A Closer Look At The Seahawks’ Red Zone Possessions

One of the big talking points of late – in trying to explain why the Seahawks have struggled to a 2-3 start to the season – is that the Seahawks are beyond mediocre in the red zone.  As you may or may not know, the “red zone” is that area of the field from the opponent’s 20 yard line all the way down to the goalline; ideally, when you get that close to an opponent’s endzone, you want to score more touchdowns than field goals (and, obviously, more field goals than nothing at all).  Your red zone success rate is determined by how many touchdowns you acquire per red zone trip.  1 being the ultimate, 0 being the absolute worst.  You get the idea.

On the year, in five NFL games, the Seahawks have scored a touchdown in exactly 3 red zone possessions.  That … is an absolutely abysmal figure.  27% of all red zone possessions, to be precise.  What I would argue is that the Seahawks have a critical lack of red zone possessions to begin with!

11 red zone possessions in 5 games.  If you take away the four we had against the Rams, that makes 7 in the last four games (2 against the Packers, Bears, and Bengals; only 1 against the Lions on Monday night).  Obviously, it’s possible to score touchdowns in other ways (we had a punt return and a fumble return for a TD against the Rams; a kickoff return for TD against the Bears; another defensive fumble return against the Bengals; and any number of TDs scored from beyond the red zone), but what we’ve seen so far more than anything else is just a simple lack of ability to move the football at any kind of consistent rate.

With every loss, and every poor offensive performance, the chorus of outrage over how Jimmy Graham is used becomes more and more deafening.  Is he getting enough targets?  Is he being used properly?  I can’t speak to the latter – I’m not an offensive coordinator – but I think he’s getting an appropriate amount of targets.  You can’t throw it to him if he’s not open.  If he’s not getting open because you’re having him run stupid routes, then that obviously needs to change.  But, if he’s not getting open because the defense is so worried about him beating you, that they’re giving you single coverage elsewhere, then obviously his presence is effective.  The fact of the matter remains, Graham’s importance is always going to be dictated by how he’s used in red zone situations, and there just haven’t been enough red zone opportunities to judge whether or not he’s being used effectively.

Below, I pulled all the drives from this year where the Seahawks reached the opponent’s red zone.  I didn’t count them as “drives” when the Seahawks returned the ball for a touchdown (either via kickoff, punt, or defensive recovery).  See for yourselves and come to your own conclusions.

@ St. Louis (Seahawks had 11 total drives in this game)

Drive 4 – 15 yard line (2-min offense)
1st & 10 (:22) 5-yd pass to Kearse
2nd & 5 (:15) Wilson scramble for 3 yds
3rd & 2 (:08) Incomplete pass to Lynch
Result – Field Goal

Drive 5 – 18 yard line
1st & 10 9-yd pass to Kearse
2nd & 1 Lynch run for -1 yd
3rd & 2 1-yd pass to Graham
Result – Field Goal

Drive 8 – 19 yard line
1st & 10 3-yd pass to Lynch
2nd & 7 Incomplete pass to Graham
3rd & 7 Wilson scramble for 9 yds
1st & Goal (7-yd line) Incomplete pass to Willson
2nd & Goal Incomplete pass to Graham
3rd & Goal Touchdown to Graham

Drive 9 – 18 yard line
2nd & 5 Jackson run for 1 yd
3rd & 4 Incomplete pass to Kearse
Result – Field Goal

@ Green Bay (10 total drives)

Drive 6 – 20 yard line
2nd & 3 Wilson run for 10 yds
1st & Goal (10-yd line) Lynch runs for -1 yd
2nd & Goal (11-yd line) Pass to Lynch for 1 yd
3rd & Goal (10-yd line) Incomplete pass to Graham (defense offsides)
3rd & Goal (5-yd line) Touchdown pass to Jackson

Drive 7 – 13 yard line
1st & 10 Touchdown pass to Baldwin

vs. Chicago (10 total drives)

Drive 2 – 19 yard line
1st & 10 Incomplete pass to Lockette
2nd & 10 Rawls run for 6 yds
3rd & 4 Sack
Result – Field Goal

Drive 5 – 18 yard line
1st & 10 Pass to Kearse for 15 yds
1st & Goal (3 yd-line) Incomplete pass
2nd & Goal Incomplete pass to Graham
3rd & Goal Incomplete pass to Matthews
Result – Field Goal

vs. Lions (11 total drives)

Drive 4 – 9 yard line (2-min offense)
1st & Goal Sack for -9 yds
2nd & Goal (18 yd-line) False Start
2nd & Goal (23 yd-line) Jackson run for 1 yd
3rd & Goal (22 yd-line) Sack for -11 yds
Result – Field Goal

@ Bengals (11 total drives)

Drive 3 – 6 yard line (2-min offense)
1st & Goal – Field Goal

Drive 4 – 16 yard line
1st & 10 Interception, attempt to Graham

As you can see, pretty pisspoor all around.  But, there are still things we can glean.

For starters, of the 20 passes attempted in these situations, 7 were thrown to Graham (35%), which I feel is more than appropriate.  In fact, the only interception (aka the only time we came away with no points in these drives) was an ill-advised pass to a clearly-double covered Graham.

I’ll say it again, the main problem with this team is that it needs more sustained drives.  Whether that falls on the offensive line, offensive coordinator, or the offense as a whole performing better, I don’t give a shit.  Just improve.  Or else, this season will go nowhere fast.

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