Dr. D's Seahawk Path to the Super Bowl
how Seattle could accomplish the 'nearly impossible'


This Jan. 2015 article from Sports Cheat Sheet leads off with a nicely-balanced mix of truisms:  "Winning on the road in the NFL is one thing; winning three consecutive times on the road and then on a neutral site is almost impossible."  Then the article goes on to list 6 teams that have done the impossible over the last 35 years - 17.1% of the winners.  Now, granted, Dr. D is still learning his craft, but he would know better than to start with "For all intents and purposes, a Major League pitcher cannot strike out a Major League hitter" when the actual strikeout rate is 17%.  :- )

Well, the strikeout rate spiked at 20% last year, but you know what he means.  There are a lot of things that happen 17% of the time in sports, and you would not associate them with "almost impossible."  The ISO rate is .150, or 15%; it's not almost impossible to hit more than a single.  A weakly-hit batted ball occurs 18% of the time, compared to medium and hard-hit balls.  Lifetime, Felix throws his curveball about 15% of the time; you're not going to be surprised to see it on 1-1.


The article does list the six previous WC winners; SSI flicked through their postseason results to see if there was anything they had in common.


The 1980 Oakland Raiders were a notorious smashmouth team that became the best team in football midseason, after Dan Pastorini was injuried and Jim Plunkett took over.  They had "lucky" postseason wins on the road of 14-12 Cleveland and 27-21 Chargers, but they out-gained both teams by yardages of like 250 to 175.  Those are two common threads:  you do got to win a close road game, 14-12 or whatever.  And your defense needs to lock down that home team.  The 2016 Seahawks are apparently capable of either.


The 2000 Balmer Ravens needed no "lucky" close games.  They won all their road games by scores of 16-3.  They held their opponents to 118, 75, and 172 yards; this was the historic Ray Lewis defense.  And that's the alternate route to the Super Bowl:  your defense beats the stuffing out of everybody.

We fudged a bit; both of the above teams had the home field in their 1st of 4 games.  But then, the Seahawks get Chip Kelly in round one, so a gimme is a gimme.


The 1997 Broncos - Elway, Terrell Davis & Co - won @ KC by 14-10 and @ Pit by 24-21.  But outgained both of those teams by 100+ yards, too, so it wasn't as lucky as you might think.


The 2005 Steelers - /boycott

:: sour face :: they blew away the @Bengals, @Colts (Peyton) and @Broncos (5,280ft) by 100+ yard margins, but did have once close game, the Colts game.


the 2007 Giants Helmet Catch - the Giants again outplayed 3 straight home opponents - @TB 24-14 by a 277-177 yardage margin (this 'Pete Carroll outcome' is the classic WC road win).  @ Dallas 21-17, with a hefty 230-140 yardage margine.  @GB, in -10 degrees no doubt, the Helmet Giants outgained Favre by 377-243 and won 23-20.  As happens once every six times, the nearly impossible became a reality.


2010 Packers with Aaron Rodgers -  Huge yardage margins again in every single game, with Rodgers gaining 309, 442, and 356 yards in three road playoff games.  However, the first game, the Wild Card game, had a "may the refs be with you" margin of 21-16.

I'm not going to go back and count 'em up, but did all 18 of these games feature 100-ish yard advantages for the victors?  I think they did.  Therein is the lesson.  You don't have to be lucky to win the Super Bowl as a Wild Card team; you just have to be the best team in football by a nice margin.


Four more Wild Card teams MADE IT TO the Super Bowl in the last 35 years, bringing our % up to an Aoki AVG-like .286:  1975 Cowboys (lost to a legendary Steel Curtain), 1985 Patriots (jacked by the Super Bowl Shuffle Bears), 1992 Bills (four straight SB losses) and 1999 Titans (lost to Kurt Warner's Greatest Show On Turf).  Here's a relatively scannable page on it.

You'll hear, 9,000 times between now and Super Bowl 50, that the odds are Oh-So-Slim for a Wild Card team ::wrings hands::.  They're not, at all.  Defense travels.  The Seahawks will have to take theirs to Carolina and then St. Louis, and prove that they're better than the Panthers and Cardinals.  

Which is how it should be.  Let's find out who's the best.


A couple of games into Wilson's career, SSI tagged him as Fran Tarkenton.  The Think Tank liked this.  A year-and-a-half in, it tagged his upside (60% chance) as a mobile Drew Brees.  This never caught on too much.  Brees, though, became a star in year 4 (same year Wilson's in now) and became a Hall of Famer in year 6, after he was traded to the Saints.  That's a fast career arc, as Wilson is on.  Both QB's are quick studies.

Tom Brady was a "game manager" until age 30, with his Y/A bopping around at the 7.0 mark.  At age 30 it jelled for him.

Is Russell Wilson just "hot" these last 4 games, or are these "flash looks" into his future as a dominant Brees-type?  Well, I dunno if now's the time, but at SOME time he's going to become Brees.  Why wouldn't he?  No, stop and ponder.  What stands between Russell Wilson and a Brees/Brady evolution?  What are the hurdles left for him to overcome, to get onto that career arc?

And if you're Tom Brady, all you need is 52 generic salary cap slot players around you, with a Belichick or Carroll selecting them.  Or so it would seem.  2017ff might see a dynasty evolve in style, which would be typical for sports dynasties.

If you wanted to be less prudent, you might Think Tank the question, "Is Russell Wilson going to become the best quarterback who ever lived?"  But right now we'll settle for, "Why wouldn't he become Drew Brees?"


Dr D


PS I notice there is no snark about nanobubbles at FG.  If Wilson were having a Kaepernick go of it, then you would be hearing it about the Twitter account.  Oh well whatever nevermind.  Ya front-runners, ya's.

:- )

image:  the wonderful enfu.com




After this 4 week run that Wilson is on, I was reminded of your call a few years back about Wilson being the next Brees, how he was studying him, etc. I think it's here. Sure he's been up against weaker teams, but take a look at the tools he's working with as well. Those two factors cancel each other out, IMO. He's stepped up his game, and has been pointed out over the past 24 hours, he's putting up numbers that have never been done before. As in, in the history of the NFL. That's no accident. I'm just glad I'm around to catch it. I think we've got our WC spot sewn up, and I'll be keenly watching the AZ game in week 17 as an indicator of how our game will play in the post season with no Rawls, Graham, and (possibly) Lynch.


Now that Rawls is out, Russell has two weeks to build up such hype as this league may never have seen before. There will not be much of a running game to fall back on. Russell will probably have to do his best Rothlesberger impression and come out throwing 30 passes in a half. Just imagine the possibilities.  

Cleveland CB Hayden is already out for Sunday's game... along with a few other starters

The Rams have some form of their tough defense, but many are finding the end zone against what is now playing.  

Russell may be handed the HOF this year with another few peak performances.

Unfortunately, I doubt we will be able to get the Cardinals to play in St. Louis... but I doubt the St. Louis fans would be any nicer to us than the AZ fans.


Just curious TR.  You forsee an extra level of P.R. for Wilson if he becomes a 110-rating type passer?  Whydat?

St. Louis Cardinals, LOL ... that's all those years of 1970s Strat-O-Matic talking ... good last line amigo :- )


Reassuring, coming from you Dan.  If it is, the Seahawks are going to be fun to watch.  Well, the last four games they HAVE been, no?


Remember when Randy Johnson made an adjustment and was instantly a HOF pitcher?

If this was happening for RW, how would you know?  Do you think it might look something like what we're witnessing right now?  It's not like Manning and Marino and Brees and Brady haven't run across softer portions of schedules before.

I'm not sure the Seahawks D is quite where it needs to be yet, but it's getting closer.  I do know who would win the poll of which team no one wants to play though....don't you?


Oddly enough, that may have worked to his advantage the last year or two.  Had to do everything extra-fast?  And now when he plants the back foot and checks down to 2 and 3, it seems like the world is standing still?  :- )

Maybe somebody here (Padna) know what is up with the massively better pass protection?  Is that new C grading out so huge?  Or is this kind of pass protection (by "this kind" I mean "normal") now expected to continue?


I'm pretty sure most teams would rather host the Seahawks than travel to play Cam Newton.

That team is not a fluke--extremely well rounded.


You survive the Seahawks at RFK Stadium* and you only get credit for beating a Wild Card.  Usually "team nobody wants to play" is talking about an NBA #7 seed that has recently become an elite team.

But yeah.  Factoring in the home stadium, you'd take any home game against AZ/Sea/CAR vs any road game against either.

Sodiumranch's picture

1. This is certainly the best local sports site and it just keeps getting better. I'm amazed. It's so rigorous and so profound. Just please keep going for a lot longer.

2. Russ is Joe Montana.  I've said so since the Fail Mary and the rookie Russ's interview immediately afterward. He was cool, unapologetic, and as graceful in that fluky victory as any qb who ever gave a post game interview.

Compare the stats.  Compare the wins. Compare the composure. He's Joe Cool II more than he is anyone else, and really, who else would you want to be?  




Right down to the 3rd-round draft pedigree ... the less-than-Cam stature ... the synch with a peculiar system ... the braininess ... the game-saving drives early in the career ... people forget that Joe was quite noted for his mobility early on.  For his era he looked very, very elusive.

Not sure Montana isn't a better comp than Brees.  :: daps ::  How about taking that comp over to the NinersNation board?  :- )

Now, can you cobble us a Jerry Rice out of that Tyler Lockett kid?


It is pretty exciting how this offense has jelled. PC today at his press conference said during the bye week they changed the offensive scheme to get the ball out more quickly on pass plays.

One of RW's many positive attributes is his coachability. Remember in his rookie year when he had a problem with something, and the next week, no hay problema?

So, ask him to get the ball out more quickly, and he goes from one of the longest at holding the ball to one of the no-pun-intended shortest (eye test here, they have stats on this but I couldn't find them other than third hand).

With a very athletic O line coming into its own (a whole 'nother interesting story; TC: the offensive line whisperer) and with RW reading the defense and throwing the ball in rhythm like a point guard, and with clever schemes to insure someone is open, and with receivers who are consummate route runners, wow, it has been fun to watch.

Am worried about the run game, though. Surely hated to see Rawls go down. Hope we get Beastmode back for the playoffs. As PC pointed out today, with our defense limiting scoring and an offense that scores on almost every possesion, a team that falls behind won't continue to run (see Vikings, who gave AP zero fourth quarter carries). PC specifically called out Rubin as an immovable object in stuffing the run. The legion of boom limits explosive plays (usually), and very fast linebackers who don't miss tackles control the short passing game (KJW has missed one tackle in 460 snaps), so good luck with that.

Maybe we can pass our way to ball control, but I don't see PC/DB/TC abandoning the run. Is the O-line now good enough at run blocking to open holes for a "pedestrian" running back? We seem to have done ok with "pedestrian" receivers. 


That makes a lot of sense.  Passing is beautiful when it is --- > hit the back foot, heartbeat, throw.  That was the way on the dime that RW3 dealt to Baldwin on the crossing-route TD.  They had trips left, RW3 easily digested the pattern, found the guy 1-on-1 without local assistance back there, and had time to set the foot for a howitzer.

Man alive that play is the reason I watch football.  Deep down I'm a Carson Palmer type a' fan :- )

Nathan H's picture

Nathan Ernest (I think that's his name) drops Vines of coach's tape on Twitter. On that play (The three-deep, Baldwin crosser TD) you can see Russ look off the ILB before torquing the throw against his own body language.

It's more than him just getting the ball out earlier. It's that PLUS building and building and building without regressing in any area hardly at all. Third downs were a big bugaboo earlier in this season, leading to some disheartining losses. Carroll's team notices, Russ makes the adjustments. Now the Seahawks are 4th in the NFL at 3rd down conversions and 8th in the NFL at Drive Success Rate (Football Outsiders). This is a skill he's demonstrated several times in the past four years, to identify a flaw and fix it, successfully and reliably, is the kind of boring skill that leads to massive, glamorous success.

He still misses open receivers and his balls aren't placed just precisely so. Sometimes he throws too high and sometimes too far behind his WRs. I guess it'd be boring if there were nothing for him to work on. Like playing 12 seasons of Madden on Rookie.

Speaking of torquing and being a game changer, Doc, do you have any thoughts on Koch's revolutionary (not hyperbole, appearantly) change in the punting game?


Nathan H


1.  I'd rather hear your thoughts than mine.

2.  I'd been wondering why Lockett couldn't seem to get many runs off.  Maybe this is playing in.

3.  Physically, at field level, it surprises me that this would have so much effect, that you have to run sideways into a catch rather than standing under it early.  I mean, in touch football, you get there or you don't get there.  Okay, so Lockett leans the wrong direction, and loses a step getting under the ball -- but he still catches it, and this time in motion.  Why should that matter?

Maybe he loses the chance to take a peek at the coverage.

Nathan H's picture

...because I HAVE no insight. This whole concept is new to me. I just found a new void in my knowledge base. Fascinating!

I'd love for Ventrella or some-such to give the Ginga-Ninja 20 minutes on the subject. I'd LOVE to hear all about it.

Initial takes, subject to change, are that it seems one of the revolutionary ideas is not just identifying which direction the punt is being kicked but the type of punt being deployed. Koch is reportedly breaking ground by deploying one of 7 or 8 kinds of punts when, traditionally, there were only around 3 to choose from going into a game.

Punting has a signficant impact because it establishes field position and gives one team an increased opportunity for a home-run play (fumble recovery, TD return, down within the 5-yard line). Anything that increases one's odds for a home run play or mitigates the other team's chances for a home run play can't be understated.

I've played sports only at the high-school level but I can tell you that those home-run plays have an emotional impact. Momentum, on the one hand, lasts as long as the next play. Mindset, though, can change over the course of a game, though, and the impact of mindset is real.


As to the run D .... I did watch one PC press conference where (adjusting for his own vocab) he talked about our run defense as a done deal.  Seems the Seahawks are VERY confident that they can thump the inside runs and we all know they can chase down the wide runs.


Some impressive offensive stats from Sheil Kapadia, the Hawks ESPN beat writer.

66.9 (30th) vs 153.9 (1st) = RW passer rating vs the blitz weeks 1-10 and 11-14 – Dramatic evidence that Wilson and Lewis are on the same page in setting up the protections pre-snap.

RW’s average time to pass in weeks 1-10 was 2.72 seconds; in weeks 11-14 it’s 2.52 seconds.

From an empty backfield (no running back for extra pass protection), weeks 11-14, passer rating of 158.3 (perfect) & average time to pass 1.99 seconds.

RW so far: 68.8% completions at 8.57 YPA. If he sustains that over the next 3 games, he will join only 3 other QB’s – Joe Montana, Steve Young , and Daunte Culpepper, and none of them did so while putting  up 456 yards rushing, RW’s current total.

I think that Baldwin and Lockett were ##1 and 2 among WR's last week also.


It's pretty amazing how the team's weakness throughout the first half of the season has morphed into a strength. The skill players get the highlights and credit but it all starts in the trenches. 

That said, I still think a good passing offense torches this Hawk defense and the playoffs will be stacked with good-to-great QB's.  


I saw some fairly convincing explanation that the S's had to compensate for Cary Williams so much that it was leaving the seams a lot softer.  And these last coupla games, Wagner seems to magically be stopping these flare RB's two yards short of the first down.

But yeah.  If/when they lose I'm sure we're going to see those downfield passes flare up again, like you said.  If they don't, then...


There's not much evidence (to me) that the Legion of Boom is still a thing.  Palmer went for 363, and Rothlesberger for 456.  That's Kyle Schwarber level defense.

But sure, the Hawks will win out.  By week 17, the Cardinals will have nothing and no one to risk.  They will have won their bye.  And the Hawks look to have a de facto bye in the wildcard weekend, so that will help.

But once a real QB stands up against them, the truth will out.


A team has to be able to pass the ball to have any chance whatsoever to beat us (absent turnovers, penalties and other shots to the feet) because right now no one can run or screen pass against us well enough. Only by having one of the very elite QB’s -- Cam Newton, Big Ben, Carson Palmer. Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers – can a team hope win. And nobody blows us out, ever. The Hawks streak of not having lost a game by more than 10 points is now at 77. See this very good article by Kenneth Arthur,


PC was asked about it at his press conference, and he said it showed how hard we are to beat, how hard it was to put points up on us. PC has simple clear principles that he builds everything around: prevent explosive plays, be more physical (stuff the run), and take the ball away. If a team has to take 10 or more plays to drive down the field because they have to dink and dunk since they can only run at 2 yards per carry and can’t go deep unless they have Big Ben, then there are more chances they will make a mistake and commit a turnover, unless of course they have Phillip Rivers and he doesn't make a mistake. (ok i'll take a breath)

Offensively, yeah, pretty cool. I love the Joe Montana comp; won’t it be fun watching the 21st century version of that for the next 10 years?

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