Pete Carroll on owner Paul Allen’s latest cancer fight, plus day-after thoughts on Seahawks’ win at Arizona
Duane Brown has played about two decades of football.
The four-time Pro Bowl left tackle is in his 11th NFL season. He played four years before this in college, at Virginia Tech. Before that, he played four years of high school ball, outside Richmond, Va.
That’s roughly 250 games, 13,000 or so plays, 2,500 or so third downs for Brown.
Yet he says he’d never won a game like he and his Seahawks did this past weekend at Arizona.
Asked if he had ever been victorious when his offense did not convert a single third-down opportunity into a first down to extend a drive, Brown looked at his questioner like he had three heads. That, he thought, couldn’t be true. Seattle could not have gone 0 for 10 on third down Sunday while beating the Cardinals 20-17.
“Wait, we didn’t convert one?” Brown said inside the visiting locker room in Glendale, Ariz., Sunday.
“No. No. This has to be the first time,” he said.
“Thank God our defense played a pretty good game.”
Yes, thank Him. And they should thank Him they were playing the winless Cardinals.
“This was a really interesting job for us (Sunday), to play like that on offense and not convert a third down all day,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “I don’t even know how we were able to (have more time of possession than Arizona) when we didn’t convert a third down, but we were able to.
“We have to clean up third down...that’s for sure. All the way across the board.”
The Seahawks became the 20th NFL team since 1991 to win without converting even once on third down, according to ProFootballReference.com. It was the first time it happened in the league in two years, and sixth time this decade.
It’s not going to happen again. Certainly not this Sunday, when the rampaging, undefeated Los Angeles Rams bring their already bulging division lead of two games over Seattle (2-2) to CenturyLink Field.
“We did a lot of great things,” Brown said after the Seahawks rushed for 171 yards, their most in a game since Dec. 4, 2016, when they gained 240 against Carolina.
“But we have a lot of things to clean up, as well. We weren’t able to put together as great a game as we’d like to. It’s good to have corrections coming off a win.”
Brown meant that would keep the offense humble and motivated.
Then again, no Seahawk should need reasons to be humbled and motivated this week.
The last time Seattle played the Rams, Los Angeles declared itself the new kings of the NFC West. They annihilated the Seahawks 42-7 at CenturyLink Field. That boat race in December is the largest margin of defeat in the Carroll era that began in 2010.
If the Seahawks don’t improve upon 0 for 10, and improve by plenty, on Sunday, 42-7 might seem like a nail-biter compared to what Todd Gurley, Jared Goff and this soaring Rams offense may do with extra chances with the ball after abbreviated Seattle possessions.
Last weekend’s win was the first time Seattle finished a game without a third-down conversion since Oct. 18, 2009, also against Arizona, when the Seahawks were 0 for 11. That was way back in Jim Mora’s only, dark season as their coach.
Mora’s successor, the 67-year-old Carroll, couldn’t remember ever winning a game without a third-down conversion at any level of his coaching career. It dates to 1973, at Pacific.
“It’s nice to set a record,” he said. “That’s not the kind of record we’re looking for.”
For the season, the Seahawks are 14 for 51 on third down. That’s a success rate 27.5 percent, worst in the NFC. Only Buffalo (24.1 percent) is worse in the league on third down.
And that’s with Seattle going 7 for 16 two games ago while beating Dallas. Take out what was an anomaly for September and the Seahawks are down to 20 percent on third downs.
More to the point, Seattle is failing 80 percent of the time and forcing Michael Dickson to punt more than anyone else in the NFC through four games (25 times). That’s not sustainable for winning.
Not against the Rams on Sunday. Not against Oakland the following weekend, in London. Not against anyone on any continent right now, except Arizona.
So what’s gone wrong on third down?
In the first two games, when they were throwing the ball 73 percent of the time, the Seahawks had too many long-yardage situations: third and 8, third and 10, third and 14 were the norm. By his own admission, quarterback Russell Wilson then was trying to extend plays that weren’t there inside a collapsing passing pocket, as Denver then Chicago rushed him from outside in to contain his signature scrambles on third down.
So the Seahawks’ plan for games three and four were to run the ball more, and more effectively, to create more manageable third downs. To “stay on schedule,” which Wilson loves to say as much as “the field is 100 yards long and 53-and-a-third yards wide.
Then in game three, against the Cowboys, Wilson threw three catchable balls to Brandon Marshall that would have been first downs. The 34-year-old, six-time Pro Bowl receiver had all three go off his hands. If Marshall had caught those, Seattle would have been 10 for 17 against Dallas on third down. That and a fourth drop last weekend is why David Moore is poised to take some of Marshall’s playing time this week.
Then at Arizona, the Seahawks had a relapse into an over-reliance on Wilson to get first downs by himself. That was the offense’s main problem in the 2017 and ‘16 seasons, which got play caller Darrell Bevell fired. Brain Schottenheimer, Bevell’s successor this season, had Wilson drop back to pass Sunday on third and 1 with under 12 minutes to go and Seattle leading Arizona 17-10.
The Seahawks were on their way to their best rushing day in two years. They had a 100-yard back in Mike Davis shredding the Cardinals’ defense on the ground. Yet when all they needed was 1 yard to extend a drive that could have gotten the clock under 9 minutes at least, while with the lead, Schottenheimer and the Seahawks had Wilson pass.
And not play-action pass, either. A shotgun, not-even-pretending-to-run pass. Wilson got pressured by the Cardinals into a wildly thrown incomplete pass, Dickson punted yet again. Arizona scored the tying touchdown on its ensuing drive, with 9 minutes left.
Carroll acknowledged Monday he’d rather fail there running the ball.
Through the season’s first month, the Seahawks have had four situations of third and 1. The two times they’ve passed it on third and 1, they’ve failed to convert. The two times they’ve run it, they’ve gotten the first down. That’s an admittedly small sample size. But it’s indicative of what Seattle needs to do on third and short against the Rams, and beyond.
Passing instead of running also happened on fourth and 1 late in the first half. Arizona’s Chandler Jones crashed through Brown off the left edge for a sack of Wilson. That set up a Cardinals gift try at a field goal. Fortunately for Seattle, Phil Dawson missed it and the half ended.
Seattle’s third-down conversion rate would have been closer to 30 percent, instead of at zero, Sunday also if Doug Baldwin hadn’t uncharacteristically fallen down a yard short of the line to gain on two different catches.
So at least that’s correctable, or at least improvable. Baldwin, Wilson’s favorite third-down target and one of the league’s best in those situations, was playing in his first game in three weeks, since leaving the Sept. 9 opener with a sprained knee.
“There were a couple things that we could’ve done to convert, and they’re really subtle things: about the throw or the route, or the break of the route rather than pulling up on a route, and stuff like that,” Carroll said. “There are really subtle things that we could’ve done better and unfortunately it just stacked up to be a terrible night on third down.
“I think we’re 4 for 6 throwing the football in situations where we could’ve converted. So we just need to turn that around. It’s a remarkable game in a sense, to see that we had (the advantage in) time of possession on the clock again this week and we didn’t convert on third down. There’s so many more plays and opportunities out there that we missed out on.”
So, you guessed it, thanks partly to the would’ves and could’ves the sunnyside-up coach sees his team’s third-down 0-fer against the Cardinals as...a positive?
“We take a lot of positives out of the fact that we overcame that,” Carroll said.
Sunday, the offense welcomes back lead rusher Chris Carson from the hip injury that kept him out at Arizona and created Davis’ chance. Carroll said Davis has earned the right to also carry the ball extensively, too.
So the Seahawks will have twice the weapons on third down against the Rams than they had against the Cardinals.
They are going to need more than twice the results.