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Published: Tuesday, October 30, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Third down a problem for Seahawks

Seattle's defense is one of the worst in NFL in getting third-won stops

  • Lions wide receiver Titus Young (16) celebrates his game-winning 1-yard touchdown catch with 20 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter as Seahawks co...

    Rick Osentoski / Associated Press

    Lions wide receiver Titus Young (16) celebrates his game-winning 1-yard touchdown catch with 20 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter as Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner (39) looks on during Sunday's game. Detroit beat Seattle 28-24.

RENTON -- The Seahawks have done so many things well on defense this season. Getting off the field, however, has not been one of them.
As good as Seattle's defense has been this year, ranking third in scoring defense and fifth in total defense, the Seahawks have been bad on third down. Opposing offenses have converted on 44 percent of their third downs against Seattle this year. That makes the Seahawks, an otherwise very good team defensively, the sixth-worst team in the NFL at getting third-down stops. And on Sunday, the inability of the defense to stop the Lions on third down was the single biggest factor in Seattle's loss.
Three times on their game-winning drive, the Lions faced third down, and all three times they converted, including on the touchdown pass to Titus Young that put Detroit ahead with 20 seconds left in the game.
"We had to stop them on the last drive and we didn't get it done," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "... You could see that our ineffectiveness on third downs really allowed them to move the football really throughout the game, but in particular the last drive, they just out executed going down the field."
As Carroll noted, the third-down struggles weren't limited to the final drive. Over the course of the game, the Lions were 12-of-16 on third down, including six conversions on third-and-7 or longer. Among the third-and-long conversions was the 46-yard touchdown pass to Young in the first half on third-and-11.
Overall this season, opponents are converting at a 39.3 percent rate on third-and-6 or longer, according to STATS LCC, the worst percentage in the league in those third-and-long scenarios.
"It's disturbing that we're not able to be -- I'd just like to be like we are in the rest of our game," Carroll said. "We'll try to take a turn here; we've had some deep discussion about it and stuff and we'll see if we can get it fixed right away."
Carroll is confident his defense will improve on third down in the second half of the season. "I know we can get a lot better, I just hope we can do it right away. We need to get this done soon," he said.
But he also concedes that there is not a single easy-to-fix, reoccurring problem to address.
"Unfortunately not," Carroll said. "It would be easy if it was, we got beat in man coverage the whole time, or it was all the zone stuff or the pressures. We made some mistakes that they took advantage of. Just little technical things like a guy dropping a bit out of his area, a guy not picking up the leverage side of his man-to-man the way we like it and things like that. We've miss-hit a couple of pressures that we had a great chance to get something done on, and timing wasn't great for us. They just took advantage of every one of them and they were so efficient down the stretch. It just shows you that this was a really good quarterback that we played and he was able to carry it out through the game and get them a win."
Injury update
The Seahawks could be thin at receiver when they play Minnesota on Sunday, with four receivers currently dealing with injuries. Golden Tate, who injured his ankle against Detroit but stayed in the game, should be fine this week, Carroll said. But the news isn't as good on everyone else. Carroll said "It's going to be a long-shot" to get Doug Baldwin back this week after Baldwin missed Sunday's game with a high-ankle sprain. Ben Obomanu suffered a wrist injury, and was scheduled to see a specialist Monday. His status was not known Monday, nor was that of Braylon Edwards, who was a late scratch Sunday with a swollen knee. Carroll said Edwards didn't suffer a new injury, but that this had to do with the knee Edwards has had surgically repaired twice going back to last season.
Fullback Michael Robinson also suffered a wrist injury in the game, and like Obomanu, was scheduled to see a specialist Monday. The status of defensive tackle Jason Jones, who missed Sunday's game with an ankle injury, is not yet known, Carroll said.
Carroll gets hormonal
It's rather odd to hear an NFL coach describe himself as hormonal. It's even stranger to have it happen twice. But wouldn't you know, Carroll was blaming his hormones for a questionable coaching decision for the second time in a year. During Sunday's loss in Detroit, Carroll decided to challenge a 9-yard catch that had given the Lions a first down on third-and-8. Problem was, the Lions had declined a holding call on Brandon Browner, so even if Titus Young hadn't made the catch, Detroit would have picked up the first down. And Young did catch the ball, which made the decision to challenge look even worse.
"Just a total blunder," Carroll admitted. "It was a blunder, I screwed it up."
Carroll explained that he got so caught up in the moment when his coaches in the box told him it wasn't a catch that he forgot the situation as he tried to throw the challenge flag before the Lions could run their next play.
"As soon as I got it out, I went, 'Oh my goodness, what happened?'" Carroll said. "It was just a flash of hormonal upsurge or something. A competitive moment that I really regret."
Ah yes, the old "hormonal upsurge" excuse. What's made that explanation even more unusual is that Carroll, almost exactly a year ago, used a similar explanation after a loss to Cincinnati. In that game, Carroll elected to go for it on fourth down late in the first half rather than kick a field goal, and while Marshawn Lynch got the first down, time expired without Seattle getting off another play.
Following that game, Carroll explained, "We learned about what happens when a coach gets hormonal and tries to jam it down their frickin' throat for the touchdown."
Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com.

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