The numbers show considerable improvement for the Seahawks defense over the past two games.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is happy about the direction his defense is trending, but he also isn't too eager to dive into the changes that have taken place to help that unit get to where it is now.
"We have done some stuff," Carroll said coyly.
But even if Carroll doesn't want to lay out in public all the adjustments that he, defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt and the coaching staff have made, he does love the result, in particular how that unit has cleaned things up when it comes to explosive plays.
There have been ups and downs this season for the defense, which had a great stretch earlier in the season, holding three straight opponents to under 250 yards while allowing a combined 30 points to the Giants, Bengals and Cardinals, but which has also had some rough outings, most notably in losses to Baltimore and San Francisco. In Seattle's Week 14 loss to the 49ers, the defense allowed 12 explosive plays, which the Seahawks define as runs of 12 or more yards and passes of 16 or more yards. Four of those explosives went for more than 40 yards, one on each of the 49ers' four touchdown drives.
In the past two games, however, the Seahawks have allowed a total of nine explosive plays, and none longer than Ryan Tannehill's 23-yard scramble on Sunday. The Eagles, who have a very talented offense, had just one 20-yard play, a Jalen Hurts run, and on Sunday the Titans had just one explosive pass, a 17-yard gain. It's no coincidence that eliminating those big plays has helped the Seahawks hold two straight opponents under 20 points for the first time since Weeks 6 and 7.
"It's made a difference," Carroll said. "We've slowed down the throwing game considerably, and the points are down in a range that you can live with and all that. We've got a long ways to go here to make this season really something, but we've turned a corner that really is significant, I can tell and we all know that, so we're building on that."
Added linebacker and defensive co-captain Bobby Wagner, "There were a couple of games you can pinpoint and look at that like, if you take a couple of these explosive plays away, it changes the whole trajectory of how the game goes."
And sure enough, when the Seahawks do take those explosives away, the defense looks a heck of a lot better.
"I think it's been big, because it's taking points off the board, it's allowed us to get off the field in some cases," Wagner said. "Taking away those explosive in key moments has definitely allowed us to activate the pass rush a little bit, and get after the offense in different ways."
As Wagner noted, the pass rush thrived last week, recording six sacks, Seattle's most since Week 4, and a pass rush that has been coming on strong this week figures to be a factor for the defense going forward, particularly if it is paired with a defense that's not getting burned for big plays. Seattle lost a key part of its pass rush when Uchenna Nwosu went on injured reserve, but with Boye Mafe having a big second season, Jarran Reed having a great season in his return to Seattle, and with Leonard Williams adding to the mix in a midseason trade, the defensive front seems to be hitting its stride at the right time. And with those six sacks last weekend, the Seahawks are up to 45 for the season, tied with San Francisco for the most in the NFC.
"I'm really fired up about that, I think we're leading the NFC in sacks, tied with somebody, we're way up there," Carroll said. "It's a good statement. It's a really good part of our game. This was a game plan that we went into knowing we had to get the pass rush revved up, really the pressure was on the guys in that regard. We talked straight up about it and called on them, then they came through got it done right from the early part of the game. The message was sent clearly, it helped us out again. It's a really good group, and it seems like they're gelling. Even though we didn't have a big game last week, or the week before, numbers wise, we still were effective in what we were doing, and we're continuing to get better, so it's a nice time for that this time of year."
Seahawks practice at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, Wash. on Dec. 27, 2023.