Since the Seattle Seahawks lost to the Dallas Cowboys in the Wild Card game of the NFC Playoffs, there has been a lot of discussion about play calling and scheme. This included Pete Carroll and Brian Schottenheimer stating that the issue was that the team was unable to convert on third down in the loss to the Cowboys. Much of the past week has seen a debate rage about why the Seahawks were unable to convert on third down, but that’s a debate that has been ongoing for the past week and is likely to continue for much of the offseason.
Thus, let’s take a moment and look at some raw third down data, courtesy of Bik Nizzar (@bik650) and the Pro-Football-Reference.com play index.
If I have this correct.... pass %'s for 4 teams in the 1st 3 quarters of games.— Bik Nizzar (@Bik650) January 14, 2019
Let’s get to third down data to compare the Seahawks to the four teams that are left remaining in the postseason.
%'s of plays that were 3rd down:— Bik Nizzar (@Bik650) January 14, 2019
Chiefs 17.7% (1st)
Rams 18.0% (3rd)
Saints 18.2% (4th)
Patriots 18.7% (8th
Seahawks 20.6% (23rd)
And then he dove into the average distance to go on third down.
Pats 5.89 yds (1st)— Bik Nizzar (@Bik650) January 14, 2019
Saints 6.24 (2nd)
Rams 6.75 (6th)
Chiefs 6.98 (12th)
Seahawks 7.21 (17th)
Including specifically looking at third and 1 compared to other teams.
so the Seahawks did create the 8th most 3rd 'n 1's at 27 attempts. They converted 70.4% of them which was 16th— Bik Nizzar (@Bik650) January 14, 2019
So, even in those situations where the offense created a 3rd & 1, which is as manageable as a third down can be, the Hawks were exactly league average at getting a first down when they needed only a single yard on third down.
However, at this point taking a step back from the data seems warranted. Basically, the argument for the running game is that it is safer and that it is likely to result in third and manageable. Except, what both of those last two tweets have shown is that the Seahawks average distance to go was exactly league average and the team converted the easiest to convert third downs at exactly league average. If the Seahawks running game is so potent, powerful and efficient at creating third and manageable, shouldn’t it have generated efficiencies in these categories that are well above league average?
If that is the goal of the run game, why were the Seahawks no better than middle of the pack at both getting to third and manageable? Why were they no better than league average at converting 3rd and 1?
The real fun begins now.... Teams that threw the most on 1st down in opening 3Q's:— Bik Nizzar (@Bik650) January 14, 2019
Chiefs 204 plays (2nd)
Rams 191 plays (8th)
Pats 185 plays (9th)
Saints 175 plays (11th)
Seahawks 110 plays lmao (32nd)
Chiefs 93 attempts (32nd)— Bik Nizzar (@Bik650) January 14, 2019
Patriots 135 attempts (22nd)
Rams 145 attempts (16th)
Saints 149 attempts (13th)
Seahawks 240 attempts!!!!!!!! (1st) (no teams ran over 190)
So, in short, the run/pass debate is going to continue to rage, and the analytical side is going to continue to argue its position while former players and coaches argue their side.
As with everything, in time this debate is likely to be solved on the field, and so in the meantime it’s a whole lot of people yelling back and forth at each other in both real life, as well as in the void that is the internet.