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Seahawks 3rd down notebook: Tidbits from Panthers Game; League-wide Trends

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Streeter Lecka

A FEW NOTES FROM CAROLINA

3rd Down was not the story from the Panthers game, it was really more a story of the redzone on both sides of the ball. Seattle stood strong in the red zone early, forcing two field goals for the Panthers, and then later they got the turnover on the Cam Newton fumble. When Newton fumbled in the 2nd Quarter, he was sitting on 1st and 10 from the Seattle 14 yard line. Huge dodged bullet.

Seattle did its part to return the favor, with a matching "botched hand-off" of their own. Toward the end of the 3rd Quarter, the Hawks had driven the ball from their own 18 yard line and were perched at the Carolina 21 yard line with an 3rd and 1. This fumble, paired with the interception before halftime, were major plays in the ballgame. Seattle also had a 1st and Goal at the Carolina 8-yard line earlier in the 3rd, but a penalty on Luke Willson for holding meant the Seahawks had to settle for a field goal. 

The official stats for the game say the Seahawks were 0/3 in the redzone, but that counts getting the ball at the end of the game deep in Panther territory. In reality - if you count the 23-yard TD and the fumble on the 21 yard line (red AREA) - Seattle went 1-of-4 in the red-area.

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As for 3rd down, the official stats say Seattle went 4-of-11 on 3rd down (36%), but I like to exclude kneel-downs and give the offense credit for any 3rd downs converted via penalties. Seattle did convert two 3rd downs via penalty. The first was an encroachment on Carolina on 3rd and 1 in the 2nd Quarter, and I do believe Wilson may have used a hard count to make the defensive end jump. Wilson completed a 7-yard pass on 3rd and 11 in the 3rd Quarter but got a DPI call, and I count that toward the Seahawks favor as well, although perhaps less "earned" than the other.

In my methodology, the Seahawks went 6 of 13 (46%) on 3rd down, which isn't far off from the 6-of-12 (50%) versus the Rams. Seattle improved their median down and distance on 3rd down back down to a very manageable 6 yards. Against the Rams and Cowboys, the Seahawks were facing a median 3rd down distance of about 9 yards. So, again -- more improvement there.

As a refresher, the Median Down and Distance on 3rd Down for Seattle this year:

GBP -- 3 yards (Seattle went 5 of 11 (46%)
SDC -- 8 yards (Seattle went 3 of 8 (38%)
DEN -- 5 yards (Seattle went 7 of 17 (41%)
WAS -- 5 yards (Seattle went 6 of 15 (40%)
DAL -- 9 yards (Seattle went 5 of 13 (38%)
STL -- 9.5 yards (Seattle went 6 of 12 (50%)
CAR -- 6 yards (Seattle went 6 of 13 (46%)

CHANGES IN THE NFL?

Using my methodology, Seattle is 38-of-89 on 3rd down, or about 42.6%. Officially, on NFL.com they are 40%, which is good for 21st in the NFL. 3rd down conversions have gone up in 2014. Four teams are at 50% or higher (DAL 56%, NO 52%, KC 50%, SD 50%) with the MEDIAN being 42% right now! Last year the median was closer to 37-38%. Perhaps the new rules are really helping offenses out (less physical play, perhaps. It would make sense) -- bad for defense and good for offense. The third downs that are converted via penalty are not counted league-wide, so the real conversion rate could be ridiculous!


In 2013, only 11 teams had a 3rd down conversion rate of 40% or more, and SD had the highest at 49%, with DEN at 46% (No other teams were over 45%). Fast forward to 2014 and 21 teams (including the Seahawks) have a conversion north of 40%.

BACK TO PANTHERS GAME

Seattle had a devil of a time getting started in this game, missing their first three 3rd downs (a 3rd and 13, a 3rd and 4, and a 3rd and 18). They needed to hit the 3rd and 4, but Norwood said he needed to get a bit more depth on Softy this week.

But, just rookie things. Seattle did well to get 10 yards on a 3rd and 18 after the long return by Richardson (followed by a nice 1st down catch by Richardson). Wilson hit Ricardo Lockette for a cheap 10, and that allowed Hauschka to kick the 58 yarder (longest field goal in Seahawks history).

Seattle went 7-of-11 after those first three failures, and two of those 3rd down misses were the interception aimed at Lynch and the fumble on the botched snap.

I look forward to a 50% 3rd down game versus the Raiders!