10.25.2006

Third and Long + Inexperienced QB = Offensive Troubles Sunday


Not to state the completely obvious, but Seahawks fans can agree on this much as the team prepares to take on the Chiefs this weekend: Life gets harder for the offense with Matt Hasselbeck out.

Up for debate, however, is just how much harder it gets with Seneca Wallace at the helm of the offense.

Although Wallace has just 52 regular season passes to his credit -- by contrast, Hasselbeck has 74 career starts -- there are those who believe he possesses the skills and knowledge to hold down the fort until the three-time Pro Bowler returns from his knee injury.

I'm here to tell you that if everyone else on the offense doesn't step up their game, Wallace doesn't stand a chance of leading this team to victory against what has turned out to be an underrated Kansas City defense.

The woes of the team's running attack are well documented, as the Seahawks are averaging just 3.5 yards per carry this season, 26th in the NFL. What's not as well documented is the effect that this has on the offense, and just how much having an All-Pro-caliber quarterback running the offense has helped to cover up the unit's many deficiencies.

The inability to run the ball on first and second down has led to the Seahawks needing to convert a disproportionate amount of third-and-long attempts. You can put the third down attempts into three categories: Third-and-short (1-3 yards), third-and-medium (4-6 yards) and third-and-long (7 yards or more). Check out the breakdown of attempts by third down category: (Special thanks to Seahawks Insider Mike Sando, who compiled the stats, which can be found here.)

  • Third-and-short: 14 attempts
  • Third-and-medium: 18 attempts
  • Third-and-long: 57 attempts! (Of those, 32 are from third-and-10 or longer.)
The striking thing is that this has not had a significant impact on the team's ability to convert on third down. Overall, the team is converting 41.6 percent of its third down attempts, good for ninth in the NFL. In fact, the Seahawks are converting 38.6 percent of those third-and-longs -- better than the overall conversion rates of 18 NFL teams (including such solid offenses as St. Louis, Chicago, Jacksonville and Cinicinnati).

At first blush, these numbers just don't seem to jive. Normally, poor performance on first and second down -- typically rushing downs -- leads to poor performance on third down. Of the six teams below the Seahawks in rushing yards per attempt, only two teams are even ranked in the top half of the league in third down conversion rate (Kansas City, 12th, and Houston, 14th). Yet, the Seahawks have been able to survive and even be productive on offense despite the improbability of the situations they put themselves in.

The only viable explanation? Hasselbeck.

All you need to know is this: On third-and-long situations where the Seahawks have passed, Hasselbeck has been responsible for converting of 17 of 29 attempts -- an astounding 58.6 percent.

In light of that, let me ask you this question: Is it reasonable to expect Seneca Wallace to produce similar numbers? If not, how can this team expect to be successful in Hasselbeck's absence?

The answer, of course, is that it can't ... unless it starts to run the ball significantly more effectively on first and second down.

The bottom line is that this team must put Wallace in manageable down and distance all afternoon if the Seahawks are to have a chance to score some points. For all of Wallace's athleticism, he's not likely to convert a lot of those long third down chances like Hasselbeck did -- he just doesn't possess the moxie, and it's a bit too much to expect him to consistently scramble for upwards of 10 yards.

Give him third-and-medium or third-and-short, however, and that will allow the coaches to put Wallace's full repertoire to use and give him a shot to lead the staggering Hawks to a much-needed win on the road.

1 comment:

erik said...

nusser

what bowls are the cougs looking at...My wife would love to go to one, and if its somewhere warm Ill support her decision..Which ones are the looking at?