You Got Served: Seattle doesn’t have a great running game

Happy Sunday, friends. Have you heard the one about how the Seahawks have a dominant rushing offense?

It's basically common knowledge at this point, and from there, the prevailing notion exists that Seattle holds a big edge if the weather is bad next Sunday. Everybody knows this

There's only one problem, though.

Seattle's rushing offense is actually nothing special. Today, we'll look at why that is, and we'll return this conversation to reality.

I'm a Marshawn Lynch fan, and I always have been. I was saying nice things about him even back when he was languishing in Buffalo. He has one of the top combinations of speed, power, quickness, and vision among NFL running backs. He's undoubtedly a top-notch running back, and on occasion, he can break off a run like the BeastQuake in the 2011 playoffs.

If you want to talk about 2013 production, though, you need to take a look at these numbers:

Player ATT Yards YPA Rush TD Rec Rec Yards YPR Rec TD Scrimmage Yds Total TD
Marshawn Lynch 301 1257 4.18 12 36 316 8.78 2 1573 14
Knowshon Moreno 241 1038 4.31 10 60 548 9.13 3 1586 13

For as big a reputation as Lynch has, he gained 13 fewer scrimmage yards (on 36 more touches) this season than Knowshon Moreno, who remains highly underrated. Hell, a couple of morons at ESPN.com (one a longtime Seahawks beat writer/fanboy) had Moreno as the 30th best player in the Super Bowl recently in an absurd Insider article.

Lynch beat Moreno by one touchdown.

If you're interested in advanced metrics, Knowshon has Marshawn beat in Win Probability added (1.58 to 0.86), Expected Points Added (41.8 to 11.9), and Success Rate (44.5% to 42.5%), according to Advanced NFL Stats.

Keith Goldner's Net Expected Points gives Moreno an unknown edge, with Knowshon second among all backs and Lynch not even showing up on the top ten list.

Pro Football Reference has both players with an Approximate Value of 13.

Football Outsiders has Lynch with a DYAR of 181 (fifth in the NFL), and Moreno at 173 (sixth).  

For purposes of 2013 productivity, Lynch and Moreno are a push. The story gets worse from there for Seattle, though. Take a look at the productivity of the backups:

Player ATT Yards YPA Rush TD Rec Rec Yards YPR Rec TD Scrimmage Yds Total TD
Robert Turbin 77 264 3.43 0 8 60 7.50 0 324 0
Christine Michael 18 79 4.39 0 0 0 0.00 0 79 0
SEA Total 95 343 3.61   8 60 7.50 0 403 0
                     
Montee Ball 120 559 4.66 4 20 145 7.25 0 704 4
Ronnie Hillman 55 218 3.96 1 12 119 9.92 0 337 1
C.J. Anderson 7 38 5.43 0 0 0 0.00 0 38 0
DEN Total 182 815 4.48 5 32 264 8.25 0 1079 5

The Broncos' backups have achieved 2.5X the production of the Seahawks' backups in terms of scrimmage yards, and they scored five touchdowns against none.

The obvious conclusion here is that the Broncos have gotten more production out of the running back position this season than the Seahawks have. That Insider article I cited before has Lynch as the fourth best player in the game, Moreno 30th, Ball 36th, Michael 42nd, Turbin 57th, Anderson 83rd, and Hillman 85th. So yeah, there's some cognitive dissonance at work.

The larger implication of this realization that the Broncos have a better traditional running game than Seattle is that the difference between offenses is enormous. Seattle bases their offensive scheme around their ability to run, and to Denver, it's a secondary focus.

Both teams want to run the ball well, but Seattle absolutely needs to do so. I'm confident that the Broncos can line up and stop the Seattle run game next week. They did so against the Patriots, who were the sixth most efficient rushing offense in the NFL, accoring to Football Outsiders. They can do it against the Seahawks, who ranked seventh.

There are two wrinkles, of course, that can be problematic. One is that Russell Wilson is dangerous with the ball himself. The other is that Percy Harvin can hurt teams badly running the ball too. I expect the Broncos to be highly aware of both threats, though.

If the Broncos can make Seattle one-dimensional, they're going to win the game next Sunday.

1.  I’m not in the arguing business, I’m in the saying what I think business.
2.  I get my information from my eyes.

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