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NFL Super Bowl XLVIII: Denver Broncos vs Seattle Seahawks -- Oh the Offenses Seattle Has Faced

Have the Seahawks faced an offense quite like the Broncos in 2013?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

There is no doubt that the biggest storyline of Super Bowl XLVIII revolves around Denver's Unstoppable Force (the Broncos' offense) versus Seattle's Immovable Object (the Seahawks' defense). The question that arose in my various discussions of the upcoming Super Bowl was: Has the Seattle defense faced an offense quite like the Broncos' during the 2013 season?

In discussing this question, the Water Cooler Quarterbacks (a group of eight guys and one girl who are all avid football fans and who follow seven different teams) looked at fourteen offensive statistical categories. They were ones that the group believed gives a fan the best chance at understanding the relative efficiency of a given offense. Those categories were:

General Categories
Yards A team must be able to move the ball to put points on the board.
Yards per Play The bigger the gain per play, the more likely a team will move the ball and score.
First Downs How well did the team keep drives going?
Passing Categories
Completion Percentage How well did the QB get the ball to the receivers?
Passing Yards See comment above about yards
Passing Touchdowns Did the team score through the air?
Interceptions How well did the team protect the ball when passing?
Yards per Pass A reflection of how well the team moved the ball through the air.
Rushing Categories
Rushes How many times did the offense run, needed to bring balance to the offense
Rushing Yards Did the team move the ball well on the ground?
Rushing Touchdowns Was the team able to score on the ground?
Yards per Rush A reflection of how well the team moved the ball via runs
Important Percentage Categories
Scoring Percentage The percentage of offensive drives that ended with points being scored
Turnover Percentage The percentage of offensive drives that ended in a turnover (fumble, interception, downs)

Consider this: the Broncos were ranked first in the league in seven out of fourteen important statistical categories (Yard, Yards per Play, First Downs, Passing Yards, Passing Touchdowns, Yards per Pass and Scoring Pecentage). Denver was ranked in the Top-5 in two more categories (Completion Percentage and Interceptions) and in the Top-10 in another category (Rushing Touchdowns). The Broncos were in the top half of the league in three of the four remaining categories (Rushes, Rushing Yards and Turnover Percentage). The only category they did not score in the top half of the league was Yards per Rush, and even there, the Broncos only fell to a tie at #17. The average of Denver's ranking in those fourteen categories was 5.4.

Now, what about the offenses that Seattle has faced on its road to the Super Bowl. The Seahawks faced thirteen teams in 2013 -- remember that they played their division rivals twice each. Those teams were:

NFC West (6 games) NFC South (4 games) AFC South (4 games) Based on 2012 Finish (2 games)
San Francisco Carolina Indianapolis New York Giants
Arizona New Orleans Tennessee Minnesota
St. Louis Atlanta Jacksonville
Tampa Bay Houston

A survey of those teams' rankings in the fourteen categories looks like this:

NFC West (6 games)

SF Ari StL
Record 12-4-0 10-6-0 7-9-0
Record vs Seattle 1-1 1-1 0-2
Yards 5180 (24th) 5542 (12th) 4877 (30th)
Yards per Play 5.4 (10th T) 5.3 (15th T) 5.0 (24th T)
First Downs 286 (25th) 329 (12th) 282 (26th)
Completion Percentage 58.5 (24th T) 63.2 (10th) 59.5 (19th T)
Passing Yards 2979 (30th) 4002 (13th) 3125 (27th)
Passing Touchdowns 21 (23rd) 24 (15th) 22 (20th)
Interceptions* 8 (1st T) 22 (28th T) 11 (7th T)
Yards per Pass 6.5 (10th T) 6.5 (10th T) 5.8 (21st T)
Rushes 505 (3rd) 422 (20th) 426 (17th)
Rushing Yards 2201 (3rd) 1540 (23rd) 1752 (19th)
Rushing Touchdowns 18 (4th) 12 (18th T) 10 (23rd T)
Yards per Rush 4.4 (9th T) 3.6 (27th T) 4.1 (17th T)
Scoring Percentage 37.8 (10th) 33.0 (17th) 31.5 (21st)
Turnover Percentage 9.0 (3rd T) 15.5 (29th) 11.4 (12th T)
Average of Rankings 12.8 17.8 20.2

*better ranking = better at protecting the ball

It is interesting to note that the Seahawks went 4-2 in division play and that they split the season series with the two teams with the highest average rankings in the division. It is also interesting to note that none of their division rivals had an average that would place their offense in the Top-10 of the league. A further breakdown of these three offenses gives us this picture:

Top-5 SF (Ints, Rushes, Rushing Yds, Rushing TDs, TO Percentage)
Top-10 SF (Yds/Play, Yds/Pass, Yds/Rush, Scoring Percentage)
Ari (Completion Percentage, Yds/Pass)
StL (Ints)
Bottom-10 SF (Yds, FDs, Completion Percentage, Passing TDs)
Ari (Rushing Yds)
StL (Yds/Play, FDs, Passing Yds, Rushing TDs)
Bottom-5 SF (Passing Yds)
Ari (Ints, Yds/Rush, Turnover Percentage)
StL (Yds)

Overall, with the possible exception of San Francisco, the Seahawks were not faced with offenses within their division which would present a great challenge for their defense.

NFC South (4 games)

Car NO Atl TB
Record 12-4-0 11-5-0 4-12-0 4-12-0
Record vs Seattle 0-1 0-1 0-1 0-1
Yards 5069 (26th) 6391 (4th) 5490 (14th) 4432 (32nd)
Yards per Play 5.1 (22nd T) 5.9 (5th T) 5.4 (10th T) 4.5 (31st T)
First Downs 319 (15th) 359 (4th) 330 (10th) 269 (32nd)
Completion Percentage 61.7 (12th) 68.5 (2nd) 67.5 (4th) 56.6 (30th)
Passing Yards 3043 (29th) 4918 (2nd) 4243 (7th) 2820 (32nd)
Passing Touchdowns 24 (15th T) 39 (2nd) 26 (11th T) 22 (20th T)
Interceptions 13 (13th T) 12 (10th T) 17 (19th) 12 (10th T)
Yards per Pass 5.9 (18th T) 7.1 (4th) 6.0 (17th) 5.0 (32nd)
Rushes 483 (7th) 391 (26th) 321 (32nd) 420 (21st)
Rushing Yards 2026 (11th) 1473 (25th) 1247 (32nd) 1612 (22nd)
Rushing Touchdowns 14 (13th) 10 (23rd) 11 (21st) 6 (31st)
Yards per Rush 4.2 (14th T) 3.8 (25th T) 3.9 (24th) 3.8 (25th T)
Scoring Percentage 36.5 (12th) 40.3 (6th) 34.1 (16th) 27.1 (28th)
Turnover Percentage 9.4 (7th) 8.3 (2nd) 14.5 (24th) 9.8 (8th)
Average of Rankings 15.3 10.0 17.2 25.3

The Seahawks swept the NFC South in 2013. There was one team whose average of the rankings placed it in the Top-10 (New Orleans) with a second team that averaged in the top half of the league (Carolina). One team fell into the bottom half of the league (Atlanta) with the final team falling in the Bottom-10. A further breakdown of these four offenses gives us this picture:

Top-5 NO (Yds, Yds/Play, FDs, Completion Percentage, Passing Yds, Passing TDs, Yds/Pass, Turnover Percentage
Atl (Completion Percentage)
TB (Ints)
Top-10 Car (Rushes, Turnover Percentage)
NO (ints, Scoring Percentage)
Atl (Yds/Play, FDs, Passing Yds)
TB (Turnover Percentage)
Bottom-10 NO (Rushes, Rushing Yds, Rushing TDs, Yds/Rush)
Car (Yds)
Atl (Yds/Rush, Turnover Percentage)
TB (Yds/Rush)
Bottom-5 Car (Passing Yds)
Atl (Rushes, Rushing Yds)
TB (Yds, Yds/Play, FDs, Completion Percentage, Passing Yds, Yds/Pass, Rushing TDs, Scoring Percentage)

Overall, with the possible exception of the Saints, the NFC South offenses did not present a tremendous challenge to the Seahawks' defense. Only the Saints had a significant number of their rankings fall in even the Top-10. Plus, New Orelans' advantages in the passing game were somewhat offset by their ranking in the Bottom-10 in rushing.

AFC South (4 games)

Ind Ten Jac Hou
Record 11-5-0 7-9-0 4-12-0 2-14-0
Record vs Seattle 1-0 0-1 0-1 0-1
Yards 5468 (15th) 5390 (22nd) 4701 (31st) 5556 (11th)
Yards per Play 5.3 (15th T) 5.2 (20th T) 4.6 (30th) 5.1 (22nd T)
First Downs 318 (16th) 311 (18th) 271 (31st) 307 (20th T)
Completion Percentage 60.1 (16th T) 61.5 (13th) 59.0 (21st) 58.6 (22nd T)
Passing Yards 3725 (17th) 3496 (21st) 3441 (22nd) 3813 (15th)
Passing Touchdowns 23 (19th) 22 (20th T) 16 (30th T) 19 (25th T)
Interceptions 10 (5th T) 16 (17th T) 21 (27th) 22 (28th T)
Yards per Pass 6.1 (14th T) 6.1 (14th T) 5.4 (29th T) 5.6 (25th T)
Rushes 409 (23rd) 462 (10th) 378 (28th) 414 (22nd)
Rushing Yards 1743 (21st) 1894 (14th) 1260 (31st) 1743 (20th)
Rushing Touchdowns 15 (10th) 16 (7th) 7 (28th T) 7 (28th T)
Yards per Rush 4.3 (12th T) 4.1 (17th T) 3.3 (31st) 4.2 (14th T)
Scoring Percentage 38.8 (9th) 34.2 (15th) 23.6 (32nd) 25.9 (30th)
Turnover Percentage 6.9 (1st) 11.4 (12th T) 13.8 (21st T) 14.9 (26th T)
Average of Rankings 13.8 15.7 28.0 22.0

The Seahawks went 3-1 versus the AFC South in 2013. They faced one team whose average offensive rankings placed it in the top half of the league. The other three were in the bottom half of the league with one team falling in the Bottom-5. A further breakdown of these offenses gives us this picture:

Top-5 Ind (Ints, Turnover Percentage)
Top-10 Ind (Rushing TDs, Scoring Percentage)
Ten (Rushes, Rushing TDs)
Bottom-10 Ind (Rushes)
Jac (Ints)
Hou (Passing TDs, Yds/Pass, Turnover Percentage)
Bottom-5 Jac (Yds, Yds/Play, FDs, Passing TDs, Yds/Pass, Rushes, Rushing Yds, Rushing TDs, Yds/Rush)
Hou (Ints, Rushing TDs, Scoring Percentage)

The only teams the Seahawks faced that had offenses with Top-10 rankings in any of the categories were Indianapolis and Tennessee. Those teams were strong in Rushing Touchdowns and Indianapolis was also strong in ball protection. Jacksonville and Houston had the majority of their categories fall in the Bottom-10, at best.

Based on 2012 Finish (2 games)

Record 7-9-0 5-10-1
Record vs Seattle 0-1 0-1
Yards 4920 (28th) 5508 (13th)
Yards per Play 5.0 (24th T) 5.4 (10th T)
First Downs 280 (27th T) 309 (19th)
Completion Percentage 57.3 (28th) 59.5 (19th T)
Passing Yards 3588 (19th) 3427 (23rd)
Passing Touchdowns 18 (27th T) 18 (27th T)
Interceptions 29 (32nd) 19 (20th T)
Yards per Pass 5.9 (19th T) 5.8 (21st T)
Rushes 381 (27th) 423 (18th T)
Rushing Yards 1332 (29th) 2081 (8th)
Rushing Touchdowns 11 (21st) 23 (1st)
Yards per Rush 3.5 (29th T) 4.9 (2nd)
Scoring Percentage 25.5 (31st) 34.4 (14th)
Turnover Percentage 20.1 (32nd) 14.9 (26th T)
Average of Rankings 26.6 15.8

In the two games scheduled by how the teams finished in 2012, the Seahawks won both while facing one team in the top half of the league and one in the Bottom-10. A further breakdown of these offenses gives us this picture:

Top-5 Min (Rushing TDs, Yds/Rush)
Top-10 Min (Yds/Play, Rushing Yds)
Bottom-10 NYG (Yds/Play, FDs, Passing TDs, Rushes)
Min (Passing TDs, Turnover Percentage)
Bottom-5 NYG (Yds, Completion Percentage, Ints, Rushing Yds, Yds/Rush, Scoring Percentage, Turnover Percentage

As with the other teams, the Seahawks faced a team with a strong rushing attack along with a team that ranked in the Bottom-10 and/or Bottom-5 in most offensive categories.

A composite view of all of this data would look like this:

Top-5 Top-10 Bottom-10 Bottom-5
Yards NO SF, Car StL, TB, Jac, NYG
Yards per Play NO SF, Atl, Min StL, NYG TB, Jac
First Downs NO Atl SF, StL, NYG TB, Jac
Completion Percentage NO, Atl Ari SF TB, NYG
Passing Yards NO Atl StL SF, Car, TB
Passing Touchdowns NO SF, Hou, NYG, Min Jac
Interceptions SF, TB, Ind StL, NO Jac Ari, Hou, NYG
Yards per Pass NO SF, Ari Hou TB, Jac
Rushes SF, Car Ten NO, Ind, NYG Atl, Jac
Rushing Yards SF Min Ari, StL, NO Atl, Jac, NYG
Rushing Touchdowns SF, Min Ind, Ten NO TB, Jac, Hou
Yards per Rush SF NO, Atl, TB Ari, Jac, NYG
Scoring Percentage SF, NO, Ind TB, Hou, NYG
Turnover Percentage SF, NO, Car, Ind TB Atl, Hou, Min Ari, NYG

It should be noted that twenty times one of Seattle's opponents ranked in the Top-5 of one or more of the offensive statistical categories under consideration. Those twenty spots were earned by just seven teams and of those seven, New Orleans had nearly half of the rankings with a Top-5 ranking in eight categories (NO (8), SF (5), Ind (2), Car (2), Atl (1), TB (1), Min (1)). It should be further noted that seven of those twenty rankings came in the categories of interceptions and Turnover Percentage -- in other words, the Seahawks were facing teams that took care of the ball.

The Top-10 rankings added nineteen more high rankings to the count, bringing the Top-10 rankings count (which includes the Top-5 rankings) to 39. These rankings added three more teams to the count, but this time, nearly half of the 39 spots were held by just two teams -- New Orleans and San Francisco (NO (10), SF (9), Ind (4), Atl (4), Min (3), Car (2), TB (2), Ari (2), Ten (2), StL (1)).

Nine of the Seahawks' opponents ranked in the Bottom-5 in one or more of the fourteen categories. In fact, Seattle's opponents took recorded a combined 35 slots in the Bottom-5. Some of those nine (SF, Car, Ari, Atl) had appeared in the Top-10 and even the Top-5 in some categories. It must also be noted that 23 of those 35 slots were taken up by just three teams (Jac (9), TB (8) and NYG (7)). Yet that is still nearly as many teams ranking in the Bottom-5 of those categories as ranked in the Top-10.

Finally, when we expand this look to include the Bottom-10 (which includes the count from the Bottom-5), we see an additional 28 spots added for a total of 63 rankings that fell in the Bottom-10 of the league. What's even more striking is that among the thirteen teams faced by Seattle in 2013, only the Tennessee Titans did not rank in the Bottom-10 in any of the offensive categories (NYG (11), Jac (10), TB (9), SF (5), StL (5), Hou (5), NO (4), Atl (4), Ari (4), Car (2), Min (2), Ind (1)). The Giants, Jacksonville and Tampa Bay boasted arguably the worst offenses faced by the Seahawks.

It would appear that the only "high-octane" offense faced by the Seahawks in 2013 would be that of the New Orleans Saints. This should serve as a precautionary tale for the Broncos. The Seahawks were able to hold the Saints to 44 rushing yards and 147 passing yards with 1 passing touchdown in their first meeting on Week 13. The Saints made a better showing in their divisional round playoff game, rushing for 108 yards and a touchdown while passing for 309 yards and a touchdown. It should be remembered that the Saints ranked 25th in rushing yards and yards per rush. This would have put a strain upon the Saints passing attack. The Broncos, on the other hand, ranked no lower than 17th in any of the rushing categories. This could well help the Broncos if the weather should turn ugly.

When all is said and done, it does not appear as though the Seahawks have had to face an offense with the same level of quality and efficiency as the Broncos will be bringing to Super Bowl XLVIII. That could well prove to be the difference.

Go Broncos!!!!!