The Seahawks have improved their 3rd down ranking from 28th in the NFL (after the St. Louis debacle they were at 33%) to a respectable 12th ranking and 40% conversion rate. The NFL median in 2013 is the same as it was in 2012, 38%. That's what two games worth of superb 3rd down play can produce.
The Seahawks went 9-for-15 (60%) on 3rd down versus Atlanta and a whopping 8-for-12 (66%) versus the Bucs the week prior. This is evidence of a renewed commitment to the run game as well as better play design and execution in the short and intermediate passing game - using Seattle's playmakers and managing the offensive line during this stretch. I want to look at two of these 3rd down conversions versus Atlanta.
The Seahawks threw the ball less than five times in the 2nd half against the Falcons. On 3rd and 10, you are forced to throw. They faced a 3rd and 10 early in the 3rd Quarter from their own 42 yard line.
3-10-SEA 42 (11:35 3rd Quarter) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short right to G.Tate to ATL 47 for 11 yards (A.Samuel).
The Seahawks are in 11 personnel on this play - 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB - and have their five best playmakers on the field (pre-Percy), which includes Marshawn Lynch, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Zach Miller. Baldwin is in the slot right and Tate is on the far right as the Z. Tate is likely Rusell Wilson's first or second read, and pre-snap Wilson has to like what he sees, because the cornerback on Tate is playing 8 yards off the line of scrimmage.
The corner is defending the go-ball, but is still in position to break on the in-breaking route, which is likely by design. Wilson has no problem delivering the football to Tate before the sticks (he threw to Lynch well before the sticks on 3rd and 4 earlier in the game in the infamous stiffarm to the chin of William Moore). Tate makes the 8 yard catch and then spins and drags the cornerback for another 3 yards to gain the necessary 11 yards on 3rd and 10.
Baldwin, in the slot, is covered up well by two defenders and may have actually been Wilson's first read (If I were Atlanta I would bracket Baldwin on 3rd down as well).
If Wilson delivers the ball later, then it's drifting dangerously close to three defenders - it's a situation where Pete Carroll, Darrell Bevell and Russell Wilson trust Tate to make a play - and he does. Baldwin may have been Wilson's first read, or perhaps he stares at him to hold the safety for a split second.
Atlanta does a nice job on this 3rd down, where they "show 5" but drop the left defensive end in coverage on Balwin (good coverage too). They have an LB (#55) flash in the A-gap but he drops into coverage on Miller.
Atlanta sends two defenders on a well-timed delayed blitz on the Seahawks left side and Paul McQuistan and Marshawn Lynch are both late to close up the gap, but the ball is out so quick it does not matter.
It is exciting to see Seattle improve its short rhythm passing, which is a must-have in the NFL. 3rd and 10 is a situation where the defense has the advantage and can disguise and dial up cool zone blitzes and the like, but the Seahawks convert here.
3-6-SEA 24 (15:00) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass deep left to D.Baldwin ran ob at ATL 49 for 27 yards (D.Trufant).
Seattle is not afraid to throw well beyond the sticks on 3rd and manageable. Earlier in the game, Wilson had hit Jermaine Kearse deep left on a 20+ yard explosive on a 3rd and 3 situation.
Here, Seattle comes out with an empty backfield and 4WR, and leaves a TE in to protect (6-man protection). The Seahawks are in a 2x2 formation, right hashmark, which favors Tate and Baldwin (both on left side) as they are able to create more space.
Kearse runs an underneath route in combination with Golden Tate - a 'rub-route' that we see Seattle run quite often. On the other side, Lockette runs a sweet out-and-up route - he fakes the corner, flips the cornerback's hips, then hits the post route. Lockette has a free release, but the crazy thing is he gets downfield FAST (watch Lockette in the GIF below - starts out tight slot right). Lockette is open but Wilson would not have had time to hit him, as the Falcons have a free rusher on a delayed blitz, who crushes Wilson as he lets go of the ball.
Watch this route in the future if Wilson ever gets more time in the pocket. (or should I say Pockette)
Back to the play, Wilson makes the correct reads here, and I have no idea what the progressions are, but Kearse is covered well, and Lockette's route is not "developed" when the ball has to come out. Tate is getting some decent press coverage as he sets the pick and he isn't exactly wide open either. That's okay here.
Baldwin runs the route like a dancer. He slow trots his first couple steps while the pick from Tate develops. The corner is reacting to Baldwin, and he has to play inside leverage here on 3rd and 6 (I imagine) to guard against the quick slant. About 3-to-4 yards into his "trot" Baldwin puts his foot into the ground and explodes behind Tate's pick (or rub) and the play is won; now Wilson does his part and drops a perfect dime on Baldwin's outside shoulder with plenty of width left (3-4 yards) before Baldwin hits the sideline.
Wilson also gets touched, but he stands in there and still covers up a bit from the blow and the linebacker eases up on him, possibly to avoid a penalty.
Atlanta does a good job here, but the ball is out too quick. They blitz six after showing seven at the line of scrimmage, Wilson knows pre-snap the ball has to come out. The safety drops in coverage, but Atlanta is able to get their free rusher on a delayed blitz through the right side.
Atlanta sends six, but Seattle has a six man protection. They're actually able to neatly scheme two free rushers on this play though, as two sets of SEA O lineman are double teaming Atlanta rushers. In fact, the two best blocks on the play are both single blocks - Miller on the far right and Bailey on the far left!
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