Time of Possession and Complementary Football Key in Seahawks' Week 2 Defeat

The Seahawks' defense is receiving significant blame for the team's defeat on Sunday. However, Week 2's time of possession figures demonstrate that the offense failed its defensive counterpart. Complementary football was not present.
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In Week 2 of NFL football, the Seahawks' offense scored 30 points and put up 397 yards against the Titans. Yet their home opener still ended in defeat, with Seattle’s defense allowing 532 yards and 33 points. Naturally, looking at the basic box score leads to placing the blame for the loss firmly on the defense.

It’s not that simple, however. Successful, winning football requires all three phases to work in tandem, to complement one another. When an offense, defense or special teams does not execute, the other elements are hurt too. The Seahawks’ offensive attack severely hurt the defensive side of the football. As a result, Seattle blew a 15-point halftime lead.

Versus a talented Tennessee offensive unit, Seattle's defense still managed to prevent touchdowns until late. It held the visiting team to nine first-half points; additionally, Tennessee only had 16 at the start of the fourth quarter. 

Furthermore, the Seahawks' defense forced a second quarter turnover that handed their offense the ball on the Titans' five-yard line, setting up a simple touchdown drive for Russell Wilson and company.

The time of possession figures suggest the defense's eventual fracture was near-inevitable. Tennessee held the ball for 42 minutes 33 seconds; Seattle just 22 minutes and 42 seconds. Seattle’s attacking approach struggled to sustain drives, let alone occupy clock time. Its early down runs proved fruitless.

Even on their scoring drives, the Seahawks scored rapidly. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Scoring drive No. 1, first quarter: five plays, 57 yards in one minute and 58 seconds (result: field goal)
  • Scoring drive No. 2, second quarter: three plays, 89 yards in one minute and 40 seconds (result: touchdown)
  • Scoring drive No. 3, second quarter: two plays, nine yards in 36 seconds (result: touchdown)
  • Scoring drive No. 4, second quarter: seven plays, 75 yards in 53 seconds (result: touchdown)
  • Scoring drive No. 5, fourth quarter: three plays, 76 yards in one minute and 54 seconds (result: touchdown)

The longest time of possession scoring drive was the first quarter field goal, taking up two minutes and two seconds of total game time.

"The game in general. We scored, you look back, we scored on a huge play, 60-something. Then we scored from the five-yard line. So we didn't have the ball very long. Then we score again from 60-something," Carroll told 710 ESPN Seattle on Monday morning.

"So we never established our ability to drive the football again. It just was kinda unusual that we were out ahead like that and had not really established a rhythm to the offense." 

Carroll went on to add: "All of those were kinda situations by themselves, we didn't contribute to having control of the line of scrimmage in the ballgame like we would like."

In the first half, the Seahawks' time of possession was 11 minutes 16 seconds; the Titans had 18 minutes and 44 seconds. The second half was even more brutal on the defense, where Seattle’s offense held the ball for just 10 minutes and 26 seconds compared to Tennesee’s 19 minutes and 34 seconds.

More importantly, on the five second-half drives the Seahawks had on offense, they scored just six points and picked up just six first downs, a total which includes the end-of-game, garbage time plays of Wilson’s scramble and Tyler Lockett’s catch-and-run. So, in all: four "real" first downs and one gift-wrapped blown coverage play that allowed Freddie Swain to score an easy 68-yard touchdown. 

"In the second half, we—for one reason, we had a couple of penalties, we had a couple of problems, we missed a couple of calls, we missed a couple of short-yardage situations—and all of that added up to no rhythm to finish the game when we needed it," Carroll assessed to 710 ESPN Seattle. "We needed one more drive, we needed a drive to go finish the game."

318 of the Titans’ 532 yards came in the second half—206 of them in the fourth quarter. In overtime, the Seahawks' offense continued their failures, going three-and-out and punting from their own half-yard line after starting at their own 13.

As Carroll told 710 ESPN Seattle on Monday morning: "In this game, different in the first game, we didn't complement our play as well from one side to the other, so it hurt us at the end."

The Seahawks’ defense is, of course, not without fault. The Titans want to play a patient, lengthy style on offense and Seattle's defense was not able to get off the field fast. 

Take the first half scores for example, where the Titans' first field goal drive took six minutes and 40 seconds off the clock. Their second kicking drive took four minutes and 29 seconds. And their third three-point trip, following two Seahawks touchdowns and the aforementioned forced fumble, drained four minutes and 15 seconds. On the second and third Titans field goals, the Seahawks were unable to get them into a third down situation until they entered the redzone. 

Throughout the game, the defense allowed multiple explosive plays that were poorly executed. In the clutch, the Titans' coaching staff exploited certain schematic adjustments the Seahawks made. And highly preventable penalties were committed by Seattle defenders at crucial points—six, in fact, for 70 yards, or 66 yards with half-distance-to-goal factored in.

Ultimately though, the Seahawks' defense was able to win in big moments versus the widely-stocked Titans. They even got off the field at the start of overtime, providing Wilson with the opportunity to win the game after backup quarterback Geno Smith lost the coin toss. 

"Our rhythm escaped us throughout the course of that game, because we scored so explosively, after the turnover, we never really found our way when we needed it, that's realizing how important it is to have that mix of the run and the pass so that we can get what we want done," summarized Carroll to 710 ESPN Seattle.

The Seahawks' offensive attack did not give their defense a chance to end the game and it was no surprise that the defense looked utterly exhausted towards the end. Post-Week 2, major questions should already be asked regarding the sustainability of the Shane Waldron-Wilson approach. What happens when the explosives aren’t there? What happens when defenses play actual defense?