Pete Carroll's press conference today shed a little more light on their opinion regarding the reasons for some of the struggles that the Seahawks' have been having on 3rd downs. While scheming tweaks are almost certainly going to be made, more than anything it seems like execution on the part of this young team's linebacker corps in particular has been a major issue. This is something that ESPN's Brock Huard broke down on the whiteboard this afternoon, which you'll see below.
First though, back to Carroll's comments. Teams are taking advantage of the underneath zone gaps that have been presented to them, and as Carroll pointed out, it's obviously not any one thing that's causing the problems.
"It would be easy if [the issues were with] man coverage all the time, or zone stuff all the time, or the pressures... We did make some mistakes, that they took advantage of. Just little technical things: a guy dropping a bit out of his area, a guy not picking up the leverage side of his man-to-man that we would have liked, things like that. We missed on a couple of pressures that we had a chance to hit on, and timing wasn't great for us, so, they just took advantage of every one of them."
Per Carroll, "There was a little bit (of lack of communication on defense) and I know the linebackers were really taxed in this game with some stuff (likely implying with regard to schemes and formations), and they weren't as clean as we'd like them to be, so there's some room... the cool thing about it is that there's plenty of room for improvement.
"We've executed the things that we didn't execute well this week at other times, so we know we can do it. Just, in this game, they banged at us pretty good and we weren't able to catch up with it and be as sharp as we needed to be. So, the yardage was added on (after the catch), so their conversions were easier and shorter..."
This is precisely what former NFL linebacker Dave Wyman was talking about on ESPN yesterday, in sharing his opinion that one of the major issues with the Seahawks' 3rd down defense has been the linebackers are sitting too far back on their heels and not closing down and tackling ball carriers or receivers quickly enough - "linebackers need to explode forward and stop tight ends or running backs right as they catch a dumpoff', or something along those lines. Wyman's analysis was that Seattle's defenders, in 3rd and long, are not diagnosing a play quickly enough and then once they do, there seems to be a lack of urgency in making a tackle.
Carroll noted in his press conference, "For all of the young guys that are starting and playing a great deal right now, this is the end of their college season. So, they've got to get that second wind and get back with it so we can continue to improve."
Further, as I kind of had suspected, Carroll insinuated a bit that Seattle players might be pressing a little in the realization that 3rd downs are their weak point, and mental mistakes are happening, players are trying to make big plays and find themselves out of position.
"It's just being comfortable with the situation," Carroll noted, "and doing the right things again and again and again, and not changing and trying to do a little too much or try a little too hard, at times, to make a play or something.
"Those things, [as Josh pointed out astutely in his post this morning], you can wash out with experience, and sometimes guys are just trying to make things happen, and so they make mistakes. I think we've tried a little too hard to be perfect or to catch a tendency or something and we miss our drops and stuff like that. I think we can get a lot better. I know we can do a lot better, I just hope we do it right away."
Carroll noted too (and obviously, this makes sense) that a large part of the Seahawks' recent swing to giving up large amounts of yardage in the pass game to opponents (400+ yards to N.E. and DET) comes down to extremely disciplined and efficient quarterbacking by Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford. Seattle looks to protect against the explosive pass first and foremost, but the underneath gaps that are created because of this has been an issue, so Carroll and his staff have had some very 'deep' conversations on how to fix it. We'll see what kind of adjustments they make to address the growing problem.
Brock Huard broke down one of Seattle's 3rd and long breakdowns on ESPN this afternoon and as per usual, it's a great look at the X's and O's of the play.
"Really, it's guys that were trying a little bit too hard or trying to do too much. A guy gets out of whack a little bit in his drop, in his coverage, he might try to overcompensate a little bit because they want to do it so badly," as Carroll told "Brock and Salk" on Monday (and then repeated today in his presser, as noted above. "That's still a youthful thing. It's having the poise to just believe in what you're doing and do it exactly right. We always talk about how you finish is you do things right longer than the other guys, and we were not as right as they were, so they win the football game in that situation."
Watch the play at the 2:53 mark of this video.