The Seahawks have scored TDs on 53.3% of their first-half possessions, which is nearly 10 percentage points better than any other team in the league. Their first-half offensive success was on display again Sunday, with Seattle scoring 17 points on its first three possessions and finishing a missed field goal away from 20 points on its first four. And after relying on big plays last week against Tennessee, the encouraging part of Sunday’s first-half performance was how repeatable it looked. Russell Wilson was finding easy completions in the short-to-intermediate passing game, Chris Carson was racing through running lanes, and the offense appeared to have a nice balance and rhythm. But as has been the case this season, that first-half success didn’t last.
0.9 — Points per possession in the second half: For as great as the Seahawks have been offensively in the first half, they’ve been equally bad in the second half. Seattle has averaged a league-worst 0.9 points per possession in the second halves of its games, with just 13 points on 15 second-half possessions. To be fair, the Seahawks’ scoreless second half Sunday was far from just the offense’s fault. Seattle’s defense simply couldn’t get off the field, which left the offense with just two possessions in the first 25 minutes of the second half. By the time the Seahawks began their third possession of the half, they were trailing by 13 points and in desperation mode. So, yes, the offense can be partially excused for going quiet Sunday. But as for the previous week against Tennessee, when Seattle’s offense mustered just six points after halftime and sputtered to three-and-outs on three of its final four possessions? That was all on the offense. And overall, this trend of second-half disappearing acts is starting to become a concern.
2 — Games back in the NFC West: In another division, the Seahawks’ 1-2 start would likely be less of an issue. But Seattle happens to play in the rugged NFC West, which is widely considered the league’s best division. And with the Rams and Cardinals both off to 3-0 starts, the Seahawks are already two games out of first place. There’s still plenty of time to turn things around, with 14 games remaining in the NFL’s new 17-game regular season. But the next week or so will be pivotal. Seattle has two key divisional matchups in a five-day span — a trip to the Bay Area to face the 49ers on Sunday, followed by a quick turnaround for a home showdown against the Rams next Thursday. If the Seahawks bounce back and win both games, they’ll be right back in the thick of the NFC West race. But if they drop both games and fall to 1-4? Then, given the unforgiving nature of their division, they’re in danger of seeing their season slip away.