RENTON (AP) — What started out as a mild concern for the Seattle Seahawks became a full-blown issue after losing to Detroit.
For all the success Seattle has enjoyed this season on the defensive side — being ranked No. 1 in the NFL in total defense just a couple of weeks ago — the ability to make stops on third down has been a nagging problem.
After watching Detroit convert 12 of 16 third downs and six of them 8 yards or longer in Sunday’s 28-24 win over the Seahawks, it’s moved beyond just a problem for Pete Carroll’s crew.
“It’s disturbing. I’d like to be how we are in the rest of our game,” Carroll said on Monday. “We’ll try and take a turn here. We’ve had some deep discussions about it and see if we can get it fixed right away.”
The attention and accolades that Seattle’s defense has received at various times this season was earned. They did hold Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay to just 12 points. They did shut down Tony Romo and the Cowboys. And they did keep Tom Brady and the Patriots in check long enough for Seattle’s offense to rally.
But the loss to Detroit was the second time this season that Seattle’s defense had a chance to make a game-saving stop and couldn’t get the job accomplished. In the season opener at Arizona, Kevin Kolb came off the bench and led the Cardinals’ final drive for a winning touchdown.
On Sunday, it was Matthew Stafford marching the Lions 80 yards in 16 plays, capped by Titus Young’s 1-yard TD catch on third-and-goal with 20 seconds left. Detroit converted three third downs on the final drive.
“Our ineffectiveness on third down allowed them to move the ball throughout the game when they did, but in particular the last drive they just out-executed us going down the field,” Carroll said. “We were there and we mixed our calls, we tried everything and we weren’t able to catch up with them. They made the plays and won the game.”
According to STATS Inc., the Seahawks now rank last in the NFL in allowing conversions on third-and-6 or more, giving up first downs 39 percent of the time. The issues aren’t necessarily at 6, 7 or 8 yards, where Seattle is allowing just 9 conversions in 31 attempts, but surprisingly start at 9 and 10 yards or more.
Seattle has allowed 16 conversions in 37 plays of third-and-10 or more — 43 percent. No other team in the NFL has allowed more than nine. The Lions’ were 3 of 5 on third downs of 10 yards or more on Sunday, including two conversions of 11 yards and one of 10.
Carroll said some of the problems lie with the youth of his defense and making sure communication is correct. Stafford also surprised Seattle with his patience in coming off his main reads and throwing underneath, giving his backs and receivers on shorter routes the opportunity to run after the catch.
Stafford was 34 of 49 for 352 yards with only three completions going to star receiver Calvin Johnson. Nineteen of Stafford’s completions went to running backs or tight ends.
“It would be easy if we had gotten beaten in man coverage the whole time or the zone stuff or the pressures,” Carroll said. “We did make some mistakes that they took advantage of, some real little technical things … they took advantage of every one of them and were so efficient down the stretch. Just shows you that was a really good quarterback that we played and he was able to carry it out throughout the game and get the win.”
On top of the defensive problems, Seattle is now thin at wide receiver. Carroll said Doug Baldwin was a longshot to make it back this week from a high ankle sprain suffered against San Francisco. Ben Obomanu and fullback Michael Robinson were at a specialist Monday having their injured wrists examined, while Braylon Edwards was getting an MRI after his knee unexpectedly swelled and forced him to miss Sunday’s game. Golden Tate also tweaked an ankle in the loss, but Carroll said he was fine.
As of now, Seattle’s only healthy receivers on the active roster are Sidney Rice and Charly Martin.
“We’ve got to find out what’s the deal with (Obomanu) and we’re not going to know about Doug and the likelihood is not great for Doug so we’re looking at our options here,” Carroll said.