Seattle Seahawks: Can Defense Alone Carry Them to the Playoffs?

Todd Pheifer@tpheiferAnalyst IIIOctober 24, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 18:  Defensive end Greg Scruggs #98 of the Seattle Seahawks looks to the sidelines for instructions against the San Francisco 49ers on October 18, 2012 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California.  The 49ers won 13-6.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks have a great defense, and the notoriety of that defense is growing around the NFL. Can that defense carry them to the playoffs?

Obviously, the initial answer is "no," simply because every team needs to score points. The defense cannot be expected to pick off several balls per game and run them back for touchdowns.

The question is whether defense really does win championships. We hear that phrase all the time, so it seems reasonable to assess whether Seattle can play tough defense and win games even if the quarterback is going 9-for-23 every week.

If the Seahawks are able to win consistently in 2012 and do it without a lot of offensive production, they will inevitably draw comparisons to the 2000 Baltimore Ravens.

Granted, that is a difficult comparison, simply because that Baltimore team was so incredibly dominant on defense. For example, the Ravens gave up only 970 yards on the ground that season. Seattle has given up 595 through seven games, which puts them on pace to give up 1,360.  

The Ravens also held opponents to 165 total points for the season. Seattle is on pace to give up 242. Therefore, you can argue that Seattle has a very good defense, but they are not up to par with that Baltimore team.  

For the Seahawks, the key for the defense is to get stops, provide the offense with good field position and possibly score some points every once in a while.

Despite a growing reputation, Seattle is an average team when it comes to takeaways.  The Chicago Bears lead the NFC with 21 takeaways, while Seattle is tied for eighth with 10. Couple that with 11 giveaways, and Seattle is minus-one as a team when it comes to turnovers.

Seattle does rank third in the league in points allowed per game. This is a big part of why they have four wins despite a lack of offensive production.

Specifically, the defense is not going to lead this team to the playoffs unless the run defense can plug some holes. The 'Hawks are still sixth in the league in yards allowed at 85.0 per game, but Frank Gore and the San Francisco 49ers offensive line had their way with the defensive line of Seattle.

The Niners ran for 175 yards. Not good.

With Adrian Peterson, Reggie Bush, Matt Forte, Steven Jackson and Frank Gore (again) on the horizon, Seattle will continue to be tested on the ground. A measure of containment will be required if the Seahawks are going to assert themselves as a true run-stuffing team.  

Now, let us to be honest. Seattle needs at least some offense in order to make the playoffs. The phrase should actually be "defense wins championships (pause) as long as the offense is at least average." Not as catchy, but still true.

For the Seahawks, the offensive struggles have been well-documented. Running game...check. Passing game...TBD.

If you go back to that Baltimore Super Bowl team, fans forget that the offense was not terrible. So much attention was paid to the defense that the offense was a little forgotten.

Granted, there was nothing legendary about the Raven offense, but they were 13th in the league in scoring, 23rd in passing yards and 16th in total yardage.

At the moment, Seattle is 26th in scoring, 31st in passing yards and 27th in total yards. None of these statistics are a shock to fans that have been watching this team play all season.

I will not belabor the fact that Russell Wilson has to produce more offense. There has been a great deal of analysis about his potential effectiveness, but the bottom line is that he must produce more from a statistical standpoint.

Many people like Russell, but he is not consistently putting points on the board.

You assume that Marshawn Lynch will continue to run the ball well, but Wilson and the receivers have to put Beast Mode in a position where he can actually see the end zone.

Therefore, we are back to the original question. Can defense alone lead Seattle to the playoffs? Probably not. There needs to be some better offensive production. Wilson does not have to become Aaron Rodgers, but if Russell put up 200-250 yards per game with one or two touchdowns and no picks, Seattle might be in very good shape.

That is assuming that the defense continues to do their job.

In Super Bowl XXXV, "game manager" Trent Dilfer threw for only 153 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. Jamal Lewis ran for 102 yards and the defense did the rest. That may be the formula for this Seattle team.

Tough defense, 100+ yards on the ground, and conservative, but effective play from the QB.

The defense can certainly lead the way, but it cannot be expected to win games without some offensive help.

We will see if the Seahawks have enough success in the next few weeks to draw some comparisons to that legendary Ravens team.


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