Complementary football - Which team has been better this year?

Webster's dictionary defines the word complementary this way:


[kom-pluh-men-tuh-ree, -tree] adjective 1. forming a complement; completing. 2. complementing each other.

When used in football it means that the defense, offense and special teams are all acting together to produce a total team victory. One manifestation of complementary football is short scoring drives. If the punt team and the defense are both playing well, your team wins the field position battle and consistently puts your offense in favorable field position which good offenses convert into points . So let's look at how well both the Seahawks and Broncos have played (or not played) complementary football this year. This will be done by analyzing every single offensive drive by each team in 2013 (regular season). A TD drive of less than 50 yards will be counted as a drive where the D and ST aided the O. A FG drive of less than 20 yards will be similarly counted. Defensive TDs, safeties and ST TDs are not counted in this analysis. So it is a little skewed because it penalizes a team for scoring on a pick-6 while "rewarding" a team where the defender with the ball is tackled at the 2 and the O scores in the next play.


The Seahawks had 180 offensive possessions in 2013 that were not kneel-downs. 30 of those possessions resulted in 0 or fewer yards (16.7%). Of those 30 drives, two ended in scoring opportunities (1 made and one missed FG). 76 drives ended in a punt (2 blocked) - 42.2%. Seattle had 41 offensive drives that ended in touchdowns (22.8%). Of those TD drives, 8 were less than 50 yards. Here are they are listed from longest to shortest

Plays Time Yards Result
5 0:38 46 Touchdown
6 2:56 40 Touchdown
3 1:26 33 Touchdown
6 2:41 26 Touchdown
2 0:39 18 Touchdown
6 2:40 16 Touchdown
1 0:04 2 Touchdown
2 0:51 1 Touchdown

So 19.5% of Seattles TD drives came on short field situations, with 4 of those starting in the red zone.

In terms of FGs, Seattle had 33 drives that ended in FGs, 9 of those were on drives of less than 20 yards.

Plays Time Yards Result
6 2:15 17 Field Goal
7 2:57 14 Field Goal
5 2:00 11 Field Goal
4 1:30 7 Field Goal
4 1:11 7 Field Goal
4 1:28 7 Field Goal
4 1:36 6 Field Goal
5 2:04 1 Field Goal
4 0:25 0 Field Goal

So 27% of Seattles FG drives came on short field situations. So in total 17 of Seattle's 74 scoring drives came from short field situations (23%). 31 of their drives started in opponent's territory (17.2%) with Seattle scoring on 20 of those possessions. Seattle's 64.5% scoring efficiency on plus drives looks decent until you see what the Broncos did (later). Two of those 31 drives were end game situations where Seattle only needed one or two first downs before they could kneel-down to end the game. I don't count those as kneel-down drives (because plays are run with the game still in doubt), but even without scoring those drives should be counted as successful drives.

In terms of overall efficiency Seattle scored on 41.1% of their no-kneeldown possessions. This was good for 5th best in the league. Denver led the league in scoring efficiency at 49.4% while SD was #2 and NE was #4 (and our defense did pretty well against those two in the playoffs).

On the flip-side, Seattle had 18 scoring drives that went for 75 or more yards (16 TDs, 2 FGs), so while they had few long drives (10.0%), they were good at scoring TDs when they went on long drives (and scoring period when they did put long drives together). When they drove the ball 75 or more yards, they scored every time. 91 of Seattle's drives started at the 25 or worse (two were end of game kneeldowns) and they scored on 27 of those drives. So they scored 30.3% of the time with neutral to poor starting field position (starting at their own 25 or worse) if you factor out the kneel-downs. Seattle had only one drive that went 90 or more yards on the season (a 98-yd TD drive that ate up seven and half minutes of clock). Seattle was 3rd in the league with an average drive starting point at their own 31.3.

In terms of not giving the ball back to the opposing offense, Seattle was average (17th) in 3-and-out % this season with 41 drives ended in a 3-and out (22.8%).

So what's the conclusion? Well, let's look at the same set of numbers from Denver for comparison before we try and draw a conclusion about which team played better complementary football.


The Broncos had 192 non-kneeldown drives. 16 of those drives went for 0 or negative yards (8.3%). None of those 16 resulted in scoring opportunities for the Broncos (in fact one ended in a safety, and one ended in a pick-6). 66 drives resulted in a punt (34.4%) - 1 blocked. Denver had 95 drives that ended in a score - 49.4%. 70 offensive drives ended in a TD (the other 5 TDs came from one of each, blocked punt return, punt return, KO return, fumble return and INT return) - 36.5% of our offensive drives ended in a TD. The Broncos had 16 TD drives of less than 50 yards

Plays Length Yds Result
10 5:06 49 Touchdown
8 2:56 43 Touchdown
6 3:27 41 Touchdown
5 2:19 41 Touchdown
4 0:48 40 Touchdown
5 2:34 36 Touchdown
1 0:10 35 Touchdown
3 0:35 32 Touchdown
2 0:45 28 Touchdown
6 2:02 27 Touchdown
2 0:34 25 Touchdown
1 0:05 24 Touchdown
8 2:42 23 Touchdown
4 1:14 21 Touchdown
2 0:40 10 Touchdown
2 0:28 10 Touchdown

So 22.9% of our TD drives came on short-field situations with two TD drives starting in the red zone.

In terms of FGs, the Broncos only had 3 short-field drives that ended in field goals

Plays Length Yds Result
7 1:31 17 Field Goal
7 1:21 15 Field Goal
8 1:57 14 Field Goal

So only 3 of our 25 FGs came from short-field situations (12%). On the whole, Denver had 19 scoring drives on short-field situations (20%). Denver only had 25 drives start in opponents territory (13.0%), but 4 of those drives were end-game kneeldowns. Denver scored on 20 of 21 drives that started in opponent's territory with the lone instance of NOT scoring coming in week one against BAL - punt after starting at BAL 49 and losing 11 yards. After week one, every single time Denver started a drive in plus territory we scored points - 95% success rate for the season with a TD 76% of the time we started in opponent's territory.

As mentioned previously, the Broncos were the most efficient offense in the NFL, scoring on 95 of 192 non-kneeldown drives on the season (49.4%). (Also mentioned previously) Denver scored TDs on 36.5% of all offensive possessions. To put that in perspective, the Jaguars had 190 non-kneeldown drives and had 23 offensive TDs (12.1% of their drives ended in a TD).

So how often did the Broncos have to go 75 or more yards for a score? The Broncos had 38 drives that went 75 or more yards (34 TDs, 2 FGs, 2 fumbles). 19.8% of Denver's drives went for 75 or more yards. Leaving out the two fumbles, Denver was just as efficient as SEA at scoring on long drives. If you include the fumbles, Denver scored on 95% drives that went 75 or more. Denver had 124 drives that started at their own 25 or worse and scored on 45 of those drives (34 TDs, 11 FGs) - 36.2%, if you factor out the 11 kneel-down drives. Denver had 4 drives that went 90 or more yards this season (3 TDs and one fumble). Denver was 17th in the league at average drive starting field position (27.7), but some of that can be attributed to the high touchback % at Mile High.

Denver was the second best team in the league at NOT going 3-and-out (SD was #1 at 13.8%). Denver had 31 3-and-outs (16.1%). JAX was the worst team in the league going 3-and-out on 30.8% of their drives.


Seattle started 17% of their drives in opponent's territory (#2 in the NFL behind KC). Denver only started 13% of their drives in opponent's territory (#5 in the NFL). Interestingly, Denver had a slightly greater % of scoring drives came from short field situations (20% to 19.5%) than Seattle did.

NFL ranking for drives starting in opponent territory

Based upon that both teams played good complementary football on the season with a slight edge to Seattle for two other reasons beyond what is discussed above. Seattle led the league in turnover margin. Denver's offense turned the ball over 26 times (16th in the league) while our D had 26 takeaways (also 16th). Seattle's offense turned the ball over 19 times (4th in the league) while their D had 39 takeaways (1st in the league). Mainly because of their ability to force turnovers, the Seahawks had the best scoring efficiency D allowing only 48 scoring drives on 186 opponents chances (25.8%). Denver was 13th with 67 scoring drives allowed on 206 chances (32.5%). Atlanta was the worst in the league allowing 45.1% of opponent's drives to end in scores.

Forcing punts, 4th down stops and turnovers are the three ways in which the defense gets the ball back for the offense. Seattle's D was 10th in the league at 3rd down % against (35.2%). Denver's D was 16th (38.1%) so they were slightly better at forcing punts.

So I conclude that Seattle did play more complementary football this season with their defense and their special teams doing a better job of getting the offense into favorable situations. Do you agree?

This is a Fan-Created Comment on The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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