RENTON — The Seattle Seahawks’ offense turns from cruising sedan to jalopy on third down. The past two weeks in particular.
Seattle’s combined 5-for-26 (19 percent) efficiency on third downs against the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts contributed to its 1-1 record in those games. Because it scratched out an overtime win against the Texans, the numbers were overlooked.
But, after the loss to the Colts, the problem gained legs and a spotlight for a second week.
Inability to convert on third down left the Seahawks with a stack of field goals instead of touchdowns. It also left them with their first loss.
“There’s a major focus on third downs,” quarterback Russell Wilson said. “I think that, at the end of the day, it comes down to just executing the play. Just finding a way. At all costs, just
finding a way to make the first down.
“If we can do that, with our defense, with our offense being able to move the ball the way we do, we will have a great chance of being very, very hard to stop.”
Against the Colts, only four of the third-down attempts were 4 yards or fewer. The Seahawks were stuck with a bevy of third-and-long situations – a problem for any offensive line, let alone one missing three starters. On third downs of 6 yards and longer, the Seahawks converted just once.
On those 12 third-down attempts, Seattle used designed runs twice. Wilson converted a third-and-9 with a scramble. The other conversion was a completed pass on third-and-5 to Doug Baldwin. Otherwise, Marshawn Lynch was stopped on a third-and-15, Wilson was stuffed in space on a zone-read carry and the rest were incomplete passes.
“There are a lot of things that we can do better; from things that the coaches can do to things that the receivers can do, to the quarterback, obviously the protection,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “I mean, there’s enough to go around that all of us need to get better at.”
This will be a difficult week to make a leap.
The Tennessee Titans come to Seattle with a defense ranked third-best on third downs. Tennessee allows opponents to convert 28.1 percent of the time. On the flip side, the Seahawks are 28th in the league in third-down conversions, moving the sticks 30.8 percent of the time.
“They’re very aggressive,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “They’re challenging you from the beginning. They pressure a lot. They have a very multiple-oriented scheme that really gives them a chance to do a lot of stuff, and it’s hard to predict what you’re going to get.”
The thing that’s clear is Seattle needs to improve in those situations.
LYNCH QUESTIONABLE, UNGER BACK
Pro Bowl center Max Unger is ready to go Sunday, according to Carroll. Unger was inactive the previous two weeks because of a triceps injury. Lemuel Jeanpierre took his place.
Unger’s return should help the line, which had issues without him.
“It’s a big factor. It’s obvious when he’s out there.” Carroll said.
Lynch has been treated for a “little” hip issue, that leaves him listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report. Carroll said Lynch, the NFL’s fourth-leading rusher, is fine.
Tight end Zach Miller (hamstring), who missed last week’s game, is heading toward fine. Carroll said Miller has a shot to play Sunday.
The chances for middle linebacker Bobby Wagner to play, however, are low. Wagner has a high ankle sprain and is listed as doubtful. If he can’t play, K.J. Wright will likely slide to middle linebacker with Malcolm Smith moving into the starting lineup at outside linebacker along with Bruce Irvin.