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Russell Wilson, Seahawks offense enjoy breakthrough game on 3rd down

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Among the handful of worrying trends around the Seattle Seahawks, through seven weeks of the season, was their poor performance on third down. Our own Mookie Alexander covered it extensively here earlier in the week, but it’s worth re-emphasizing if only because of how nonsensical it is: The red-hot Seahawks offense, which has performed with unbelievable efficiency, has also been dreadful on third down.

Entering Week 8, Seattle’s offense—second in DVOA and led by the early-season MVP—was 31st in the league in third down conversion rate, having turned just 34% of the third downs they faced into first downs. The Seahawks hadn’t been helped by Russell Wilson, who himself had been incredibly poor on third down, completing 17-of-38 attempts for 201 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions, while taking six sacks.

If Seattle was to turn it around as an offense on third down, it would need to start with Wilson.

In the Seahawks’ Week 8 win over the 49ers, they may have done just that—led by Wilson’s fantastic showing. As an offense, Seattle was a much-improved 9-of-15 on third down, rising their season-long conversion rate to 39% and vaulting them ahead of several ghost ships they had no business sitting behind.

For his part, Wilson was absolutely stellar on third down, completing 9-of-12 attempts for 71 yards and two touchdowns—including a fabulous score to David Moore.

While the Seahawks’ defense enjoyed their best game of the season, their third down stop rate was right around their season average. They entered the season giving up 48.8% of third down attempts and allowed the 49ers to convert 46% (6-of-13) of their third downs. However, as Wilson and the offense have proved all season long, a middling defense can be managed when paired with the NFL’s most lethal offense.

Already one of the league’s most explosive and efficient units in 2020 without having performed well on third down, continued improvement in that area would see Seattle’s offense further their fantastic performance to date. With Wilson playing better than ever and surrounded by a cast of reliable and dynamic pass catchers, it’s hard to bet against the Seahawks’ offense—regardless of the down.