Super Bowl XLIX: In Defense of Greatness

To paraphrase Professor X’s opening monologue in X-men (2000): The Hawks’ Defense. Since the discovery of their existence they have been regarded with fear, suspicion, often hatred. Across the planet, debate rages.

Are Sherman, Chancellor, and crew the next link in the evolutionary chain or simply a new species of Defense fighting for their share of the world? Either way it is a historical fact: Sharing the world has never been humanity’s defining attribute.

“Dynasty Hand-off”.
The concept has many chins wagging, form the sidelines to the armchairs.

But whatever the outcome on Sunday, among the many reasons and strengths that brought the Seahawks to the discussion, the one that no one is disputing, is our talented, dominant, and elite Defense. In fact, over the last three years, we’ve become out and out Legendary.

FACTS:

Since 2012, we have allowed less 8,972 total passing yards while every other team has allowed more than 10,000. Our staunch stalwarts have deigned to allow a paltry 282.3 total yards per game while the next best, San Francisco, sits at just over 310. The NFL average of the also-rans in those same three years is 350.1 yards per game. Concomitantly, we are flinty-eyed misers in allowing teams to score. Our opponents have averaged 15.2 points in every contest since 2012. Aside from the 49ers’ 18.2 points allowed average, every other team has allowed over 20.

But wait, there’s more!

Since the NFL merger in 1970, the only other defense that’s dominated yards allowed and points allowed in back-to-back seasons was the Chicago Bears of ’85-’86. However, you have to go further back to appreciate the scope of our grandeur. How long has it been since any defense allowed the fewest point/game in three consecutive seasons? Before there was the internet, before there was Microsoft, before Watergate was a glimmer in Nixon’s crooked eyes… you had the Minnesota Purple People Eaters from ’69-’71.

However, Super Bowl XLIX is against this year’s teams, not some Voltron aggregate… but Sweet Baby Ditka, that’d be Amazing!

Comparing the 2014 Hawks to the 2014 Pats we see a lot to whet the appetites. New England has allowed 77.0 yards per game AND 3.6 points per game more than Seattle. Their rushing defense was decent, ranked 9th overall, but their passing was rather flawed, 17th overall, allowing 239.8 yards per game.

FIGURES:

Still, this isn’t 1970, and we have database-killing loads of data on NFL teams. Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) is the modern-era stat for football that makes use of this statistical tonnage. DVOA is a statistical analysis of every play of every game by every team in a given year. To crank things up a notch, you can even “weight” this analysis by ignoring the aberrant starts for both teams and adding the play off performances. Up through the last two games, here are how the Seahawks and Patriots look through the DVOA lens, with weighted summaries listed as “WEI DVOA” by the team name:

TEAM

DVOA

RANK

OFF
DVOA

OFF.
RANK

DEF
DVOA

DEF.
RANK

S.T.
DVOA

NE (DVOA through Week 20)

26.7%

3

16.7%

5

-4.5%

9

5.5%

NE (WEI DVOA through Week 20)

39.8%

1

21.3%

3

-12.4%

12

6.1%

SEA (DVOA through Week 20)

30.7%

1

15.5%

6

-16.8%

1

-1.7%

SEA (WEI DVOA through Week 20)

38.8%

2

16.0%

4

-25.2%

1

-2.4%

The standouts here are that New England’s defense is actually worse than folks think once you weight things properly. Seattle’s, on the other hand, only gets better. For defense, the greater the negative number, the greater its effectiveness. Granted, the Patriots defense also gets a bump, just not nearly as significant as the Hawks’ defense.

What’s particularly encouraging is that the best offenses usually sit at +30% while the best defenses are around -25% (the NFL has been tweaking things to make for better scoring, after all). Their offense is damn good… but our defense is better still.

Take us out Professor X..
“Since the dawn of the Forward Pass, there have always been moments when the course of history shifted. Such a turning point is upon us now: the Super Bowl between the better and worst teams of our very NFL, whose outcome will change our world so greatly there will be no going back. I do not know if victory is possible. I only know that great sacrifice will be required. And because the fate of many will depend on a few, we must make the last stand.”

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Matt Paige is the Baseball Managing Editor and a regular contributor on SSU TV and for Seahawks Football. He also writes the column "The Call-Up" and is a rabid fan of all teams Seattle (Except the Huskies. Go Ducks!).