Despite bad numbers, Seahawks believe their defense is solid

RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Some of the numbers attached to the Seattle Seahawks’ defense this season are downright unrecognizable.

Most glaring: No team in the league is allowing more total yards per game than the Seahawks through 14 weeks.

They’re 32nd out of 32. Dead last.

The franchise that once allowed just 267.1 yards per game in 2014 is now giving up nearly 400 yards per game this season. But there is a flip side to those numbers and what Seattle (5-8) is banking on as the reason for optimism heading into Sunday’s matchup with the Los Angeles Rams. While the Seahawks have allowed a runway of yards to pile against their defense, they still have the fifth best scoring defense in the league, giving up 20.2 points per game.

Seattle has held each of its past seven opponents to 23 points or less, including 13 last week against Houston. The last team to score more than 23 against Seattle was the Rams in their 26-17 win in Week 5.

This week might make or break Seattle’s postseason hopes, which is why it needs that defense to be stingy giving up points yet again.

“This is a good defense,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “We’ve had hundreds of plays more than other people, so the total play numbers, they reflect a different outcome than what you’re doing actually in the game. The most important thing is points.”

To his point, Carroll is correct. No defense in the league has been on the field and faced more offensive plays from its opponent than Seattle. That speaks mostly to the offensive issues of the Seahawks and their inability to stay on the field and sustain drives for much of this season.

Seattle’s defense has been on the field for 939 plays this season. Next closest: the New York Giants at 884. When it comes to time of possession, Seattle’s defense is on the field nearly 35 minutes per game on average, also the most in the league.

Those two factors have created situations at times this season when Seattle’s defense is simply exhausted by the fourth quarter.

“We’ve just had so many plays because of the way we played (on offense), which I still hate the way that the numbers have come out as far as time of possession, in first downs, in conversions on third downs and all that,” Carroll said. “The defensive third-down conversion numbers are really pretty darn good. But we’re not getting the benefit of that because we’ve got to do it on the other side, too.

To Seattle’s credit, it has improved dramatically in its third-down defense and red-zone defense from early in the season. The Seahawks are allowing 31.7% conversion on third downs over the past 10 games, and are fourth in the league in allowing red-zone touchdowns for the entire season at 49%.

Seattle has also cut down on giving up big plays of 20 or more yards.

“The important downs — third downs, red zone, things of that nature — we’ve had a lot of growth in that area,” linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “Now we just have to work on yards and get that figured out.”

There are still plenty of issues for Seattle’s defense, namely an inability to generate a consistent pass rush from someone other than Darrell Taylor.

But the idea of a bend-don’t-break defense is not new to the Seahawks. In the years after Seattle had the best defense in the league — 2013 and 2014 — the Seahawks were a little more of that style of giving up yards between the 20s but keeping opponents out of the end zone.

If Seattle can keep up its pace this season, it would finish in the top 10 in scoring defense for the first time since 2016.

“As long as they’re not scoring touchdowns, I’m good,” safety Quandre Diggs said. “I mean, you can get the yards and do your thing. We still have some stuff to clean up to kind of take some of those yards away.”

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