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Russell Wilson, Seahawks cannot keep being this bad on 3rd down

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks got their much-needed win against the San Francisco 49ers, but this third down offense is unsustainable.

Let me rephrase:

The Seahawks will win extremely few future games if they are as bad on 3rd down as they were against the Niners.

Specifically, Russell Wilson’s 3rd down game is season-jeopardizingly bad right now.

Before fans who watched the first half of Sunday’s game begin yelling about offensive line play, here are the facts. Then you can yell.

Every Offensive Third Down vs. San Francisco

3rd and 4 from own 31
Result: Incomplete to Metcalf

3rd and 7 from own 39
Result: Sacked for -7 yards, fumble

3rd and 7 from SF 35
Result: Sacked for -8

3rd and 15 from own 26
Result: Sacked for -5

3rd and 9 from own 8
Result: Incomplete to Metcalf

3rd and 1 from SF 43
Result: 28 yard completion to Metcalf

3rd and 10 from own 28
Result: Incomplete to Metcalf
I believe this was the deep pass down the right sideline that Metcalf dropped. It was a bit underthrown, not much, but Metcalf both failed to haul it close to his body, and had it swiped away by Emmanuel Moseley in defense.

Touchdown, never reached 3rd down

Touchdown, never reached 3rd down

3rd and 6 at SF 49
Result: Incomplete to Metcalf. San Francisco penalty, replay down.

3rd and 1 at SF 44
Result: Chris Carson converts

3rd and 10 at SF 41
Result: Incomplete to Lockett. This was the one with the legit pass interference call as the ball glanced off Lockett’s finger tips despite clear and compelling evidence that the defender turned Lockett’s shoulders. We could reasonably assume that untouched, Lockett would have had a big catch here.

3rd and 10 at 50
Result: Incomplete to Freddie Swain. This attempt was particularly painful to watch, as a roll out to the left and Wilson just airmailed a wide-open and not-very-far Swain.

3rd and 9 at SF 48
Result: Travis Homer 5 yard run

Result:

  • 3 sacks
  • 1 completion
  • 1 successful rush attempt
  • 1 unsuccessful rush attempt
  • 4 incomplete passes to DK Metcalf
  • 2 incomplete passes to anyone else

To put the first observation bluntly, Seattle’s decade-long persona of run-run-pass flat out will not work with this version of Russell Wilson. He is absolutely atrocious when not in rhythm right now, and it’s not the offensive line’s fault.

To break this down a little more, an interesting and troubling trend has emerged.

This is a DK Metcalf problem.

Metcalf is not a good 3rd down safety blanket, not by a long shot, and this will be a Seahawks problem for the entire season if Wilson insists on doing this. For starters, Metcalf does not have the most reliable hands on the team. This is known, and is even fine, Metcalf has his other strengths. So why throw the overwhelming majority of must-catch situations to him? Lockett remains an NFL top-10 receiver in catch percentage. Gerald Everett is 6th in the NFL (but wasn’t available), and Will Dissly has not yet dropped a pass this year.

Metcalf has a 64% catch rate, pretty bad, and exactly on par with who he is as an athlete. It’s 11 points behind Freddie Swain.

Metcalf dropping balls (or not getting to them) is not the end of this picture. This part of the offense has become as predictable and boring as we all thought Brian Schottenheimer’s offense was. Five out of seven balls on third went to Metcalf, and generally all Wilson does is continue to throw outside the numbers.

It’s not creative, and not good.

We don’t have the coach’s film yet, and of the routes we can see here several are guarded well, but this sack is not an o-line problem.

I timed this as 4.5 seconds from snap to point of impact, which was Wilson meandering forward into two red jerseys, when he also had an escape lane and blocker to his left.

Wilson is not sharp on third down, and really has not been at any point this season. He’s not making his best decisions, and has made the line look worse at different times. Granted, there are some significant struggles up the middle, and Wilson did pull of some heroics that felt like 2013 again, but in general this offense turns into a junior varsity 2A high school team on third downs against Eastside Catholic.

The season could have been in true peril had Seattle not won on Sunday, but this recipe will beat precisely zero good teams in big situations. It simply has to change.