Seattle Seahawks: Is 3rd-Down Defense an Area of Concern?

Tyson LanglandNFC West Lead WriterOctober 4, 2012

Sep 24, 2012; Seattle, WA, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) looks for an open receiver while running from Seattle Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner (54) during the 2nd half at CenturyLink Field. Seattle defeated Green Bay 14-12. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE

Defensively, the Seattle Seahawks are one of the league's best units. They have shown the ability to acquire incredible talent at every level.

Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas are on the back end of the most physically gifted secondaries the NFL has ever seen. K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner only have a combined 28 starts at linebacker, yet both are in the top 10 at their respected positions, according to Pro Football Focus.

And Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin have quickly become pass-rushing phenomenons. Together they have eight sacks, four quarterback hits and 23 hurries through four games.

When you put all those moving parts together, what do you get? You get the second-best defense in the NFL statistically.

They are only allowing 275.8 yards per game and 14.5 points per game. Not to mention the fact that they are only surrendering 62.8 yards of those 275 on the ground. Opposing teams are only grinding out three yards a carry on the ground. 

By digesting all those numbers, it would be safe to assume they are flawless, but think again. They have one glaring weakness and that's their third-down defense. The poor play on third down went virtually unnoticed the first three weeks; however, the St. Louis Rams exposed them for who they are last Sunday. 

St. Louis converted five of 13 third-down attempts. A 38 percent conversion rate is not anything to write home about. However, all five of those conversions came on 3rd-and-10 or longer.

In the first quarter, they converted a third down from 13 yards out. In the second quarter, the conversions came from 14 and 10 yards out. The third quarter didn't see any conversions, and the fourth quarter saw two. One from 10 yards away and the other from 13. 

Here's another little interesting tidbit. All five of the successful third-down attempts came on scoring drives, and 92 of Sam Bradford's 221 passing yards came on those conversions. Sunday's loss dropped them to the ninth-worst third-down defense, and they are currently tied with sixth other teams with the worst fourth-down defense.

With Seattle being so dominate on first and second down, what causes the lapses on third down? Is it mental, or is it related to the packages the Seahawks deploy on third down? Maybe certain looks are tipping their coverage. At this point it's hard to tell, yet it will be interesting to see if they bounce back this week against the Panthers.

Carolina has a mediocre third-down offense as they are only converting 38 percent of the time. Keep in mind the 'Hawks finished 2011 with the ninth-best defense in the NFL, and they were 24th in third-down defense. So, one stat doesn't define how you finish, but it certainly can't hurt to improve from year to year.