Looking to look sharper

Posted Nov 19, 2011

As the Seahawks move into their final nine games, a top priority for the offense is getting better point production from its red-zone possessions - starting with Sunday's game against the Rams.

It takes a little sharper throw. It takes a little sharper protection. It takes a little sharper cut in the run game. It takes a little more detail.

It? The difference between scoring touchdowns and kicking field goals in the red zone.

That’s the assessment from Tom Cable, the Seahawks’ assistant head coach/offensive line coach. And his thoughts on the matter are significant after the offense settled for field goals on four of its five possessions inside the Baltimore Ravens’ 20-yard line last Sunday.

It’s also significant because the Seahawks have scored 10 touchdowns in 23 red-zone possessions in their first nine games, a percentage of .435 that ranks ahead of only six other teams in the league – including the Rams (.381), who host the Seahawks in St. Louis on Sunday.

Last week, the Seahawks prevailed 22-17, despite settling for three points instead of six on those four occasions – as Steve Hauschka tied the franchise record by kicking five field goals. But Cable and his players know they need to improve on their red-zone performances as they move into their final seven games.

“I just think we have to be a little more detailed down there,” Cable said. “We’re getting some opportunities in the last few weeks down there, so we’ve got to capitalize on them.

“To me, that means a little sharper throw, a little sharper protection, a little sharper cut in the run game – whatever it is, just a little more detail. It’s a shorter field and everything happens so much quicker. I’m not sure we’ve caught up to that part of it yet, but we will soon.”

Heed Cable’s premonitions.

Two weeks ago, he predicted the running game was about to take off, despite the Seahawks looking at matchups against the No. 4 (Cowboys) and No. 3 (Ravens) run defenses in the league.

Against the Cowboys? The Seahawks rushed for a season-high 162 yards, with Marshawn Lynch gaining 135. Against the Ravens? The Seahawks rushed for 119 yards, giving them back-to-back triple-digit efforts for the first time since Weeks 6-7 last season. Lynch had 109 yards; marking the first time in his career he had had consecutive 100-yard rushing performances.

But back to the red-zone situation. The Seahawks started off just fine against the Ravens, as Lynch scored on a 1-yard run on their first possession inside the Ravens’ 20-yard line. After that, however, they ran 12 plays inside the 20 and had 8 yards to show for it – and those four field goals.

On the second red-zone series, Lynch ran for 3, 8, 1 and 3 yards before Tarvaris Jackson threw an incomplete pass on third down. Then, it was a third-down incompletion from the Ravens’ 20. On the third, it was two incomplete passes sandwiched around a 1-yard run. On the fourth, Lynch had a 3-yard loss and a 4-yard gain before Jackson was dropped for a 9-yard sack.

As Cable said, a little sharper throw here, a little sharper cut there and a little sharper protection and blocking everywhere definitely would have helped the Seahawks get a couple more six-point plays rather than Hauschka’s three-pointers.

“You’ve just got to be on point,” is the way Jackson put it. “Everything happens a little faster in the red zone. You don’t have as much field to work with. So teams try to use that to their advantage sometimes and try to get the ball out of your hands and force you to make quick decisions – and sometimes that can lead to mistakes, or lead to not everybody being on the same page.

“So when you get in the red zone and the defense forces a field goal, that’s a win for the defense.”

Getting offensive wins more often in those situations is among the areas where the Seahawks need to continue improving as they head into a four-game stretch where they play at home three times. And against some beatable opponents – the 2-7 Rams this week and also on “Monday Night Football” game at CenturyLink Field on Dec. 12; the 3-6 Redskins at CenturyLink next week; and the 3-6 Eagles in a Thursday night game on Dec. 1, also at home.

“We’re going to make sure we’re able to run the ball in the red zone,” said Jackson, with touchdown runs by Lynch of 1, 4, 2, 1 and 11 yards in his past five games as proof that it can be done.

“If we can run it in, that’ll be fine. We’re going to make sure we’re able to run it, but we need to be able to pass the ball in the red zone, too. So we’re just going to stay balanced and do whatever we want to do.”

Rather than settle for almost as many field goals (eight) as touchdowns (10), as they have in their first nine games.