DANNY AND GALLANT

Huard: ‘Startling’ stat sums up Wilson and Seahawks’ 3rd-down woes

Dec 10, 2020, 9:33 AM | Updated: 9:54 am
Seahawks QB Russell Wilson...
Seahawks QB Russell Wilson is the second-worst NFC QB on third downs. (Getty)
(Getty)

After an explosive start to the 2020 season, the Seahawks’ offense has hit a bit of a road bump, most evidenced by a 17-12 loss to the New York Giants in Week 13.

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Seattle’s offense looked unstoppable through the season’s first five weeks and quarterback Russell Wilson looked not only like an MVP candidate, but he looked like he was going to run away with the award early. Since then, though, the offense hasn’t been nearly as dynamic, Wilson hasn’t been as sharp and the Seahawks are 3-5 after a 5-0 start.

Wilson has been receiving a lot of scrutiny for his play against the Giants, but there is one key issue that has been on full display all season when it comes to Wilson and the Seahawks’ offense. Former NFL quarterback Brock Huard broke it down Thursday morning on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant.

“I’m looking at third-down passing leaders in the NFC,” he said, referring to passer rating on third down. “Who leads the NFC on what they call ‘the money down?'”

No. 1 on the list, unsurprisingly, is Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is firmly in the MVP conversation. Next up is Drew Brees of the Saints, who was playing well before missing time with broken ribs, third is Kirk Cousins of the Vikings, Tom Brady of the Buccaneers is fourth and Matt Ryan of the Falcons is fifth. Then the list gets a little surprising.

Turnover-prone Giants quarterback Daniel Jones is sixth, Jarred Goff of the division-rival Rams is seventh, Matthew Stafford of the Lions is eighth, Teddy Bridgewater of the Panthers is ninth, 49ers backup quarterback Nick Mullens is 10th, now-benched Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is 11th and then Bears quarterback Nick Foles is 12th.

No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. Wilson does not rank in the top 12 for NFC quarterbacks on third-down passer rating. Wilson is the 13th-rated NFC quarterback on third down. Yes, 13th. Only Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray ranks worse than Wilson on third down of eligible NFC quarterbacks.

“Russell Wilson right there with a 66 rating on third down,” Huard said.

The Seahawks, who rank eighth in yards per game and fourth in points per game in the entire NFL, are 13th out of the 16 NFC teams in third-down conversions at 38.7%. That puts them at 24th in the entire NFL. On third downs this year, Wilson has completed 45 of 77 (58.4%) passes for 469 yards and two touchdowns to five interceptions. Wilson’s poor metrics on third down obviously play a major part in the team’s struggles.

Danny O’Neil asked if Huard if Wilson’s poor third-down passer rating has taken a hit due to interceptions on third-and-long late in games when the Seahawks are trying to come back.

“Yes and no. There have been a couple of those, but even those were bad,” Huard said.

Huard pointed specifically to a third-and-long interception Wilson threw late in a loss to the Bills that essentially put an end to any comeback hopes.

“You just don’t do that, and he doesn’t do that and that’s never been, Danny, in his DNA when they have been down and they’ve had some other losses,” Huard said. “So yeah, it’s problematic and it’s really problematic that they (rank last in the NFC) on third-and-seven-plus.

Huard said while Wilson shoulders a lot of the blame with five third-down interceptions, some fault lies with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer as well, mentioning that the team can get more creative going forward than they have been.

“If there’s really an area you want to look at and say ‘OK man, what has to clean up in the final quarter of the season? What do you have to do to win three of four, run the table and win this division?’ You’ve got to win that down,” Huard said. “And that’s the group up front, that’s maybe mixing in a little run game when need be, that’s Russell making terrific decisions on time and on point with anticipation on third downs and winning those downs. But yeah man, that was startling to me.”

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Huard: ‘Startling’ stat sums up Wilson and Seahawks’ 3rd-down woes