Something’s Gotta Give for “D” on 3rd Down
So far this season, the Seattle Seahawks have been all about defense, shutting down some of the top offensive powers on their way to several impressive victories.
The team is among the league leaders in several of the defensive categories, including total yards allowed and total points allowed, where they rank fifth and sixth respectively.
They also have the fifth-best run-stopping defense in the league. This was most evident in the team’s win against the New England Patriots, who were forced to almost exclusively throw the ball after the Seattle defense had stifled its running game. This change in strategy led to two Tom Brady interceptions, allowing the Seahawks to get back into the game.
A couple of big games by opposing quarter backs have dropped the Seahawks’ passing down the rankings, but they are still 13th-best in the league.
Now comes the mystery of the third down conversions for the Seattle defense.
As of right now, the Seahawks sit at 23rd in the league when it comes to stopping the other team on third down with 42.3 percent efficiency. It seems strange given that the team ranks no worse than 13th in any other defensive category; however, after last weekend’s debacle, there can be no more avoiding it.
Last week the Detroit Lions had a third down efficiency of 69.2 percent—largely in part to Matthew Stafford’s performance. Often when a team is this successful, it can be a matter of short-yardage situations. However, the Lions needed to gain an average of over six yards on third downs in order to move the chains, and throughout the game the Lions passing offense made the Seahawks secondary look mediocre at best.
Last season the Seahawks held their opposition to 34.8 percent efficiency, which if translated to this season, would put them eighth in the NFL. If you ask me, that is right where they realistically should be the way the team has been put together.
Pete Carrol told the Associated Press earlier this week that he thought poor communication and youth on defense were two of the determining factors on third downs this year. However, after last week you know that Carroll has no choice but to change the strategy on third downs when the Vikings come to town on Sunday.
I would expect at the very least some different play calls and perhaps personnel changes, although that may be a bit unrealistic given the success the Seahawks are having with the rest of the defensive statistics. I would be surprised to see any new faces on third downs.
There is no reason that the Seahawks shouldn’t be able to improve on third down as the season progresses.
They have proven that they can play with any team on defense. They just have to tighten up on some small details, and you should see the third down efficiency number rise to join the rest of the prominent defensive statistics.
The first test comes this Sunday when the Seahawks will be faced with the hard running Adrian Peterson lining up in the backfield.