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Seahawks defense can’t get off field

Third-and-longs proving to be a critical problem

RENTON, Wash. – What started out as a mild concern for the Seattle Seahawks became a full-blown issue after losing to the Detroit Lions.

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 weeks ago – the ability to make stops on third down has been a nagging problem.

After watching Detroit convert 12 of 16 third downs, six from 8 yards or longer in Sunday’s 28-24 win over the Seahawks, it’s moved beyond just a problem for coach 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.

But the loss to Detroit was the second time this season 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 outexecuted us … ,” Carroll said.

According to STATS Inc., the Seahawks 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.

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.

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 he 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.