Seahawks defense tough on passers in 2013

By Eric Goska, Press-Gazette correspondent
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Thursday night's NFL opener between the Seahawks and Packers features teams that wound up at different ends of the passer-rating spectrum last season.

Care to guess where Green Bay landed?

The Packers kick off their 94th league season in Seattle. It could easily go down as their toughest assignment of the year.

The Seahawks excel on both sides of the ball. They have a winning quarterback in Russell Wilson (24-8 regular-season record as a starter) and a stifling defense.

It's that defense that sets the defending Super Bowl champions apart. The difference (442 yards) between Seattle's top-ranked unit a year ago (4,378 yards allowed) and the second-place Carolina Panthers (4,820) was the greatest gap between No. 1 and No. 2 since the New York Jets topped the Packers by 514 yards in 2009.

Seattle shows up eight times in the first 23 defensive categories found in the Club Leaders section of the 2014 NFL Record & Fact Book. Six of those involve pass defense.

One not listed is defensive passer rating. That statistic, especially at the extremes, tends to expose the haves and the have-nots.

Over the past 10 years, 17 of the 22 clubs with a defensive passer rating below 70 reached the playoffs. At the same time, the nine teams that allowed ratings higher than 100 all had losing seasons.

The 2013 Seahawks rank among the best. Seattle's NFL-leading defensive passer rating (63.4) was more than 10 points better than runner-up Cincinnati (74.2). It was the lowest since the Jets (58.8) and Bills (61.1) of 2009.

The Seahawks' have improved in this regard each year under coach Pete Carroll. Ratings have dropped enough — from 89.7 (2010) to 74.8 (2011) to 71.8 (2012) — that Seattle's combined rating for the past four years (75.3) is the best in the business.

Home is where the Seahawks butter their bread. Last season, Seattle went 7-1 at CenturyLink Field where opponents compiled a meager 56.9 passer rating.

That, too, was an NFL best and the only one below 60.

Four quarterbacks failed to post ratings of even 50 points. The most notable: San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick who stumbled to a career-low 20.1 in an embarrassing 29-3 loss in Week 2.

Seattle doesn't play nice with visiting passers. Instead, it intercepts them. The Seahawks led the league with 28 interceptions and 16, an average of two a game, were at home.

While Seattle's defensive passer rating overall and at home was the best, the Packers bottomed out: not overall, mind you, where their rating of 95.9 was better than that of seven other teams, but in games played on the road.

It's a surprise OSHA didn't mandate fire-resistant jerseys for Green Bay road games. The team's defensive passer rating on the road (101.0) was worst in the league.

The Packers got burned early and often. Kaepernick (129.4) fired three touchdowns as San Francisco won 34-28 at Candlestick Park in the opener. Two weeks later, Andy Dalton (105.5) rallied Cincinnati to a 34-30 victory at Paul Brown Stadium despite Green Bay having scored 30 unanswered points.

Joe Flacco (112.6) and Jay Cutler (103.8) also topped 100. Eli Manning (92.4) and Matthew Stafford (98.5) would have done the same but each threw one too many interceptions.

In a franchise first, Green Bay permitted all eight of its road opponents a rating of 80 or better. Its triple-digit road allowance was only the second in team history (101.7 in 2004).

So, which match-up do you prefer — Russell Wilson (103.8 rating at home in 2013) going against the Packers defense (101.0) or Aaron Rodgers (91.8 rating on the road in 2013) battling Seattle's defenders (56.9)? This game could come down to the play of its quarterbacks.

Buck up, Packers fans. It's no longer 2013.

Should Green Bay make that clear with its play in Seattle, it might prevail against a Seahawks team seeking to be the first in 10 years to repeat as Super Bowl champs.

Extra point

Seattle's 56.9 defensive passer rating at home is its best since 1984 (35.2). That year, safety Ken Easley led the NFL with 10 interceptions as Seattle pilfered a league-leading 38.

Regular-season series

Overall: Green Bay leads 8-6

At CenturyLink Field: Seahawks lead 2-1

Starting quarterbacks

Packers: Aaron Rodgers (58-29 overall; 2-1 vs. Seattle)

Seahawks: Russell Wilson (24-8; 1-0 vs. Green Bay)

Once a Seahawk, now a Packer

Quarterback Matt Flynn (2012) is a former Seahawk.

Once a Packer, now a Seahawk

Punter Jon Ryan (2006-07) is a former Packer.


The ratings game

Teams with the best defensive passer ratings in 2013 and where they rank over the past four years combined.

Rate Team Rank

63.4 Seahawks 1

74.2 Bengals 9

74.9 Bills 15

76.4 49ers 6

77.3 Dolphins 10

78.3 Giants 12

78.5 Chiefs 11

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