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How do Seahawks get offense on track? Answer is in Week 17 comeback

The Seahawks were able to largely avoid third down in the fourth quarter vs. the 49ers. (Getty)

The Seahawks’ offense didn’t have a strong four quarters in the 26-23 win over the 49ers on Sunday, but it did have a strong fourth quarter.

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After San Francisco built a 10-point lead early in the final frame, the Seahawks did a 180 on offense to take over the game. Though Seattle had managed just six points to that point and went the entire third quarter without converting a first down, the Hawks exploded for touchdowns on three straight drives in the fourth (the last being helped out by a defensive takeaway).

There’s something the 12-win Seahawks can take from that impressive showing in the final moments against San Francisco, which was a topic of discussion on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy.

During a recent Four-Down Territory segment on the show, Stacy Rost spoke about how third down has been a problem for Seattle this season. They enter the playoffs ranked 20th in the NFL in third down conversions at 40.21%, but something in the offense’s huge comeback against the 49ers negated that.

“They were outstanding on first and second down,” Jake Heaps said. “They were able to get first downs and chunk plays on first and second down (to the point) where they didn’t even see third down until they got to third-and-goal (on each of their first two touchdown drives).”

OK, so what was the difference between those drives and what Seattle did on offense earlier in the game?

“Really what it is is tempo,” Heaps said.

The Seahawks were an especially explosive offense for the first half of the season, but that stopped being the case as opposing defenses figured out how to slow down quarterback Russell Wilson and his receivers. The deep passes that highlighted the strong start to Seattle’s season didn’t return in the comeback against San Francisco, as the Seahawks instead racked up yardage by speeding up their tempo in between plays.

“They weren’t deep balls down the field,” Heaps said. “They were checkdowns to Chris Carson, they were throws underneath, runs after the catch. They were Russell Wilson taking off and running, Chris Carson then being able to knife through the middle of that defense with quick hitters. So you combine all that together, that’s really how they were able to get it all going, how they were able to spark such a big fourth quarter comeback.”

The former Seahawks quarterback delved deeper into that point later while on the 710 ESPN Seattle Playoff Roundtable with Bob Stelton and Dave Wyman (listen here).

“One way to get a defense out of all the exotic, crazy stuff that they have dialed up and planned up for the week is to go into that uptempo mode,” Heaps said. “When you know that they’re trying to bring all those different, exotic pressure packages, go uptempo because that forces them to play into more of their base scheme. Notice in the fourth quarter (against the 49ers), that’s exactly what happened. They turned up the tempo, they turned up the heat, and I do think that they have to do that more regularly.

“The Seahawks can’t let a defense get comfortable saying, ‘Hey, we know exactly the tempo they’re going to play at each and every single drive.’ You have to be able to change that up and be able to keep them on their toes, and that’s something they were excellent at in the beginning of the season. They’ve sprinkled it in and have had success with it during the season but I just haven’t seen it consistently enough. I do think that would help them in the playoffs if they can find that right balance.”

If the Seahawks can do that, they’ll take care of the concerns presented by Rost’s initial point.

“Really it’s been feast or famine for them on first and second down. If they’re not successful on first and second down, as Stacy pointed out, all season long third down has not been a particular area that has been great for this offense,” Heaps said. “The solution to that, unfortunately as much as I would like to say, hey, get better on third down, really what they need to do is continue to strive to be explosive, to be dynamic on first and second down and to get positive chunk plays.”

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Jake & Stacy