By Jeff Goldberg
Cold, Hard Football Facts all-time rushing leader
As we saw with teams like the Chargers
in 2010, sometimes the Cold, Hard Football Facts are that a team might look great in the stats but, for whatever reason, can't get it done on the field when it really matters.
Of course, there are two sides to every coin. And if there was an Anti-Chargers
in 2010, it was that confounding bunch in Seattle, with Pete Carroll cheerleading his Seahawks to NFL improbability, if not quite immortality.
But let's be honest, Trolls, when we look back on the 2010 playoffs, if the Packers were the best team, then the Seahawks were the best story. Were they the worst division winner in NFL history? Didn't the Quality Stats reveal them to be even worse than their record indicated? Did they deserve to be in the playoffs? Yes, Yes and, ultimately, Yes.
None of what led to a 7-9 record, none of the glaring deficiencies on both sides of the ball mattered as Marshawn Lynch shed tackle after tackle to put away the defending champions the first weekend in January. It might have been the signature moment of the postseason, and it made fools of everyone outside the Pacific Northwest. God bless you, Seahawks, but don't ever do that to us again.
The 2010 Storyline: The worst team ever to make the playoffs, but hardly the worst playoff team.
The Vital Signs
2010 record: 7-9 (19.4 PPG – 25.4 PPG)
Last five seasons overall: 35-45 (.438)
Worst Quality Stat in 2010: Offensive Passer Rating, Passer Rating Differential (29th)
All Quality Stats
Defensive Passing YPA: 25th
Quarterback Rating: 28th
Defensive Quarterback Rating: 26th
Relativity Index: 28th
Statistical curiosity of 2010
Many have tried. Nine teams have made the NFL playoffs with an 8-8 record. But those lovable Seahawks go in the books as the first team to reach the postseason in a non-strike year with a sub-.500 record. And we're willing to bet they will hold the distinction of being the only sub-.500 team with a playoff victory for a very long time. Seattle was not only the first 7-9 team to reach the playoffs, they must be the first team in football history to reach the playoffs without ranking in the top half of the league in any single Quality Stat
. Not one. Amazing.
Best game of 2010
41-36 win vs New Orleans (divisional playoffs). What was the greatest run from scrimmage in NFL history? Some might argue the "Gets Away Again!" scramble by Steve Young against the Vikings in 1988. Others might stay with the 49ers and go with the classic Garrison Hearst overtime run to beat the Jets on opening day in 1998. Or perhaps one of the many broken-tackle stylings of Earl Campbell, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders or the greatest of all, Jim Brown himself.
All worthy contenders, but under the circumstances, Marshawn Lynch's 67-yard journey through the heart of the Saints defense – and the Saints themselves – to put away one of the most improbable playoff victories in NFL history has to shoot directly to the front of the class. Sure, the tackling was brutal, but Lynch validated the entire bizarre Seahawks season in one play, culminating an offensive display by Matt Hasselbeck and Co., that made liars of the experts and a mockery of the Quality Stats. Any Given Saturday!
Worst games of 2010
33-3 loss vs. Oakland (Week 8), 41-7 loss vs. Giants (Week 9). These were a little more representative of the Seahawks we saw in the Quality Stats, where the team ranked in the bottom quadrant in 10 of 12 categories. The Seahawks gained 326 yards of offense in the two games combined (!) while allowing 1,032 and falling behind by scores of 23-0 and 41-0 before tallying meaningless fourth-quarter points. Amazingly, after these two brutal beatings, the Seahawks were still a 4-4 team, and apparently playoff bound.
Laugh all you want at Pete Carroll and his rah-rah coaching method, but even in the worst of times, he never lost control of his team. And as badly as the Seahawks performed on both sides of the ball, their rankings of 17 in Scoreability
and 18 in Bendability
– their only two Quality Stat rankings above 25th
– showed that they bent like a soft pretzel playing a game of Twister, but they didn't break down completely, taking advantage of their dismal division, then rising up to knock off the defending champions by putting it all together when they needed to win.
It's really startling to see all the high-20s in the Quality Stats
, then realizing that, beyond actually winning a division title, they won seven games. They were Jim Mora's wet dream: They couldn't run the ball, they couldn't pass the ball, they couldn't do diddly-poo. Playoffs? We're talking about playoffs? Yes, playoffs.
General off-season strategy/overview
The Seahawks will be running a West Coast offense in 2011, led by new coordinator Darrell Bevell. It is not known if either Matt Hasselbeck or Charlie Whitehurst will be around to run it, and the latest rumors have Carroll reuniting with Carson Palmer via trade. Upgrading the quarterback position is a pretty good place to start after three consecutive dismal seasons. If they make that move, then the draft strategy has to be improving the lines on both sides of the ball.
Totally premature 2011 diagnosis
For all their faults, there's no reason to think the Seahawks can't win the division again in 2011. The Cardinals won't challenge them without a dramatic upgrade at QB, the 49ers have some talent, but also a new coach but plenty of problems, which leaves the improving Rams as perhaps the toughest competition. If the Seahawks can get better play out of the quarterback position, they should be able to hold off a Rams challenge and repeat in the mighty NFC West.