Dec 9, 2012, Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) stands under center against the Arizona Cardinals during the first quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The 2012 Seattle Seahawks Removed the "Up" From Up-Tempo

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Things were a bit quiet here yesterday. I’m sorry for that. I’ve been lost down a bit of a rabbit hole of a stats project and I didn’t realize that I forgot to post something about what I was working on. I still a long ways from being done, but I thought it would be fun to give you a taste of what I’ve been working on.

This project started out looking into time of possession and it’s effect on game outcomes. That turned out to be an uninteresting study, but it put me on the path of some very interesting additional and related topics. For instance, did you know that the 2012 Seahawks were one of the least up-tempo teams in the entire NFL?

If you take the time of possess for each team for the full season, and divided that by the total number of offensive plays the team ran, you’ll get an idea for how up-tempo each team’s offense is.

Take a look at this:

Rk Team sec/play
1 New England Patriots 24.93
2 New Orleans Saints 26.08
3 Baltimore Ravens 26.41
4 Philadelphia Eagles 26.45
5 Detroit Lions 26.55
6 Indianapolis Colts 26.63
7 Jacksonville Jaguars 27.09
8 Cleveland Browns 27.16
9 Oakland Raiders 27.44
10 Denver Broncos 27.54
11 Minnesota Vikings 27.56
12 Arizona Cardinals 27.65
13 Tennessee Titans 27.77
14 Green Bay Packers 28.04
15 New York Jets 28.26
16 Miami Dolphins 28.38
17 Dallas Cowboys 28.39
18 St. Louis Rams 28.53
19 Kansas City Chiefs 28.69
20 Cincinnati Bengals 28.76
21 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 28.87
22 New York Giants 28.93
23 Carolina Panthers 29.00
24 Atlanta Falcons 29.02
25 Buffalo Bills 29.48
26 Houston Texans 29.74
27 Washington Redskins 30.13
28 Pittsburgh Steelers 30.20
29 Chicago Bears 30.56
30 San Diego Chargers 30.72
31 Seattle Seahawks 31.38
32 San Francisco 49ers 31.47

Yep, there’s our Seahawks situated right down there near the very bottom.

There’s some really interesting stuff here. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Patriots are at the top of the list. They spend large portions of the game in the no-huddle, and Belichick spent time last offseason working with Chip Kelly learning how to speed up the game.

You’ll also probably notice that the most pass-happy teams are also near the top of the list, and that the teams who run the ball the most are near the bottom, at least for the most part. This isn’t a coincidence. Running plays are more likely to leave the clock rolling at the end of the play, while passing plays have a higher probability to end with the clock stopped.

But that isn’t the only thing going on here. The Patriots actually were 2nd in the NFL in rushing attempts (yes, your read that right. Pretty weird huh?), while there were 20 teams with more rushing attempts than the Chargers. Clearly there is more going on here.

The real key for this measurement is the pace that teams operate. The Patriots work very hard to speed the game up, while the Seahawks worked very hard to slow it down. The pace of both teams was deliberate, and that, more than play selection, is what shows up on that chart.

One other thing to keep in mind: the play clock is only 34 seconds. Think about that and the 31.38 seconds/play the Seahawks used for a second. Then factor in the 146 incomplete passes, all the plays that ended in scores, or out of bounds, or in a penalty all of which that stopped the clock. The add in and all the close 4th quarter comebacks where the Seahawks were in the 2-minute offense. That’s a lot of plays that only generate 5-ish seconds of time of possession each.

Put that together and you’ll get the idea of what I’m talking about here. The only way the Seahawks end up with 31.38 seconds per play is if you’re intentionally running the play clock down to 1-2 seconds at every possible opportunity.

If there is such a thing as “down tempo,” I think the 2012 Seahawks would have been it.

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