The Seahawks defenders have this standing pledge: They’re out to defend every blade of grass on every field in every game.
And they have done a remarkable job as guardians of the grass.
But unless the New England Patriots have a massive dysfunction at Miami, the Seahawks’ record-setting string of NFL dominance in the points-allowed category will be snapped at four seasons.
The Patriots have allowed 236 points, 33 fewer than the Seahawks’ 269, which is currently second. Seattle finishes the season at San Francisco against the 2-13 49ers, who rank 27th in the NFL in scoring.
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The Hawks’ 17.9 points a game allowed through 15 games this season is barely higher than last season’s 17.3, which was No. 1. It’s just that New England improved from 19.7 to 15.7.
The Seahawks’ run has been historic, and the likely dip to No. 2 isn’t what anybody would consider a significant slip.
The streak was the longest in the Super Bowl era but was one season short of the all-time NFL mark of five seasons, set by the Cleveland Browns in the 1950s, when there were only 12 teams in the league.
The Hawks will continue to have the core of their defense intact for at least another season. In fact, a contract extension to defensive end Michael Bennett was announced Friday.
It leaves the largest question mark for the future being the return to health of free safety Earl Thomas, who has been out since breaking his leg against Carolina in early December. Thomas’ five straight Pro Bowls in his first six seasons had him on a Hall of Fame trajectory.
But after his injury, he publicly considered retiring. He’s recanted that thought, but his readiness for next season will depend on the speed and efficiency of his rehabilitation.
How much difference can one player make? Consider Thomas’ absence in the past month.
The Seahawks have given up six passing touchdowns in the four games Thomas has missed, yet only nine in the 10 games in which he’s played.
Heading into the Green Bay game on Dec. 11, the Seahawks were still No. 1 in points allowed, at 16.2. The 38 points scored by the Packers, and the 34 points that the Cardinals tallied on Christmas Eve, were the two totals that pushed the Hawks defense out of first place.
Other than Thomas’ absence, some statistics paint the picture of the pressure the Seattle defense has been under, and where it has come up short.
The Seahawks offense has controlled the ball an average of more than 2 minutes less a game, and opponents will finish with well over 1,000 offensive plays this year, far more than any season during this streak.
Opponents’ third-down conversion rate is at a five-season high (39.8), so the Seahawks haven’t helped themselves in getting off the field. And opposing quarterbacks have put together a collective rating of 83.4 — dramatically higher than the 63.4 of 2013.
Contributing to that statistic is another factor that has been an effective barometer of Seattle’s defensive successes — turnover differential.
If the Hawks don’t get any interceptions at San Francisco, they’ll finish the season with 11, a total that is fewer than only two others in team history (nine in 1989 and 2008).
In 2013, they led the league with 28 interceptions and a plus-20 turnover differential.
Thus far, they’re at minus-1, the only time they’ve been negative in this streak.
Statistics often fail to provide context, though, such as “garbage time” scores when the game is out of reach.
But the Seahawks have been good about finishing up games. This season was less convincing.
They’ve given up 90 fourth-quarter points in the first 15 games. The fourth-quarter point totals by opponents were in the 60s in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
In an earlier game, the 49ers added a couple of touchdowns after Seattle led 37-3. The Jets scored late on a freaky fumble recovery when most of the Seahawks thought the ball was dead.
And the Falcons had three lightning scoring passes in the third quarter of what otherwise would have been a blowout Seattle win.
Giving up 38 and 34 points in two of the past three games, though, is a trend the Seahawks definitely will wish to stop in San Francisco in their final game before heading into the playoffs.