SEATTLE - Seattle’s offense is beginning to show signs of progress. That progress, however, is coming mostly at the beginning of games. They Seahawks have scored on their first possession each of the past three games and scored on their first two possessions each of the past two weeks.
That marks a significant accomplishment compared to how slowly Seattle started games last season. It is also the biggest mystery on this team, because those promising offensive starts have faded significantly in the second and third quarters over the past three weeks.
“I don’t have a good explanation for you why that’s happened,” coach Pete Carroll said. The answer to that question just might help Seattle find the consistency that has eluded its offense so far this season, and a good starting point is to put a microscope over the way the Seahawks start their games.
Seattle, like many teams, scripts about the first 15 offensive plays. The players are told what those plays will be the day before, and they rehearse them during the walk-through. The team won’t necessarily run those 15 plays in that exact order in the game, as there are some adjustments made for third-down situations or if the team has the ball inside the 20-yard-line, but for the most part, the team sticks to the sequence laid out in advance.
The goal of following that prepared script? “We’re trying to execute well,” said Darrell Bevell, Seattle’s offensive coordinator. “We’re trying to score points, which I think we’ve done a pretty decent job of doing that. There’s some fact-finding you’re trying to find out.”
The offense is trying to judge defensive tendencies, to see if the opponent is using the same alignments and coverages as previous weeks and to test whether it is adjusting the same way.
But more than anything else, those 15 plays are what the coaches believe give the offense its best chance to start fast. And amid all the faults you can find with Seattle’s offense, its early success is a bright spot. Seattle has scored first in each of its seven games this season, a marked improvement over a year ago, when Seattle didn’t score a first-quarter touchdown until its fifth game. The Seahawks were outscored 67-13 in the first half during their first four games last season.
Seattle’s ability to score early is imperative, as this team is not built to play from behind. But sustaining that lead is just as important, and the results the past three weeks show that Seattle’s early offense has given way to a nose dive (see chart).
It certainly explains how Seattle lost last week’s game in San Francisco. The Seahawks ran 18 plays on their first two possessions, gained 125 yards and scored twice.
They had eight more possessions in the game, which produced a total of 136 yards. A missed 51-yard field-goal attempt was as close as Seattle got to scoring after its first two possessions.
So how do the Seahawks sustain the offensive momentum they generate early in games? “It’s on us to be able to still execute well,” Bevell said. “Make sure when we have a game plan, we practice them all week so you have to be able to recall that, and understand what we’re trying to get done with that.”
But Seattle doesn’t have to start from scratch when it comes to generating offense. It just has to find a way to build upon the success it has found at the beginning of its games.