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Seahawks 3rd Down Notebook: Seahawks par for the course vs. Chiefs

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle had a very typical day on 3rd down, going 5-of-12 on the official stat sheet (41.6%) and 6-of-13 (46%) using the method I have used during this series (exclude kneel downs and including first downs by penalty), as Seattle benefitted from a penalty on a 3rd-and-12. The 41% on official NFL stats is right at the area that Seattle is averaging for the year, as is the 46% "unofficially," i.e. the way I count it.

(click to enlarge)


The median down and distance for the Seahawks in this game was 8 yards, which wasn't great, but Seattle had only three down and distances of 11+ yards. You really want that closer to one or two per game, and for sure not around four or five per game. Three isn't too shabby, and none of the long down and distances were due to penalty (I believe two were from TFL and one was from a sack).

Seattle was 50% in 3rd-and-10 yards or less, including 3-of-6 inside distances of 7-10 yards. Their initial miss on 3rd-and-2 on their first series would have went for big yardage if it was not batted down (bummer):

I wonder if Seattle will revisit that concept in a later game.


3-7-KC 44 (15:00 2nd Q) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short right to L.Willson to KC 34 for 10 yards (P.Gaines).

The Seahawks open the 2nd Quarter at midfield facing 3rd-and-7. The Chiefs are in a 3-deep look and show six, and possibly seven, rushers at the line of scrimmage. Seattle is in shotgun empty, with no RB, 3WR and 2TE. The two tight ends are on the same side. The outside WRs are Jermaine Kearse and Paul Richardson, both running the comeback at the sticks. Doug Baldwin is in the tight left slot (ball on left hash) and may have duties to chip and release if his cornerback blitzes the weakside.

(Hat-tip to Danny for the GIFs, Vines, and images)


The Chiefs end up blitzing five, as the rusher over Alvin Bailey feints and then drops into coverage. Russell Okung handles his man, and Bailey and Max Unger can double team Unger's man. J.R. Sweezy gets walked back, but does not lose control of his man and appears to push him down. Britt does his job.

Tony Moeaki heads into the middle of the field (MOF) and the underneath safety cheats toward him as he sees Willson chip the edge defender. It's a tough play for the underneath safety as Moeaki has leverage on his route away from the deep safety, and linebacker who is retreating into coverage after faking the blitz.

The defender is in a bit of a bind because if he honors Luke Willson the entire play, Moeaki is probably open as well. As it plays out, now three defenders are converging on Moeaki leaving Luke Willson with an easy chip and release into the wide open flat. The edge defender must continue to rush Russell Wilson, as I don't think it is wise for a defense to give Russell time to scramble and mull over his multiple run-pass options on his right edge -- especially on the wide side of the field.

This play takes advantage of what Luke Willson does well and does not do well. He is probably not the guy you want making contested catches, but he can catch it when he is wide open, and he has good speed to make 10 yards on a 3rd and 7.

3-12-KC 14 (1:48) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short right to P.Richardson to KC 5 for 9 yards (R.Parker).

Seattle struggled in the red zone, and you can't blame this play on bad Darrell Bevell play calling, bad pass protection, or a lack of a top-end Red Zone target.

Seattle is in 3rd and 12, a tough position to be in, and having the condensed red zone makes this play even tougher. The protection holds up well on this play. Kansas City, as they did much of this game -- rushes four and leaves a spy in the hole for Russell Wilson. Very sound.

Kansas City defends the fade first on Richardson and plays off of him, so he takes advantage and runs the slant. He is open -- it is not a guaranteed first down if the throw was perfect, but it is probably is a 1st down if the throw is perfect. The ball is low and Richardson has to drop down to the ground to get it. Wilson has an extra split second in this case as well, as the protection is holding up, but he is making a concerted effort to get the ball out on-time and in-rhythm, but perhaps rushes a bit here.

I think Wilson makes the right read here, but he just misses the throw a bit. The other option I see on this play is Moeaki on the seam.

3-8-KC 43 (4:23) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short left to J.Kearse to KC 35 for 8 yards (P.Gaines).

Football isn't just a game of inches, or seconds. It's a game of half-seconds or quarter-seconds. There is really nothing wrong with this play design -- and the execution if almost spot on -- Wilson just throws the ball perhaps a quarter-second too early.

If you watched the game you remember Big Andy Reid challenged the spot and it forced a 4th and short. Seattle fails to convert the 4th and short on the next play.

Seattle is in a 3rd and 8, "11" personnel. Doug Baldwin runs a stop route. Cooper Helfet releases. Lynch runs to the flat. I am not sure the route P-Rich is running. The best route here is Kearse, left slot, and he wins inside leverage and uses his body to shield away from the defender. The Chiefs rush four with a spy. Protection is fine, Wilson is a just a quarter second early.

3-9-SEA 5 (2:06) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass deep left to D.Baldwin to SEA 28 for 23 yards (K.Coleman).

The Seahawks are backed up under the shadow of their own goal line, and down 4 points with time running out. They face a 3rd and 9, not an easy distance for Seattle or any NFL team to convert. Kansas City plays sound football here -- Defensive Coordinator Bob Sutton knows they can't afford to get beat over the top.

The Chiefs appear to run some sort of 3-Deep coverage. They play "Man" on slot receiver Doug Baldwin, and then play some sort of zone concept underneath. They rush four and keep the middle linebacker positioned as both an underneath defender and spy on Russell Wilson.

Seattle responds with a "Flood Concept" to the left.


With time expiring this concept places more targets than defenders on the left side of the field, as well as allowing the possible targets easy access to run out of bounds and stop the clock.

Kearse runs a go route. Baldwin runs likely an option route - that I imagine can convert to a square in/square out/or go route. The smart route is to run the square OUT and get out of bounds. Helfet runs to the flat, and then converts the flat route to a wheel. Lynch fakes the chip block and then runs to the right flat (I think this route is solid in case certain teams get aggressive and blitz).

Paul Richardson runs the shallow cross right to left. His defender has to stay in his Cover-3 zone, and is left covering no one. The middle linebacker can't cover Richardson as he crosses through his zone because he can't abandon his spy responsibilities with Russell Wilson.

Paul Richardson has been schemed wide open, but Baldwin shakes his defender at the top of his route, and then heads toward the sideline. He runs the smartest route - the square OUT. Wilson hits Baldwin, the deeper WR, as he has now four targets in his sight-line on the left side. Both Baldwin and Richardson are open. The protection is good and Wilson steps up in the pocket to throw. Good play design and good execution.


Seattle is leading the NFL with a whopping 173 yards rushing per game and 5.5 yards per carry. Marshawn Lynch is 28 years old and averaging 4.6 yard per carry (his 2nd highest YPC of his eight year career, behind only 5.0 in 2012). Russell Wilson leads the NFL at 7.7 yards per carry. Lynch is on pace for 1300+ yards, and Wilson is on pace for over 900 yards rushing.

Meanwhile, Seattle's passing game has dipped in efficiency. Wilson finished 2012 and 2013 with a Passer Rating around 100, and a YPA north of 8.0. In 2014, Wilson's YPA is only 7.0, below average in the NFL, with a QB Rating closer to 90. 

Is the problem simply the lack of a high end target at WR and TE, or is there another factor in play? I do think Seattle desperately needs a high end target at both TE and WR, but I also believe the switch from the under center outside zone based scheme to the shotgun, inside zone/read option based scheme has also changed the Seahawks offense. It has boosted the running game, as defenses have a hard time defending the read option with Lynch and Wilson, but I do believe it also limits some play action opportunities.

You can run play action off of the shotgun read-option, but it's a different type of play action that the deep-play action bootlegs created when Russell Wilson is under center. It's a shorter developing play action (where he strafes rather than runs at full speed), which likely leads to shorter drops and shorter routes.

So, is the improved run game hurting the pass game? I am not sure, but I think it could be possible.