Seattle Seahawks Teetering On Wrong Side Of Football Format War


The horse and buggy.  The eight-track tape. Landlines.

History is littered with forgotten formats, beaten out by alternatives that either perform better or are cheaper to produce.

Is American football in the midst of such a battle, and, if so, where does the Seahawks style of play fit in?

First, a little background.  Around 15 years ago, a new style of offense, known as the “spread” popularized, and schools such as Oregon began to proliferate in college football.  The spread offense involves stretching receivers out from one sideline to the other, causing defenses to have to protect the entire field. The spread also often involves running plays at high speed, with lots of passing plays.  It also often involves speedy, quick-twitch running backs who can take advantage of a defense that has not had enough time to realign itself after the previous play, or has been able to do so but is winded as a result.

This style of offense is now changing professional football.  Teams such as the Saints, Rams, Chargers and the Chiefs are examples of high-flying offenses that are leaving their opponents racing to keep up.

The Seahawks, on the other hand, are still playing a more traditional kind of football.  It involves running the ball more than passing it. The Seahawks are running the ball very well; they currently lead the NFL in rushing yards per game.

Seattle, however, is not running very many plays per game overall.  They rank toward the bottom of the list of teams in terms of the number of plays they are running.  Which means the Seattle offense is either slow, not possessing the ball because their defense can’t get off the field to give the ball back to their offense, or both.

And while Russell Wilson has been having a stellar season—he is in the top five for quarterback rating when compared to all quarterbacks—he is not passing the ball very much, though he has over thirty touchdowns to just six interceptions.

With a record of 8-6, the Seahawks only need to win one of their last two games to be assured of a wild card spot in the playoffs.

But in reviewing their wins and losses, it is clear that the Seahawks are only beating the worst teams they’ve played—one exception is the Vikings—and losing to the best teams they play, most of whom are running a high-flying offensive attack.

Seattle has played a team from Los Angeles—either the Chargers or the Rams—three times this season, and has lost all three games.

The Seahawks play the Chiefs on Sunday, an absolutely titanic matchup against a…wait for it…high-potency offense that flings it around as good as anyone.  It will be a reliable test of whether or not the Seahawks’ traditional, running-based offense can outperform one of these newer style teams.

Even if they lose against the Chiefs on Sunday, they can still go to the playoffs by defeating the Arizona Cardinals the following week.  The Cardinals are horrible this season, but they do have their pride to play for. Seattle should by no means take that game for granted, especially if they lose this Sunday to Kansas City.  

Assuming they do make the playoffs, the prospect of winning only gets harder from there.  Luckily, in some respects, Seattle would face Dallas in the wild-card round. They’ve already defeated them once, but with a world-beating running back like Ezekiel Elliott for the Cowboys, there’s no guarantee the Seahawks will be able to shut him down a second time, given the poor performance of the Seattle defense last weekend against a bad San Francisco team.

Let’s go one step further and predict Seattle to beat Dallas and advance to the next round of the playoffs.  There they would likely have to play either the Saints or the Rams on the road.

Can Pete Carroll, Russell Wilson, and the rest of their gang, with their somewhat horse-and-buggy like offense, get it done against the supercomputer-on-wheels like offenses of either the Rams or the Saints?  Or perhaps some other team will do it for them and save them the trouble?

Inquiring minds want to know the answers to these questions.

By all means, enjoy this exciting time of the year.  Relish football and the company of family and friends.  Splurge on such extravagances as chicken wings, craft beer, and our bounty of local seafood.

But also know that you are watching history unfold, however slowly.  One hundred years from now, historians may ponder the football offenses of the past.  It’s Seattle’s job in the next few weeks to prevent themselves from being counted among that one-day, possibly obsolete group.


About Author

Paul Redman

Paul Redman is a writer and chef in Seattle who grew up in the Midwest. His work has appeared in print and online, including San Francisco magazine, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and Contrary. He eats too many chicken wings and cracks way too many dad jokes and food puns. Follow him on Twitter @predman.

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