Improvement needed on most pivotal down

Posted Oct 1, 2012

Coming out of Sunday’s loss to the Rams, coach Pete Carroll didn’t have to look far for the cause – giving up too many big plays on third downs defensively and not making enough of them on offense.

When you get right down to it, the Seahawks’ six-point loss to the Rams in St. Louis on Sunday came down to their efforts on third downs.
On defense, the Seahawks yielded 91 passing yards on five snaps where the Rams and quarterback Sam Bradford were facing third-and-10 or longer. On offense, they converted two of nine third-down situations.
So it was no surprise that among the first words out of coach Pete Carroll’s mouth on Monday afternoon when he met with the media were, “Really, the issues goes to us on both sides of the ball on third downs. We had big issues on third-and-long on defense. And just on third down in general on offense.
“So that’s where we have to focus and get our stuff right.”
Defensively, Carroll believes a few tweaks can alleviate what has been a season-long problem, as opponents are converting a contradictory 43.1 percent (22 of 51) on third downs against the Seahawks’ No. 4-ranked defense.
“It’s shouldn’t be. I just shouldn’t be,” Carroll said when asked about the defensive problems on third downs. “There’s just been issues. We’ve missed some opportunities. We’ve had some great plays to be made that get away. I can’t believe that this isn’t going to rest, and I can’t believe we’re not going to put it away now.
“We have a couple things that we’re adjusting to make sure that it doesn’t continue.”
The answers, however, aren’t as easy to come by on offense, where the Seahawks are converting 28 percent (14 of 50).
It’s almost a good news/bad news situation. The Seahawks are doing enough on first and second downs to keep themselves out of third-and-long situations, but then not doing enough to convert those convertible plays.
Against the Rams, the Seahawks faced seven situations where they had third-and-4 or less. They converted two, with Lynch running for 8 yards on a third-and-1 and Wilson gaining 2 yards on another third-and-1. But on the other five, Lynch and Wilson were each stopped for 2-yard losses, Wilson threw incomplete twice and he was sacked once.
“If you look at the numbers on first and second down, and look at the average (of) third-and-4 numbers for this game, that’s all we could ever hope for,” Carroll said. “First and second down has been very effective for us. And we have not had a lot of third-and-longs, either. These are workable numbers. These are on-schedule type of numbers as far as early downs.
“We just need to get better (on third downs). And this is a very hard part of the game for all young quarterbacks.”
Those kinds of plays – or non-plays – the Seahawks made against the Rams are costing an offense that is struggling to move the ball and score more chances for Lynch to add to his NFL-leading rushing total and Doug Baldwin, last year’s leading receiver, to get more involved in the passing game.
“There’s a variety of things,” Carroll said when asked the what’s-happening question. “The protection was tough at times. … There were a couple of times where (Wilson) didn’t get the ball off like we would have liked, rhythm-wise. They knocked some balls down. They made some good plays. It was a little bit of everything.”
It’s also something that most improve, if not be completely “fixed,” as the Seahawks head into this week’s game against the Panthers in Carolina; the two-games-in-five-days scenario that follows with the New England Patriots coming to CenturyLink Field on Oct. 14 and the Seahawks the going to San Francisco to play the 49ers on the 18th; and game against the Lions in Detroit the following week.
“We continue to work at it,” Carroll said. “This is an area that’s very challenging and very difficult.”
Externally, much of the blame is being laid on the shoulders of the rookie quarterback, but Carroll won’t go there.
“We’re going with Russell right now, and he’s working his tail off to get it right,” he said. “We’re all aware that the focus goes to the quarterback position, but there are a lot of guys that figure into what going on.
“He is not far from being really, really successful right now as a leader in that position. We just have to assess everything that’s going on. … There’s a lot going in. It’s not just one guy.”