RENTON, Wash. – The lasting image of the Seattle Seahawks hunting for 1 yard this season is from overtime in St. Louis: running back Marshawn Lynch taking a handoff out of shotgun on fourth-and-1, getting stuffed behind the line, game over.
It was the most dramatic and most important yard the Seahawks needed this season, and they didn’t get it. But have the Seahawks really struggled on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 this season?
The numbers suggest otherwise.
Seattle has its offensive issues, including on third down in which it ranks 24th in the NFL, according to STATS Inc. But Seattle is actually better than league average when needing 1 yard on third or fourth down.
“We’ve been really good at it, and we’re counting on finding that rhythm again that allows us to really feel aggressive in that situation,” coach Pete Carroll said.
Here are the numbers, according to STATS Inc., through three games, an admittedly small sample size but one big enough to at least color in some of the picture:
• When the Seahawks have needed 1 yard on third or fourth down, they’ve converted 75 percent of the time, tied for 10th in the league.
• They’ve run the ball 75 percent of the time in those situations and have converted 67 percent of their rushing attempts. They’ve converted all three passing attempts.
Those numbers compare favorably with last season’s and are better than the numbers from the Super Bowl-winning team in 2013:
• In 2014 the Seahawks converted 77 percent of their third- or fourth-and-1s, the best mark in the NFL.
• In 2013 they finished 28th in the league, converting just 54 percent.
• Both years they ran the ball 61 percent of the time when they needed 1 yard on third or fourth down.
The Seahawks have their flaws in the shortest of short-yardage situations. Most notably, they have sometimes struggled to block when they run the ball, including twice last weekend against the Bears.
On one third-and-1 in the first quarter, tight end Jimmy Graham got beat by off the edge by Pernell McPhee, who slowed Lynch behind the line. On another third-and-1 in the first, Garry Gilliam was beat by Jarvaris Jenkins, who tripped Lynch by his ankles.
The same happened in St. Louis in overtime. The offensive line was beat at multiple spots on fourth-and-1 and Lynch had no chance.
It feels like the Seahawks are still searching for concrete answers about themselves as an offense. Carroll acknowledged as much when talking about how the Seahawks have handled third- and fourth-and-1 this season, but the reality isn’t as grim as the perception.
“We’re still kind of finding out where we are this year with it,” he said, “and it will take us some time before we really zero in on it.”
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