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The Seahawks are a different team in the second half, and nothing shows it more than third down

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Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Seahawks did it again!

But I’m not talking about the win, the come from behind, the overtime, the Russell magic, the bend-but-not-break, or the absurd fritting away of turnovers.

This time, Seattle showed once again that you can’t win the game in the first quarter. And thank goodness for that, because they’re awful there.

However, they really do seem to flip a switch, and it’s not just your imagination if you’ve thought the Seahawks play better during the second half. Specifically, 3rd down play on both sides of the ball was a complete reversal to close out the game, compared to how the Hawks opened.

Seattle’s defense gave up multiple 3rd down conversions in the first few drives to San Francisco. It mitigated several good plays to open up drives, as the Niners converted on 3rd and eight or longer three of the five times.

First Half, Defense

3rd & 10 at SF 25

(13:45 - 1st) - completion to Kendrick Bourne for 16 yards.

3rd & 5 at SF 46

(12:27 - 1st) - defensive holding on Jamar Taylor.

3rd & 6 at SEA 45

(11:44 - 1st) - defensive pass interference on Tre Flowers, which might not have mattered because it was a five or six yard completion to Emmanuel Sanders anyway.

3rd & 8 at SEA 10

(2:03 - 1st) - touchdown Bourne.

Seconds into the 2nd quarter, they finally got a third down stop:
3rd & 8 at SF 29

(9:31 - 2nd) - 8 yard completion to Bourne

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball...

First Half, Offense

3rd & 2 at SEA 33

(7:03 - 1st) - seven yard sack.

3rd & 6 at SEA 33

(0:45 - 1st) - incomplete pass to D.K. Metcalf who was in lock step with the corner.

3rd & 4 at SF 33

(11:23 - 2nd) - first third down of the drive; 9 yard sack.

3rd & 3 at SEA 24

(5:45 - 2nd) - this was the Seahawks’ first offensive 3rd down conversion, and it didn’t come for twenty minutes of football being played. Eight yard pass to D.K. Metcalf.

3rd & 1 at SEA 41

(3:52 - 2nd) - this one made me mad. It was third and more like five inches with 3:50 left in the half, and they got too cute once again. It’s not a thing that Brian Schottenheimer has been doing all that often lately, but this was particularly annoying. Russell Wilson came out to the right side and tried a crap bootleg pass that was deflected. RUN the ball!

But then things changed.

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The Second Half

You know, the only one Seattle even cares about

3rd & 1 at SEA 31

(13:49 - 3rd) - Chris Carson completed a six yard run for an easy first conversion of the second half.

3rd & 11 at SEA 42 (defensive)

(10:12 - 3rd) - this one was close, but Jimmy Garoppolo completed only an eight yard pass and the Niners were forced to punt.

3rd & 11 at SF 35 (defensive)

(14:18 - 4th) - this is really more where Garoppolo starting falling off a cliff, as he just started throwing out incomplete passes like leftover Halloween candy.

3rd & 8 at SEA 21

(7:09 - 4th) Garoppolo incomplete pass. I rest my case.

3rd & 1 at SEA 34 (back on offense again)

(5:15 - 4th) - In one of the bigger third downs of the game, Carson barely gets across for about a two yard gain after getting hit and tripped up behind the line of scrimmage. Huge, huge second/third effort on the run.

3rd & 6 at SF 49 (same drive, the Seahawks are 3/9 on third down at this point in the game)

(3:12 - 4th) - WELCOME TO SEATTLE JOSH GORDON! 13 yards, first down.

Overtime

You know, the place where the Seahawks decide they want to win

3rd & 3 at SEA 32

(9:31 - OT) - PLEASE STAY IN SEATTLE JOSH GORDON!! 14 yards, first down, sad Richard Sherman.

3rd & 16 at SEA 40

(8:12 - OT) - This was the one. This was the one we thought was the one. Malik Turner shamed many a defender on the way to a 28 yard completion that looked for a second like he might go to the house. I don’t have a clue what the officials thought they were reviewing, but they made no sense all night. This was the longest 3rd down conversion of the game for the Seahawks, and at the time looked like they were about to seal it up.

3rd & 2 at SEA 30 (defensive)

(3:26 - OT) - Al Woods had himself a day. On this particular play, he stuffed Raheem Mostert for one yard to force the field goal. The one that got away.

3rd & 3 at SEA 43 (offense)

(1:16 - OT) - This was actually the one. Very mad, very composed, and still very good at making linebackers look foolish, Russell Wilson only needed three and he got 18, taking him well within the range of yes, even Jason Meyers.

And that’s it. The differences are pretty noteworthy.

They weren’t perfect - Wilson got sacked for the third time on third down in the third quarter, for symmetrical purposes. On the defensive side, Ziggy Ansah had a terribly unfortunate offside on third and ten that resulted in a third in five which was immediately converted. This came with 1:30 left in the 4th quarter and is pretty inexcusable. San Francisco made a game-tying field goal on the drive.

But the first half tells the tale of a team that can’t keep the MVP on the field in the first quarter, and one that can’t get off the field defensively.

Give Seattle about an hour and a half to simmer, and for some reason everything changes. The Niners ended up in three 3rd and longs to open up the second half, and converted none of them.

By the end of the game, the numbers were nearly identical. The Seahawks were 7-15 on third down, while San Francisco was 6-15. But three of those conversions came in the first drive. Seattle simply does not come out strong. On the other side, the Seahawks only converted one third down on offense in the entire first half. They were 7-10 on third down in the second half and overtime, which is incredible. Even my math brain can figure out that’s 70 % conversion rate, which would put them 1st in the NFL by 20%. Instead, they’ve consistently been hovering around 39.6% and the 17th spot in the league.

Defensively, Seattle has actually been better than they were tonight, holding opponents to a 34.65% success rate on third down. Six for 15 gives the Niners a 40% conversion rate, but this was the league’s best team by DVOA.

This makes two overtime wins in a row, and another notch on Wilson’s ridiculous resume. Wilson now has 28 game-winning drives since coming into the league, and is absolutely at home in the style of “we’re still warming up” football that the Hawks continue to play.

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