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The Seahawks got better on third down, somewhat

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Seahawks third-down struggles were the source of conversation for much of the season. Field Gulls Managing Editor Mookie Alexander covered the team’s inefficiency back in October, and at the time Seattle was bad on defense and second-worst on offense.

I am therefore pleased to report that the Seahawks got better by the end of the season!

On offense? Sure did. On defense? There, too.

Alright so they’re still pretty bad but seasonal improvement is something. Below is the league ranking for offensive third-down conversion rates.

After Week 7, Seattle climbed all the way from 31st to 20th. They converted only 34% of third downs by the midseason report, but finished with 40.2%. All of these are regular season numbers and obviously do not take in the playoff game which would not have improved that mark.

On the other side of the ball, it is as bad as one might have guessed. This time, being at the top is regrettable.

Though they technically improved from allowing a conversion on 48.8% of drives to 47.1%, they did not track with the league-wide defensive improvement this season. The number improved but as a team they fell from tenth-worst to sixth-worst.

The bulk of the reason that the Seahawks were able to be as successful as they were this season was what took place in the red zone. At a 73.2% touchdown rate, Seattle was the fourth most efficient team this year at the end of the field.

Ever since Seattle left the playoffs all too early, I’ve been particularly interested in areas of the game the remaining teams have in common. This is one of them.

All four remaining teams were better this season at third down conversion, both sides.

The Green Bay Packers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Buffalo Bills, and Kansas City Chiefs were a full 6% better at stopping third down conversions on defense. With the ball, they were the three best teams in the league converting thirds, with Tampa Bay coming in 11th.

We didn’t line it up that way earlier so here’s the four remaining teams on offense:

Of starting quarterbacks this season, Russell Wilson had the sixth-best completion percentage at 68.82. Good money is that the third-down bewilderment was at least part of the “philosophical” conversation between Pete Carroll and Brian Schottenheimer before his departure. Wilson is too consistently accurate for this to be a recurring problem. A combination of bad pass blocking at the worst time, very odd play calls, an occasional hero mentality, and too many third-and-longs have resulted in a great quarterback being subpar on third down for a long time.

The end of the season showed promise for both offense and defense, until the Los Angeles Rams happened. But these are not insurmountable issues and are well within reach of the talent on this roster.