RENTON Russell Wilson is saying what the numbers already show.
The Seahawks quarterback was asked Wednesday when he believes his offense is at its best.
His first answer: “I think that, obviously, up-tempo is very good for us.”
I updated the numbers I tallied last month. When Seattle has not huddled and run plays in a hurry, it has scored 75 percent of the time this season: on nine of 12 drives. It’s five field goals, including all nine of the points the Seahawks scored in the opening loss at Green Bay, and four touchdowns. One of those TDs was the winning one in fourth quarter against San Francisco in week two, Wilson’s magical scramble then throw to Paul Richardson with 7 minutes left in the 12-9 victory.
The Seahawks are averaging 11.5 yards per play on the snaps before and after not huddling.
The rest of the season--that is, while huddling--Seattle has mostly flopped. The offense has scored 17.9 percent of the time (10 times in 56 drives). It is averaging 4.3 yards per play when it huddles.
More than the numbers, there is a feel all Seahawks--linemen, backs, receivers and Wilson--say they get, a rhythm, when they go hurry-up. Often the only rhythm they get in a game comes when they go no-huddle.
Yes, some of this season’s no-huddle scores have come when defenses have been in more of a dropped-off, prevent mode. Three of the 12 drives have come at the end of a half, and two more of the drives--late at Tennessee in week three--came with Seattle in full playground mode after falling behind 30-14 late in the third quarter.
But what about the other seven drives on which Seattle has used no-huddle and an increase in tempo? And what about the last two seasons? While the running game and the offensive line have struggled, the no-huddle, hurry-up mode has succeeded. Seattle has scored 24 times on drives when it has used no-huddle in its last 23 games, including playoffs, dating to the start of the 2016 season.
“I think it puts pressure on the defense,” Wilson said.
“Yeah, there can be a downside. I don’t believe in the downside. I don’t focus on the downside part of it,” Wilson said, grinning.
“But every game kind of dictates itself a little bit based on who you are playing and you got to have a strategy a little bit, I think. For us, I think up-tempo is really good because, like I said, it puts pressure on the defense. We have always done it well since 2012, really we have been really good at that I think. So for us that is something we can always do and hop into and feel confident about.
“We practice it a lot and so there may be times when we to that throughout several games.”
So why don’t they use it more?
As I wrote last month, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll does see a downside, one to which Wilson sort of alludes above: In some games, Carroll doesn’t want quicker drives that give more possessions to opposing quarterbacks he fears can burn Seattle.
Two-time Super Bowl MVP and four-time Pro Bowl passer Eli Manning this Sunday at the New York Giants is definitely one.
Brian Hoyer of San Francisco, who was the QB in week two when the Seahawks went no-huddle in the middle of the fourth quarter to take the lead, is not.
Plus, it’s just not in Carroll’s nature. He’s a former college defensive back and NFL defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator who at his core believes in controlling field position and thus games with a consistent, thumping running game (which Seattle hasn’t had for two-plus seasons, since Marshawn Lynch got hurt then temporarily retired) and most of all a dominating defense. Wingin’ it all over the yard in no-huddle in, say, the middle of the first quarter just isn’t how he won national championships at USC and the Super Bowl for the Seahawks three years ago.
The Seahawks’ offensive line benefits by the up-tempo approach in two ways. The plays are quicker and blocking schemes generally more basic, because Wilson’s passes generally require quicker drops and throws. And the line is blocking more fatigued defenders when in no-huddle, especially when the Seahawks don’t substitute players and thus don’t give the defense a chance to do the same.
Tiring the Giants’ attacking defensive front on Sunday sounds like a good idea. Edge rusher Jason Pierre-Paul had three sacks, three tackles for loss and two quarterback hits last weekend in New York’s 23-10 domination of heavily favored Denver.
“I definitely think you notice the defensive linemen get tired when you are going up-tempo,” Wilson said. “They are rushing full speed. They are going as hard as they can go and so if you can have a long (sus)taining drive where you go one play after another that is a key thing for us.”
Absolutely key for Wilson’s well-being, behind his iffy offensive line that has trouble pass protecting for two seasons. The Seahawks are going to have their third starting line Sunday against the Giants. Mark Glowinski and rookie second-round pick Ethan Pocic will be playing left guard with Luke Joeckel out at least a month following knee surgery. And Seattle is so unsatisfied with left tackle Rees Odhiambo it spent the bye last week shopping for potential replacements there. The Seahawks made a contract offer to free agent Branden Albert and have inquired about Houston holdout Duane Brown.
Wilson also says the defense’s schemes are often simpler when Seattle’s going in a hurry.
“Sometimes, depending on who you are playing,” he said. “I think that every defense, sometimes they have a bunch of calls in 2-minute and sometimes they don’t. Most teams on a generic level, most teams do get a little bit more simple because there is only so much they can do.
“We are going so fast, it kind of puts them on their heels a little bit and I think that is an advantage for us.”
One the Seahawks have been reluctant to use more regularly. At least so far.