The Seattle Seahawks Defense Was On The Field Less Than Any Other Defense in 2012


Jan 13, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Seattle Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas (29) intercepts a pass intended for Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White (84) during the fourth quarter of the NFC divisional playoff game at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

I previewed this study yesterday (it should take me about a week to run all the stats and write up all the results), but now it’s time to get the first look at some of the numbers. I thought we’d start at the basics, and look at the number of drives that each defense was on the field for, and how that related to the number of points scored.

The Seahawks rank 1st in both categories. They were on the field for the least amount of drives (164) of any team, and also gave up the fewest number of total points (245). That shouldn’t come as a surprise if you read yesterday’s preview, since it was that combination that got me interested in undertaking this exhaustive study in the first place.

The league average drives was 181.2. That means that the Seahawks defense played approximately a game and a half less than the average NFL defense. This is significant. That’s a lot less time on the field, and a lot less opportunities for the opposing team to score points.

The Arizona Cardinals were on the other end of the spectrum, their 205 defensive drives was by far the most in the league. That’s 23 more than average, which is almost 2 full game’s worth of possessions. It’s also 41 more drives than the Seahawks defense was on the field for, or about 3 and a half games worth.

That is a mind boggling result to me. I never expected the difference to be that extreme.

I ran a correlational study there’s a a reasonable correlation between the number of drives and number of points given up. Notice I said reasonable, not high. The variables are correlated, but they are not highly correlated. That just means that there are other competing factors going on here, which should come as no surprise. 

There are some interesting outliers. Only 3 defenses were on the field more than that of the Bears, and yet they were 3rd in total points allowed. That’s pretty damn impressive. I think it has to do with that defense’s ability get turnovers to end drives early, but that’s just a guess at this point.

Another interesting outlier are the Arizona Cardinals. Despite being ont he field more than any other defense, they were right in the middle of the pack in terms of points allowed. That’s pretty impressive if you think about it. I bet the Cardinals will miss former defensive coordinator Ray Horton more than they expect they will.

On the other end of the spectrum are the Dallas Cowboys. Only the Seahawk’s defense was on the field less, and yet they were 24th in scoring defense. That’s impressive, but its a “damn they were awful” sort of impressive.

Here’ the full data for all 32 teams:

RkTeamDrivesRkTeamTotPts1Seattle Seahawks1641Seattle Seahawks2452Dallas Cowboys1682San Francisco 49ers2733Carolina Panthers1703Chicago Bears2774New York Giants1704Denver Broncos2895Indianapolis Colts1735Atlanta Falcons2996Kansas City Chiefs1736Pittsburgh Steelers3147San Francisco 49ers1737Miami Dolphins3178Pittsburgh Steelers1748Cincinnati Bengals3209Atlanta Falcons1769New England Patriots33110Philadelphia Eagles17610Houston Texans33111San Diego Chargers17611Green Bay Packers33612St. Louis Rams17612New York Giants34413Washington Redskins17713Baltimore Ravens34414Miami Dolphins17814St. Louis Rams34815Buffalo Bills17915Minnesota Vikings34816Oakland Raiders18016San Diego Chargers35017Minnesota Vikings18117Arizona Cardinals35718Jacksonville Jaguars18318Carolina Panthers36319Green Bay Packers18419Cleveland Browns36820Tennessee Titans18420New York Jets37521Detroit Lions18521Indianapolis Colts38722Cincinnati Bengals18622Washington Redskins38823Denver Broncos18623Tampa Bay Buccaneers39424New Orleans Saints18724Dallas Cowboys40025New York Jets18725Kansas City Chiefs42526Tampa Bay Buccaneers18726Buffalo Bills43527Baltimore Ravens19027Detroit Lions43728New England Patriots19128Oakland Raiders44329Chicago Bears19229Philadelphia Eagles44430Cleveland Browns19430Jacksonville Jaguars44431Houston Texans19631New Orleans Saints45432Arizona Cardinals20532Tennessee Titans471