Can Seahawks trust defense in late going?

The Seattle Seahawks might not be able to trust their defense if facing a close finish against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

Seahawks D: Fourth Quarters

Those following Seattle all season know the details. Others should consider the following while analyzing a defense that nonetheless led the NFL in points allowed for 2012:

  • The Detroit Lions converted three times on third down against Seattle during their drive to the winning touchdown with 20 seconds remaining in Week 8.

  • The St. Louis Rams converted on third-and-10 and third-and-13 against Seattle while driving to a fourth-quarter field goal during a 19-13 victory in Week 4.

  • The Miami Dolphins completed an 18-yard pass on third-and-7 during their drive to the tying fourth-quarter touchdown against Seattle before prevailing on a last-second field goal in Week 12.

I've singled out late-game collapses on third-down in these road games. Seattle was arguably a defensive stop away from winning at least two of those games.

The chart shows how opposing quarterbacks have fared against Seattle in fourth quarters, regardless of down. The numbers are much better for Seattle at home than on the road even though the Seahawks faced Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady in Seattle, and both games were close in the late going.

Seattle's fourth-quarter road defense ranked sixth-worst in QBR allowed (81.8) and worst in third-down QBR allowed (98.9).

The Falcons have not been a highly productive third-down team in fourth quarters, but their overall fourth-quarter production is stronger: six touchdown passes, three picks, 95.1 passer rating and 69.1 QBR score.

This will be one area to watch Sunday, particularly as Seattle plays without injured defensive end Chris Clemons, who led the team in sacks.