Seahawks Insider

Hawks need to win on third down

Post by Eric Williams on July 7, 2009 at 12:14 pm with No Comments »
July 7, 2009 12:14 pm

Seahawks linebacker Leroy Hill will need to get after the quarterback on third down in 2009 like he did here in this playoff game against Washington.

Pat Kirwan, a former league personnel executive who writes for, penned an interesting article a couple weeks ago that I filed away in my memory bank. Kirwan takes a look at the makeup of the league’s best third down defenses. The list offers few surprises, with Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Minnesota, Chicago and Tennessee all topping the list.

However, I think this list is important because third down, as Kirwan writes, is considered the money down in pro football – either you get off the field and bring a momentum-gaining drive to a halt, or a productive offense executes and continues to march down field, eventually putting some points on the scoreboard.

Third down usually comes down to which team executes the best and has the most continuity, both in personnel and knowing what will work both offensively and defensively. This is why Seattle struggled so much on third down last season.

Offensively, because of injuries during the preseason, Seattle had little chemistry on offense, and the Seahawks usually failed to execute on third down.

And defensively because of the team’s lack of a consistent pass rush, being on the field too much due to an inconsistent offense, and poor tackling throughout the defensive side of the ball, the Seahawks failed to get off of the field in critical third down situations.

Seattle finished 23rd overall in third down percentage defensively. But in 2007 when Seattle made the playoffs, the Seahawks fared much better, finishing 11th overall.

Offensively, the Seahawks finished 30th overall in third down percentage at 31 percent. In 2007, Seattle finished 26th overall.

Tight end John Carlson should be a focal point of Seattle’s third down offense this season.

Seattle hopes to be better on third down on both sides of the ball this season. With a more balanced attack and the implementation of the zone blocking scheme, the Seahawks believe they will be in more manageable third down situations.

And the addition of T.J. Houshmandzadeh, along with a more experienced John Carlson at tight end should help keep the chains moving. Seattle actually had Carlson off the field a fair amount of time last season, as head coach Mike Holmgren chose to go with four wide receivers or three receivers and two backs on third and long. However, Matt Hasselbeck said during the offseason that Carlson will be expected to contribute more during third down now that he’s more familiar with the offensive system.

Defensively, the addition of linebacker Aaron Curry and the anticipation of a more stout pass rush should help the Seahawks’ ability to be more versatile and dynamic on third downs. Curry’s ability to both rush the passer and drop in coverage, along with fellow outside linebacker Leroy Hill, should help Seattle keep teams off balance on third down, with the ability to bring Curry and Hill off the edge.

Some other Seahawks stats of note:

Seattle finished 30th in the league in number of receptions of 20 yards or more. Creating big plays on offense are important because it helps you get into scoring position quicker. It’s harder to sustain long scoring drives because of penalties and execution on third down to move the chains. Generally teams would like to create a big play of 20 yards or more either on offense or through special teams every quarter.

The Seahawks ranked last in the league in time of possession. Controlling the clock is key because it keeps the other team’s offense off the field and allows your offense to get into scoring position. Take a closer look at the stats below.

Top Third Down Defense (2008)

Team Third down Pct. Total Sacks

1. Pittsburgh 31.4 51

2. Philadelphia 32.2 48

t-3. Baltimore 33.5 34

t-3. Minnesota 33.5 45

5. Chicago 34.9 28

6. Tennessee 35.0 44

7. Washington 35.6 24

8. Dallas 35.7 59

9. Buffalo 36.1 24

10. Miami 37.8 40

Bottom Third Down Defense

Team Third down pct. Total sacks

23. Seattle 42.34 35

24. Cincinnati 42.66 17

25. Denver 44.06 26

26. New England 44.39 31

27. Oakland 44.40 32

28. Arizona 44.44 31

29. Detroit 45.41 30

30. Cleveland 45.89 17

t-31. Indianapolis 47.39 30

t-31. Kansas City 47.39 10

Top third down offenses

Third down pct. Pts./G

1. Indianapolis 50.25 23.6

2. New Orleans 48.50 28.9

3. Denver 47.50 23.1

4. San Diego 45.88 27.4

5. Green Bay 44.20 26.2

6. Atlanta 43.38 24.4

7. New England 43.24 25.6

8. N.Y. Giants 43.14 26.7

9. Dallas 42.92 22.6

10. Houston 42.13 22.9

Bottom Third down offenses

Third down pct. Pts./G

23. Miami 36.98 21.6

24. Tennessee 36.11 23.4

25. Chicago 35.62 23.4

26. Washington 35.19 16.6

27. Cincinnati 34.75 12.8

28. Cleveland 33.96 14.5

29. St. Louis 31.94 14.5

30. Seattle 31.31 18.4

31. Detroit 28.78 16.8

32. Oakland 28.50 16.4

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