The Seahawks returned Max Unger and Russell Okung against the Giants, then proceeded to have their best day on 3rd down in 2014. They ended up going 7 of 11 (64%) on 3rd down, when you exclude the kneel-down to end the game, and none of the conversions were via penalty. Seattle used the ground game to keep the sticks very manageable, and didn't hurt themselves with sacks (only two on the day) or penalties (no holdings, and only one false start, which was, weirdly enough, on Marshawn).
Seattle converted all of their short yardage situations (1 and 2 yards) against the Giants, going 4-for-4, three via running back run and the other via a Russell Wilson on the Read-Option keeper. Wilson was tackled short on a 3rd and 4 Read-Option keeper, but hit Jermaine Kearse on 4th and 3 to keep the drive alive for an eventual touchdown before halftime. Wilson was 3-of-6 on conversions on the other attempts, all via pass.
All in all, a very good effort, both in terms of 1st and 2nd down success in making 3rd down manageable, and the actual execution on 3rd down.
The median down and distance on 3rd down was 4 yards, the lowest of the season for Seattle since Week 1 versus Green Bay (3 yards). Seattle faced only one 3rd down and 11+ (a 3rd and 13 due to a sack), which is also their lowest total for a game since Week 1 (zero 3rd and 11+ against Green Bay).
Against the Raiders, the Seahawks faced five 3rd Down and 11+ situations, and had faced 17 in the four game stretch of Dallas, St Louis, Carolina, Oakland. The Seahawks had faced only 7 of those situations in their first four games.
Three of those situations against Oakland were due to penalty. Seattle has been in 25 3rd Down and 11+ situations all season, and have converted only 2 of them. One was via penalty, and the other one was the 3rd and 17 pass complete to Baldwin for 19 against the Rams.
I didn't check every other NFL team, but this has to be the lowest, or one of the lowest percentages of conversion (8%) in the NFL on 3rd and 11 or longer. Seattle is just not built to convert these long distances. Can they improve here? Sure, it's hard to be worse than 2 of 25, but I don't expect Seattle to become a good team on 3rd and 11+ anytime soon.
They are a running team, with an offense that is strong in the run, and more vulnerable in pass situations. When you take the running threat off the table, Seattle struggles. Obviously, 3rd and 11+ is not a down where QB running is as feared, nor is play action as effective.
Seattle needs to stay out of these 3rd and 11+ situations. You will find yourselves in 3rd and 11+ in a football game, it's going to happen- the key to is make it once or twice per game, not four or five times. In the chart you can see why Seattle has been in 3rd and very long- 12 of those 25 situations were due to penalty. You will get sacked about two times per game, that's just life in the NFL- so you will probably find yourself in 3rd and very long once per game due to SACK, and perhaps once per game due to a TFL- but again- you have to try to keep the penalties to a minimum.
Things were at a crisis point in 3rd and 11+ from in the STL-CAR-OAK stretch (14 situations!), but calmed down against NYG.
The one time Seattle failed to convert in the Red Zone against NYG (went 5 of 6 when you take out the kneeldown) was when Lynch false starts on 3rd and 1 from the 1 yard line. The next play was 3rd and Goal from the 6, and Seattle is forced to pass and fails to convert.
SIGNS OF LIFE
The most encouraging stat has been the offensive improvement on 3rd and 7-10 yards in the last five weeks. In the first four games, Seattle was only 2 of 12 (17%) in 3rd and 7-10 yards, but has gone 10 of 21 (48%) in the last five games on those distances. Seattle has been good at the manageable distances all season -- 71% on 3rd and 1-3 yards, and 57% on 3rd and 4-6 yards. They are now at 39% for the year on 3rd and 7-10 yards, which is pretty solid. Again, every NFL team gets worse the longer the distance, but there is a big cliff for Seattle once they get at 11 yards or longer.
Besides the crisis that was developing in the long down and distance, the other thing I noticed from the chart, was the lack of opportunities on 3rd and 1-4 yards in the three losses (SD, DAL, STL). Seattle faced only one of these easy situations in each of those losses.
In their six wins, they have been in those 3rd and 4 or less 36 times (average of 6 per game). Notice the strong propensity to run in those short situations and Seattle is typically successful. Seattle often goes into 11 Personnel and the defense keeps a deep safety and three corners on the three wide receivers. That leaves seven defenders on the remaining eight Seahawks in the core of the formation, with the toughest inside runner in the NFL (who can cut back), and the scariest edge running threat in Wilson. Any 3rd and short will likely be converted via Lynch, Wilson or a spider-2-y-banana type dumpoff.
Seattle, according to official stats, is now above average on 3rd down, at 41%, good for 13th in the NFL. The official stats do not include 3rd downs converted via penalty and do include kneel-downs. I take out kneeldowns and give the offense credit for conversions via penalty- so I have Seattle at 45% for the year (53 of 117). A 4% delta because of those two factors makes sense, but all in all- Seattle is making progress in these key situations.
Seattle has, impressively, gone 27 of 54 on 3rd down (50%) in the last four weeks.
I will break down some of the actual conversions in the next post...