Love for the D-Line
Generally when I’m writing these “Seahawks Stats Don’t Lie” pieces, there is but one recipient of the weekly honour. As a creature of habit (aren’t we all) it was going to take a performance of epic proportions from any one position group or multitude of players to digress from this selection process, of sorts.
With that being said, it is eerily suiting that the same group that chased Colin Kaepernick from his comfort zone on Sunday night chased me from mine this very moment.
That group, the Seattle Seahawks defensive line.
With the studs of last year’s sack attack sidelined in Bruce Irvin and Chris Clemons, the new guys were called upon to create pressure in the pass rush. And pressure they did. Leading the way on the Seahawks defensive front was the combination of newcomer free agent acquisitions, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett.
Via PFF blog. The three highest grades went to Aldon Smith (+4.5), Cliff Avril (+3.7) and Michael Bennett (+3.7) #Seahawks #49ers
— Q Smith™ (@NWSBQ) September 16, 2013
The much less heralded, but similarly new additions to Seattle’s defensive front – while playing in a considerably lesser role – were able to spell this duo and contribute in their own ways to what was a solid day in the trenches.
Can a healthy Cliff Avril put this defense over the top?
A Toast to Health
While the additions of both Avril and Bennett were largely seen as complimentary short term fill-ins, with Bennett being the very definition of a luxury signing, their performances in prime time beg to differ. At the time of their inking two and one year deals, respectively, the status of (soon to return) LEO bookend Chris Clemons was largely still a mystery and Bruce Irvin had yet to test positive for Adderall.
Fast forward to week 1 and Irvin is beginning a four-game suspension, and Clemons is still weeks away from playing.
The luxury quickly turned to necessity.
Making matters worse for the Seahawks, both Avril and Bennett were dealing with injuries of their own through training camp and much of the pre-season. This led to Avril not playing in the Seahawks season opener, or any of the pre-season games, and Bennett seeing limited action in both.
Clearly the bright Sunday lights and a showdown with their divisional rivals was just what the doctor ordered. Both were healthy for week 2 and oh, what a wondrous affect their health had on this defense.
Sacks for Days
With the Seahawks switching from their traditional-ish 4-3 defense to a more exotic hybrid package that features more 3-4 looks, and mixing in new personnel all the while, my expectations for sacks this season can be generously described as guarded.
I regard myself as having been more happy with the signings of Bennett and Avril than most, but the injuries alongside a four-game suspension to Irvin threatened to make their signings somewhat of a wash.
Well, how’s Sunday for a slice of humble pie.
Not only did the Seahawks register a staggering three sacks against the 49ers, but they registered 17 QB hurries to boot as well as two QB hits. Couple the mobility of Kaepernick with the best offensive line in all of football, and such a set of numbers seems impossible, but hey, here we are.
The expected culprits of this pass rush, Bennett and Avril, each registered a sack and combined for seven hurries unto themselves. More encouragingly though, the Seahawks were able to create pressure from the interior of their line with Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel, who combined for five hurries themselves.
PFF NT Run Stop % Stat – percentage of stops per snap played only in run defense.. #Seahawks Tony McDaniel #2 in the NFL 10.7 Stop %
— Q Smith™ (@NWSBQ) September 16, 2013
Much like their neighbours to the north, San Francisco’s offense is more run-centric than most. Stopping their offense would begin and end in neutering their run game.
Be it by the legs of Kaepernick, or his running mate Frank Gore, the Niners have run ram-shod over opposing defenses for the better part of two seasons and much like any non-homer, relatively sane fan I couldn’t help but wonder if they could be the deciding factor in an upset at CenturyLink.
Run stuffing tackle Brandon Mebane doing what he does best.
Yeah, no, not really. Like at all.
The Seahawks defensive front, which so far as I could tell spent considerably more time in it’s base defense than their more exotic 3-4 packages that were displayed with regularity in the pre-season and week 1, was equally impressive in run defense.
On the night they held the 49ers AS A WHOLE to 100 yards on the ground, with the majority of that coming from Kaepernick’s 87 yards on 9 carries.
Sure, the YPC on Kaepernicks 87 rushing yards aren’t worth writing home about, but you win some you lose some.
According to ProFootballFocus, leading the charge in shutting down the legs of Kaepernick and Gore was, of all people, O’Brien Schofield.
On the chart posted below, you will find Schofield at the top of the list ranking Seattle’s best graded run defenders with a +2 on the night; however, it is worth noting that he presents a relatively small sample size with only 18 snaps played.
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