The Ultimate 12th Man Guide

This Is How They Do It: 11 Reasons the Seahawks Are So Good

The Hawks had barely hoisted the Lombardi Trophy when pundits started talking dynasty. And when you get geeky with the numbers, it’s not hard to see why they won last year—and why they’re perfectly positioned to do it again.

By Matthew Halverson September 1, 2014 Published in the September 2014 issue of Seattle Met

1. Sticky Hands

Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter famously called the Hawks’ receivers “pedestrian” prior to their Super Bowl run. It’s true, they weren’t household names—Seattleites likely recognized Jermaine Kearse only because he played for UW—but they played like stars. In the Seahawks’ run-first offense, when Russell Wilson threw the ball their way, they virtually never dropped it.

3.2 = Percentage of catchable balls that Seahawks receivers dropped.


2. The Noise (Non)factor

The 12th Man gets a lot of credit for creating an intimidating atmosphere at CenturyLink Field, but the numbers for false starts—the penalty most associated with crowd noise—have actually tipped in favor of Seahawks’ opponents at the CLink for three years now.

  Seahawks Opponents Differential
2011 17 7 -10
2012 15 10 -5
2013 13 12 -1

3. Dialed In

Either the old canard that no one wants to watch a lopsided game is bogus or the 12th Man is a lot bigger than we realized. Super Bowl XLVIII and its 35-point spread was the most watched broadcast—of any kind—of all time. 

Super Bowl XLVIII, Feb 2, 2014 112.2 million viewers

Super Bowl XLVI, Feb 5, 2012 111.3 million viewers

M*A*S*H finale, Feb 28, 1983 105.9 million viewers

Seinfeld finale, May 14, 1998 76 million viewers

4. Balance Makes the Hawks’ Offense So Good

Danny Kelly, editor of the Seahawks blog Field Gulls, breaks down one play from the 2013 season that demonstrates the team’s dual threats.

Week 11, Seahawks vs. Vikings. One minute, 28 seconds to go in the first quarter; second and eight from the Hawks’ 24-yard line. 

• The Vikings bring their strong safety (SS) toward the line of scrimmage to help out on what they expect to be a run by Marshawn Lynch (24) .  

Russell Wilson (3) , seeing an exploitable defensive scheme, signals to outside receivers Doug Baldwin (89) and Golden Tate (81) to run “go routes” straight up the sideline. And slot receiver Percy Harvin (11) will run a slant up the middle to grab the attention of the free safety (FS). 

• Wilson looks left to ensure that the free safety keys on Harvin. With that defender out of the picture, Wilson lofts a pass down the sideline to a streaking Baldwin, who picks up 44 yards.

• This is an example of what Coach Carroll calls an “explosive play”: They use the strong threat of a run to draw opposing defenses up toward the line of scrimmage. Then, when teams bite, Wilson beats them long with the pass.


← 5. He’s Better at Life Than Just About Everyone

Career Interceptions

Defensive Back(s)


Richard Sherman


Patrick Peterson, Prince Amukamara, Jimmy Smith (combined)

Question Does Richard Sherman—picked in the fifth round of the 2011 draft—have more career interceptions than all three defensive backs taken in the first round combined because A) he’s better than all three, B) he wants to prove NFL GMs blew it by letting him fall so far in the draft, or C) a little of both? 

6. +66 toxic differential. (In this case, toxic is good.)

Allow us to nerd out for a minute: Start with the number of times a team’s defense takes away the ball, add the number of plays in which its offense rushes the ball for 10 yards or more, and then add the number of times it completes a pass for 25 yards or more. Now subtract the number of times the offense turns the ball over and the number of times the defense gives up rushes of 10 or more yards and passes of 25 or more yards. The result, which should be a positive number, is called the toxic differential. (Basically, how many big plays did a team produce compared to how many it gave up.) In 2013, Seattle’s was the best in the league. “The Seahawks had a good offense,” says Chad Langager, cofounder of “But in an era when passing has become a huge component of the game, what Seattle’s defense was able to do is insane.”


7. Hotcakes... Shaped Like Jerseys.

Sales of Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, and Richard Sherman jerseys skyrocketed during the team’s playoff run. Coincidence? We’re thinking no.

Apr 1–Dec 31, 2013
Russell Wilson (3rd highest seller)
Marshawn Lynch (11th)
Richard Sherman (19th)

Jan 1–Feb 28, 2014
Russell Wilson (1st)
Marshawn Lynch (5th)
Richard Sherman (6th)


8. Defense Wins Won A Championships

To say the Seahawks defense was good is a bit of an understatement: It led the league in no fewer than six major categories.

  Seahawks League Average
Points given up per game 14.4 23.4
Total yards given up per game 273.6 348.5
Passing yards given up per game 172 235.6

Yards given up per play 

4.42 5.36
Total rushing touchdowns given up 4  
Interceptions 28 15.7

9. Getting Grabby

Defensive pass interference calls per game:

0.81 Seahawks
0.46 The rest of the league

The Seahawks secondary got a lot of flak for playing aggressive—some said dirty—pass defense. But there’s a thin line between dirty and smart. “You could argue it’s cheap,” says Jeremy Lindgren, editor of “But it is a loophole in the NFL that some team would be foolish not to take advantage of.”


10. Talent Doesn’t (Usually) Come Cheap

The secret to the Seahawks’ success so far has been spending a little to get a lot. In 2013 quarterback Russell Wilson, safety Earl Thomas, cornerback Richard Sherman, and wide receiver Doug Baldwin combined earned just half of what running back Marshawn Lynch did. But after Thomas, Sherman, and Baldwin scored new contracts this off-season—and with Wilson set to sign a megadeal next year—the Hawks have one shot at continued success, according to Jason Fitzgerald, editor of the NFL salary–tracking website “They’re going to have to keep hitting on undervalued draft picks.”

  2013 2014 2015
Thomas, Wilson,
Sherman, Baldwin 
$3.7 mil $8.2 mil $20.3 mil*

*This assumes a very modest $2 million for the first year of Wilson's inevitable contract extension, which will undoubtedly net him more than $20 million a year when his signing bonus is factored in

11. Home Sweet CLink.

The Seahawks record at regular-season home games over the past two seasons was 15-1.

This feature appeared in the September 2014 issue of Seattle Met. 

Show Comments