The paint-by-numbers picture isn’t very pretty for Seattle, but coach Pete Carroll has a way to change that: He turns a blind eye to the league’s statistics.
“I’m not looking at those very much these days,” Carroll said. “I want you to know that.”
Only four teams have gained fewer yards than Seattle this season, only two teams have allowed more and yet the Seahawks are at .500 and tied for first place in their division. And before you go chalk that up to the NFC West, consider that this week’s opponent, San Francisco, has gained more yards than Seattle and allowed fewer points and yet the 49ers are 4-8.
So how has Seattle overcome the statistical deficiencies?
“Overall play,” Carroll said.
The Seahawks have won games by forcing turnovers. They have won games with their special teams. And they have lost games when they’ve lost the ball, allowing opponents to do everything but run laps around the field.
“The games that we’ve won, we’ve taken care of the football basically very well,” Carroll said. “When we don’t, the numbers go the other way and all the results follow that.”
The disparities show up in the statistics, not that Carroll is looking.
“I keep letting those papers slide under my desk and fall in the garbage can,” Carroll said.
It’s not entirely ugly. Seattle ranks in the top 10 in both punt returns and kickoff returns. The schedule has helped, too. Of the 12 games Seattle has played, only four were against teams that currently have a winning record.
But the inconsistency that has plagued Seattle’s season has underwritten the team’s statistical deficiencies.
The run defense that was Seattle’s strength for the first six games has eroded while the offense has been like a car that’s always in the shop because it runs only intermittently. There’s not one thing on offense or defense that is an unambiguous strength for Seattle in its season of extremes where the Seahawks have either found a way to win or found themselves taken to the woodshed.
The Seahawks are one of four teams in the league that rank in the NFL’s bottom 10 in both yards gained and yards allowed. They are the only one of those four that doesn’t have a losing record.
This isn’t the way any coach or player would choose to assemble a season. Every NFL team shoots to maximize its offensive yardage, minimize the points allowed and limit turnovers. But that doesn’t preclude a team from finding other ways to win when the stats are stacked against them.
“I’ve seen teams win championships without great numbers,” safety Lawyer Milloy said. “A team can be one team one week and a totally different team the next week.”
Some people say lies come in three flavors: white, baldfaced and statistics. But there’s one truth that stands above all others in the NFL.
“Do you win the ballgame is all I care about,” Milloy said. “However you get it done, whatever. I’m more concerned is my team mentally tough to win the nasty games.”
So far Seattle has been tough enough to give itself a chance to reach the playoffs.