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Seahawks 3rd down notebook: Offensive line issues, penalties, and 3rd and Long

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Seahawks assistant head coach Tom Cable was on Softy's show on Wednesday, and he talked about the offensive line challenges in the Oakland game, the penalties, and the Seahawks situation on 3rd down. He said that the Seahawks were doing quite well in 3rd and 6 or shorter, but struggling in 3rd and 7 or longer.

The chart for this week reflects that thought, and does tend to reflect how Seattle has performed all year on 3rd down. The Seahawks tend to have a steep drop off when the 3rd down is 7 yards or longer. I suspect all teams have a drop-off, but I wonder if Seattle's is more substantial.

Seattle went 6 for 6 (100%) on converting 3rd downs of 6 yards or less versus Oakland. However, they went 2 of 12 (17%) on 3rd downs of 7 yards or longer against the Raiders. Inside of that, the Seahawks went 0 for 5 (0%) on 3rd downs of 11 yards or longer. On the day, they went 8 of 18 (44%). The 18 3rd downs were the most the Seahawks faced this season, exceeding the 17 they faced against the Broncos (and that game went into overtime with two 3rd downs in the extra period).

The short and manageable 3rd downs were converted as such: Three successful runs by Lynch, one pass to Baldwin, one pass to Lynch, and one by defensive penalty.

Again, and I have mentioned this before -- my stats differ from the official NFL stats on 3rd down because I take out kneel-downs and I add in penalty conversions. The NFL does not include 3rd downs that are converted by penalty in their stats at all, and they do include kneel-downs. The Oakland game featured both a kneel-down and a 3rd and 3 converted via penalty on CB Tarrell Brown late in the 3rd quarter.

Against Oakland, the Seahawks faced a median 3rd down distance of 8 yards, which is the longest median distance they have faced in a win so far in 2014. The median distances in wins have been:

CAR -- 6 yards
WAS -- 5 yards
DEN -- 5 yards
GBP -- 3 yards

In losses their median down and distance on 3rd down has been:

SDC -- 8 yards
DAL -- 9 yards
STL -- 9.5 yards

Attached below is the chart for this week:


The Plays:

1Q, 3rd and 5, Seattle 45 Yard Line (6:04)

On Seattle's opening possession, the Seahawks have been running the ball to get toward midfield (in hopes to then take a shot play) and face a 3rd and manageable on their own 45 yard line. Seattle comes out in 11 personnel (3WR, 1TE, 1RB) and empty the backfield, sending Lynch to the right slot (ball on right hash). Helfet is split out far right, and the three WR are in trips to the left.

The Raiders respond with some form of man coverage for the five eligible targets, rush four, keep a deep safety, and keep a spy in the middle for Wilson.

It's a make-sense defense on 3rd and 5. The Seahawks run a basic pick concept on the short side of the field, with Helfet's route more of a "clear out" move than anything -- but it works well. The ball is out in under 2 seconds and it's an easy pitch and catch for 7 yards.


2Q, 3rd and 8, Seahawks 24 Yard Line (2:33)

The Seahawks score a touchdown on their first possession of the game, and also score a touchdown before halftime. On their way to the TD before halftime (I think Adam Schefter tweeted something to the effect that a team that scores before halftime wins 80% of the time?) the Seahawks face an early 3rd and 8 at their own 24 yard line.

It's a long down and distance, and a distance Seattle has has struggled with all year. The Seahawks are in a Trips-Right Read-Option look with 11 Personnel. TE Luke Willson is strong left, and the tailback, Robert Turbin, is also off-set left. Seattle uses both Luke Willson and Robert Turbin to chip the backside edge rusher. The Raiders show five and send five in the rush. With no spy, the Raiders drop a safety down late to watch the open edge (the non-Trips side).

It's a sprawl of bodies to Wilson's right, as Justin Britt and J.R. Sweezy are dealing with defenders diving at Wilson's legs. The backside protection is good (four blockers for three rushers). Wilson holds and waits for Luke Willson to chip, and then release into the route. Wilson dumps it short middle six yards short of the sticks but Luke Willson has enough leverage now to keep running and gain 16 yards. This is the type of play that matches Luke Willson's skillset -- a fairly easy catch, and then an opportunity to use his above-average TE speed.


3rd Q, 3rd and 5, Seattle 37 (10:57)

The Seahawks are a facing a manageable 3rd down early in the 3rd Quarter at their own 37 yards line. They spread it out with 4WR and Lynch in the backfield offset right. Ball is on the right hash.

I am not certain, but I believe Wilson wants to hit either Doug Baldwin short left or Marshawn Lynch in the right flat, with the other targets running vertical. The Raiders send four rushers and keep a spy in the middle to play Wilson on the keeper up the middle. The outside linebacker widens nicely to watch Lynch in the right flat. The underneath defenders run some sort of zone around Baldwin who tries to sit down short left, but Baldwin is not open with the coverage solid. Both Lynch and Baldwin are covered.

LG James Carpenter does a good job blocking his man, with LT Alvin Bailey allowing his man go far wide. Not great. Sweezy's man is also starting to clamp down and Russell begins to wisely climb the pocket. As he climbs he becomes a threat to run and the three linebackers in the middle of the field begin to respond to this new threat of Wilson on the run (plus Wilson does a pump fake). Wilson is essentially like a point guard on a fast break, and as soon as he sees the defenders commit to him, he dishes to Baldwin for the layup.



Editor's Note: FanDuel is hosting a one-week fantasy football "Double Up" league this weekend. It's $10 to join and nearly half the field doubles their money. League starts Sunday 1 PM ET and ends on Monday night. Here's the link.