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Seahawks 3rd Down Notebook: Week 16, Rams

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The Rams game in Week 16 was a tough game to watch. It was a sloppy game filled with fumbles, penalties, dropped passes, and of course, the two Rams' fumbles that both were magically swallowed into Tim Barnes' paws. The Seahawks were off schedule all day, behind the sticks and behind on the scoreboard. It reminded me a bit of the Cardinals game in Week 10.

One difference from the Seahawks' 39-32 loss in Week 10 was a lack of explosive plays from both teams. The Rams mustered a feeble 207 total yards and only 3.9 yards per play on Sunday, while the Seahawks gained 313 yards (4.7 yards per play) but had only 60 yards rushing. They lost 83 yards on 10 penalties.

Additionally, Seattle fumbled the ball five times, losing two. Couple that with four sacks allowed and an interception (Rams had zero giveaways and zero sacks allowed) and you can see the recipe for a Jeff Fisher "turtle" game-plan of a win. I don't believe the Rams threw deep but a few times, and when they did, they were go-balls down the sideline (easy read and ball can come out quick). Quarterback Case Keenum checked down to 103 yards passing on 23 attempts.

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One bright spot was that Seattle was actually solid on 3rd down. Versus the Cardinals, the Seahawks were 1 of 8 (12.5%) and put up their worst third down performance probably in the Pete Carroll era.  Howeiver, this week, once Seattle settled in during the second quarter, the Seahawks were actually quite good on 3rd down.

The game started 1 of 6 on 3rd down with some lowlights such as:

3rd and 17 -- Fred Jackson run for 4 yards
3rd and 1 -- Will Tukuafu run, fumbled and returned for Rams' touchdown
3rd and 5 -- Complete to Tyler Lockett for 4 yards (bubble thrown short of sticks)
3rd and 19 -- Russell Wilson deep right to Tyler Lockett intercepted by Trumaine Johnson
3rd and 8 -- Russell Wilson sacked for a loss of 13

OUCH. The only conversion in the first six attempts was a Wilson scramble for 9 yards on 3rd and 7. This was setting up to be another "Cardinals Week 10" type of 3rd down day, until...

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Right before halftime, Seattle went on a long 16 play slog toward a field goal. It started with the flag on Trumaine Johnson for sending Luke Willson into the concussion protocol on 3rd and 6. Wilson then hit Doug Baldwin inside for 12 yards on 3rd and 10. Christine Michael pitched in for a 1 yard rush on 3rd and 1.

Wilson then hit Baldwin on a little slant on 3rd and 3 and Baldwin rumbled for 13 before fumbling. Jermaine Kearse was Johnny on the spot and fell on the ball, preserving the scoring opportunity. Wilson would then throw incomplete to Baldwin on 3rd and 8 (3rd and Goal), but I think the drive was a success in that it set the Seahawks back on course.

In fact, starting with the Trumaine Johnson flag on Luke Willson, if you factor in penalty conversions and the lone 4th and 3 conversion to Cooper Helfet, the Seahawks went 10 of 14 on 3rd (and 4th) down. That is good for 71%.

For the game, the Seahawks were officially 8 of 17 (47%). For reference -- 47% is tied for tops in the NFL on 3rd down with Arizona and New Orleans (Atlanta and Seattle are right behind at 46%). If you factor in penalty conversions, the Seahawks were 10 of 19 (52.6%). If you factor in the 4th down conversion the Seahawks went 11 of 20 (55%) versus the Rams.

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The only failed conversions after the Trumaine Johnson unnecessary roughness were:

- The incomplete to Baldwin on 3rd and 8 (3rd and Goal) mentioned above
- Complete to Baldwin for 28 yards and 3rd and 31!
- The 3rd and 4 where Lockett catches the ball but is then stripped and ball is ruled incomplete
- 3rd and 2 and Patrick Lewis snaps the ball on the turf

The Successful conversions in that same time period were (not in chronological order)

3rd and 18 - Touchdown to Baldwin for 25 yards
3rd and 16 - Complete to Helfet for 16 yards
3rd and 10 - Complete to Baldwin for 10 yards
3rd and 7 - Penalty on Aaron Donald
3rd and 6 - Penalty on Trumaine Johnson
3rd and 6 - Complete to Helfet for 13 yards
3rd and 5 - Complete to Jackson for 14 yards
3rd and 3 - Complete to Baldwin for 13 yards
4th and 3 - Complete to Helfet for 13 yards
3rd and 1 - Christine Michael rush for 1 yard

Without trying to toot Russell Wilson's horn too much, if you look back over these 20 situations: Russell Wilson pretty much does everything correctly, or at least executes the game plan in terms of what Darrell Bevell and Pete Carroll are asking. Throw deep on 3rd and 19 and risk interception/(arm punt), throw short of sticks to Lockett on 3rd and 5 hoping for YAC, or hand the ball off to running backs/Fullbacks.

I came away pretty impressed with Wilson's performance, considering the sloppiness of the game and the talent level of the opponent defensive line.