Inside the Numbers - Seattle Seahawks @ Washington Redskins
It's Round 1 of what the Redskins hope will be a four round tango to New Orleans and the top of the football world. The playoffs are here.
The Seattle Seahawks (11-5) and the # 5 seed as the top NFC Wild Card team visit FedEx Field and the (10-6) NFC Eastern Division Champion Washington Redskins Sunday at 4:30 ET, with pregame coverage throughout the day on ESPN 980 AM, 94.3/92.7 FM, www.espn980.com and Audio Now at (832) 999-1980.
For this do-or-die clash, we go "Inside the Numbers" to hopefully answer some of the burning questions that should play out on center stage (a sloppy one) this Sunday.
We wrote extensively about the Seahawks in our new feature "Eye on the Enemy" on Thursday http://redskins.espn980.com/bloggers/chris-russell/item/802-eye-on-the-enemy-seattle-seahawks so that's a great reference guide for some of the nuts and bolts numbers that the Seahawks present.
An area that I would like to focus on is the Redskins run offense vs. the Seahawks Run defense. The Redskins are # 1 in the NFL in rushing offense at 169.3 yards per game, which helps fuel a top ranking in yards per play at 6.17, and a top NFL ranking in yards per first-down play at 6.54. Washington is also 2nd in yards per rush attempt at 5.2, and first in the NFC/2nd in the NFL in first down rushing efficiency at 27.7 %.
The Redskins issue a team stats package that says Washington has a total of 6,375 total yards (3,666 gross pass, 2,709 net rush) but 3,066 of those yards (2nd in NFL) occurred on 1st Down plays, or a pretty astonishing 48%. Naturally the run game is a big part of that success, and the Redskins MUST stay out of 3rd and long situations against the Seahawks defense.
The Redskins are still not very good on third down overall (35.8%) but in the last three weeks, they stand at 47.2 % or (17-36). Overall on the 2012 season, from 3rd & 7 + situations they are (20-102),19.6% and (7-58), 12.1% on 3rd & 10 + situations.
The Seahawks defense in the last three weeks is allowing opponents to convert on (10-35) 28.5% third down chances (Buffalo, San Francisco, St. Louis). Two of those offenses are fairly pedestrian, while San Francisco has essentially a rookie quarterback in Colin Kaepernick & they were playing for the 2nd consecutive week on the road, and on a Sunday night.
Why do I bring up 3rd Down stats? Simple. What you do or don't do on first down, is often telling of what kind of situation you are in on 3rd down or maybe it allows you to avoid that situation all together.
Back to the rushing element, which is a huge part of the mix on first down. Alfred Morris is 7th in the NFL in terms of most yards from scrimmage, at 1,690 with 1,613 coming on the ground. Morris ranks 4th in the NFL, accumulating first downs with 86. Seattle's defense, while ranking 2nd in total yards per game in the NFC and 4th overall in the NFL, doesn't fare as well in the run stopping department. Seattle ranks 10th in rushing yards per game allowed at 103.1, but 23rd overall in the league in rushing yards allowed per attempt at 4.48 yards per carry. Morris averages 4.8 per carry, so it's logical to think that if Morris gets 25 carries (averaging 21 carries per game) he'll be right around 120 yards if he maintains his average yards per carry rate. If he only rushes 21 times (season per game rate) then that production would slip to right around 100 yards. Factoring in the Seahawks averages (4.48/carry vs. 4.8/carry) and splitting the difference - Morris might realistically churn out about about a 115 or so yards (4.64 x 25).
If you factor in Robert Griffin being healthier, maybe he takes his 6.8 per carry average and runs 7 times (season average 7.5/game). If Griffin III can be in that ballpark, he could add another 45 yards plus to the mix. The Redskins if they run the ball 30 + times for 160 + yards should put themselves in position to control the ball for about 32 minutes or so in time of possession.
The Redskins ran the ball over 30 times in a game in 12 out of 16 games, with a season high 43 attempts in the opener at New Orleans, and 42 attempts in the finale against Dallas as the high marks. They are (1-3) when rushing the ball less than 30 times per game in 2012. Washington is (6-3) when winning the time of possession battle. The Redskins are (7-4) when they have over 150 + rushing yards, yet still a pretty good (3-2) when under 149 yards rushing.
When Morris rushes over 25 times, the Redskins are (3-0). When he's over his average (20.9/game), the Redskins are a pretty damn good (8-1). Morris averages 100.8 yards per game (1,613/16) and has crossed the 100-yard rushing mark seven times in his rookie season. In those games, the Redskins are (5-2).
The Seahawks gave up 175 yards on the ground in San Francisco, 243 against Minnesota (at home), 189 at Miami, 132 in a win at Chicago the next week and 118 two weeks later against the Bills in Toronto. Those five games illustrate a pretty favorable picture for the Redskins, as the Seahawks were gashed for 857 rushing yards on 140 attempts or an average of 6.12 per attempt.
Bottom line, Morris needs to run well and the Redskins have to stay committed to win. In other words....DUH!
As for the Redskins stopping Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks run - here is a little idea of what they are looking at from the outstanding work of Matt Bowen of the National Football Post, http://www.nationalfootballpost.com/Dont-forget-about-Lynch.html and more specifically on Seattle's version of the zone-read http://www.nationalfootballpost.com/Film-Study-Seahawks-Read-Option-vs-Bears.html.
Could Washington end Washington? Here's what we know. Seahawks kick returner Leon Washington is 2nd in the NFL (1st in NFC) with a 29.0 yard kickoff return average, and has a 98 yard kickoff return for a touchdown this year in Miami. He also is tied for first all-time with EIGHT kickoff returns for a touchdown, with Cleveland's Josh Cribbs. Washington also is Seattle's punt returner and averages 8.7.
The Redskins allow 23.0 yards per kick return, which ranks them as 12th best in the NFL. As for punt return coverage, Washington is 8th best in the league at 8.2, but remember the issues Washington had last week on the opening return where Dwayne Harris returned the ball 28 yards to set up the Cowboys at the Washington 27 and later in the game, Harris had a 39 yard return that was only stopped by a Sav Rocca face mask - with the Cowboys drive ultimately starting at the Washington 16. They cashed in three plays later on a Kevin Ogletree touchdown on 3rd/4.
Baltimore and Jacoby Jones were # 1 in the NFL in kick return average this year, and when the Ravens lost to the Redskins at FedEx in December, Jones had 5 returns for 145 yards (29.0 AVG, same as Leon Washington), with a long of 38. We saw directional kickoffs for the first time in the season, and as a result -- Kai Forbath had a kickoff out-of-bounds and nearly booted the opening kickoff of overtime to the sidelines as well. That gives the opponent possession at the 40-yard line. On the very first kick of the game, Forbath landed a perfect kick that dropped at the 1-yard line, and was returned to only the Baltimore-19.
Against Cleveland the next week, the Redskins went head to head with the above mentioned Cribbs and surrendered 7 returns for 191 yards, or a 27.3 average, with a long of 32. Cleveland was 8th in the NFL in kickoff return average, but 3rd in the the league with punt return average. Because of the Redskins high-octane attack that day (after the first four series) they only punted twice for a total return yardage of 15 yards.
The bottom line is this - the Redskins need to keep the kickoff returns against Washington to about a 25.0 average and the punt returns to about 8.0 to not lose the battle in this hugely key area. A source told ESPN 980 to expect the Redskins to play a directional kicking game plan. The Redskins have made stopping Leon Washington almost as big of a priority in this game, as any other element.
If the right Washington flips the script.... the Redskins could win. The Redskins struggled woefully in the return game with Brandon Banks as the dual returner. Since splitting the roles against Baltimore, Niles Paul and Richard Crawford have been close to fantastic. Banks averaged 6.8 per punt return (26-178) with 5 fair catches. Crawford with only 8 returns or 18 fewer opportunities, already has 156 yards (8-156, 19.5). Even if you take away the dramatic 64-yard punt return, Crawford has very good numbers (7-92, 13.14)
Brandon Banks averaged 24.0 per kick return (22-527) with a long of 55. Since his benching, Niles Paul has taken over and while only averaging 21.8 per return, has made an impact in noticeable ways. His 48-yard return last Sunday night flipped field position big time to mid-field. Washington wasted the opportunity, but because of the field position -- Dallas had to fair catch a punt (instead of another big return) at the Cowboys-15, which led to a bad interception by Tony Romo.
Paul had a 44-yard return in Philadelphia that was negated by a highly questionable penalty on Chris Wilson, that many Redskins special teams players and the coaching staff strongly disagree with. Evan Royster has also contributed two returns for a total of 39 yards. All in all, I believe the Redskins are much better with the north and south returning option, and the much harder to tackle Paul over Banks.
Kai Forbath missed his first field goal attempt last week off the right upright, so he's now (17-18) but still (12-12) from 40 + yards. He only has 15 touchbacks out of 60 opportunities, or 25%.
Sav Rocca forced two fair catches last week, and saved a touchdown (despite the other punt coverage issues) but has been inconsistent while dealing the knee issues, with a gross average of 43.9 and a net average of 37.2. Per NFL issued stats, the Redskins rank 27th in both gross and net punting average.
Random numbers and strategies that might mean something:
The Redskins could have three guys with 5 interceptions each by the time Sunday night comes. Rob Jackson and DeAngelo Hall have four each and they could join London Fletcher in the five-plus club. With at least a half-sack each, Rob Jackson can get to 5.0 sacks on the year, Perry Riley can get to 4.0 sacks, Barry Cofield can get to 3.0 sacks, Ryan Kerrigan can get to 9.0 sacks, Lorenzo Alexander can get to 3.0, and Chris Wilson can get to 1.0.
For Alexander, Jackson, Riley and Kerrigan, they are already at career highs for sacks. For Cofield, a half-sack would match his output last year with Washington and if he has 1.5, he would match his career high.
Robert Griffin III (forgot about him?) uses play-action a whole bunch, to the tune of 39.6% according to Pro Football Focus (@PFF) via (@Draft_Hub). Seahawks QB Russell Wilson uses play-action 36.2 % of the time.
Aldrick Robinson has not made a catch since his long bomb touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving. He had one against the Eagles 5 days before. Kyle Shanahan insists when Robinson is out there, defenses change coverages and drop safeties deep (because they know what is coming) but that opens up a lot of intermediate routes.
In last year's win in Seattle - Anthony Armstrong on a 3rd-and-19 caught a 50-yard bomb for a touchdown over Brandon Browner's back. Armstrong and Robinson have similar builds. It has me wondering against tall, physical corners that Seattle possesses if we might see the return of Robinson to the boxscore.
I think the Redskins think they can attack deep off play action (zone read) or traditional stretches and boots (QB keepers) to the perimeter, along with some reverses sprinkled in to get the Seahawks flowing from side to side (like they did in Cleveland) and then attack up top.
Including the Dallas Thanksgiving Day win for the Redskins, where Robinson was last heard from - he's only been on the field for 30 offensive snaps combined over those last six games.
Pierre up for the Playoffs? Pierre Garcon told me on Friday that he doesn't treat the playoffs any differently than the regular season. His career stats would indicate that at the very least, he isn't hard to find in January. Garcon has 26 catches for 363 yards and 3 touchdowns in his four career post season contests. The touchdowns have come in his last three games in a row, and he's gone well over 100 yards twice.
Santana Moss has post season touchdowns in his last two make-or-break games, both for Washington, against well -- Seattle. He has four career playoff touchdowns, and twice has gone over the 100 yard mark, including in 2006 in Seattle.
Cedric Griffin (activated Friday) has one career playoff interception. DeAngelo Hall hasn't played in a postseason game since 2005, when he was with Atlanta. A win by the Redskins would get Hall back to the Georgia Dome for the first time since 1999.
One last note....Both starting RT Tyler Polumbus and starting RCB Josh Wilson will be playing against their former team, and both were active in playoff games for the Seahawks.
Chris Russell // SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com // www.twitter.com/russellmania980