Here Comes the Boom

By: Zak Berliner

When you hear “the Seattle Seahawks,” what is the first thought that comes to mind? Russell Wilson? Richard Sherman? Super Bowl Champion? For most followers of football, the answer is most likely “defense.” Yes, the famed Seattle defense that all the NFL analysts gush about in almost every telecast. The football fan is force-fed the concept that Seattle has this unreal defense that can stop any offense at any time. All this talk is wonderful, but where is the proof that the Seahawks have a defense that is significantly above average? Or is it just like all the other defenses in the NFL? I wanted to know, so I did a statistical analysis that can determine if the Seattle defense from the 2013 and 2014 seasons, as of now, is that superior to the average defense. In order to get a good picture of the overall skill of the defense, I analyzed various statistics for the opposing offense, namely score, total yards, passing yards, completion percentage, rushing yards, and turnovers. Hopefully, this analysis can give an idea of whether the “Legion of Boom” moniker has any truth behind it, or if it is just a media fabrication. So, without further ado, let’s get into the stats.

The first statistic I tested is total score. If a defense can stop a team from scoring, it is reasonable to say that that defense is talented. Up to this point in time, since Week 1 of 2013, the average amount of points scored in an NFL game is 23.38 points. That is higher than I initially expected. By contrast, the average amount of points scored against the Seahawks is just 15.69. It seems like a big difference, but is the difference between the numbers statistically significant? In short, yes. Seattle significantly allows fewer points than the average team. The next stat I tested is total yards. A defense could be great at goal line stands but terrible in allowing yardage. But in fact, the average team allows 350.98 yards, while Seattle allows a mere 282.22 yards, an incredibly significant difference. Seattle is much better at stopping offenses from driving down the field. Seattle also allows significantly fewer passing yards, allowing only 184.97 yards as opposed to the league average of 238.37. People claim that Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor are great at forcing incompletions. Are they? The league average completion percentage is 61.93%. The percentage against Seattle is also pretty high at 60.67%. However, surprisingly, the difference between those two percentages is statistically significant. Some people also think the Seahawks’ run defense is incredible.  There is not a huge difference, however, between the 112.69 yards against an average defense and the 97.58 yards against Seattle; regardless, that is also significant. Finally, we come to forced turnovers, a hallmark of a good defense. The average defense forces 1.54 turnovers per game. Seattle forces 2.2. That difference is….significant! Seattle’s defense was significantly better than the average defense in every category tested! The Seahawks truly have a defense far better than the regular NFL team.

One other thing about Seattle: it is notorious for being a tough place to play. Every analyst points out the loudness of the “12th Man” of CenturyLink Field. However, does it actually make that much of a difference in how well the defense played? I analyzed the same statistical categories between Seattle’s games at home and on the road since the start of the 2013 season. When Seattle was at home, they gave up an average of 14.6 points, whereas on the road they gave up 16.78 points. The difference between those two numbers is actually not significant. Essentially, the Seahawks’ defense gave up the same amount of points at home and on the road. In total yards, the defense surrendered an average of 262.1 total yards at home, while it surrendered 302.33 total yards on the road. As opposed to the score, there was a significant difference between home and away yards allowed. When in Seattle, opposing teams threw for an average of 175.5 yards with a completion percentage of 59.43%, while they threw for 194.44 yards with a completion percentage of 61.91% when not in Seattle. Both the difference between passing yards and the difference between completion rates are significant. When at CenturyLink, teams rushed for 86.6 yards; at other stadiums they rushed for 108.56 yards, which is significantly different from the road value. Finally, at home, the Seahawk’s defense forced 2.4 turnovers, while they only forced 2 turnovers on the road. The difference in turnovers was significant. Therefore, the Seahawks defense played better at home in every category, with the exception of points allowed.

So, let’s review what the statistics have told us. The numbers proved that Seattle’s defense was far above average in points scored, total yards allowed, passing yards allowed, passing completion percentage, rushing yards allowed, and turnovers allowed. The Seahawks’ D was also superior at home in every category except for points allowed. Ultimately, these results confirm that Seattle’s defense is fantastic. They also confirm that the Seahawks do play better in Seattle. When other offenses face the Seahawks, they will need to prepare for a tough game, especially in Seattle.

Follow Zak on Twitter @zakberliner1 and listen to him on “The War Room” Fridays from 6-7 pm