The Seattle Seahawks don't have an impossible task ahead of them -- defenses have found a way to halt, stymie, delay and otherwise best the Peyton Manning-led offense of the Denver Broncos. But it's a tall order regardless. There are so many things the Broncos do well, and near the top of that list is their ability to convert on third down.
The Seahawks haven't been quite as good at doing that themselves, however. It's one of their primary issues on offense, though they could be a lot worse off for it. David Hsu of Field Gulls provided an excellent, in-depth breakdown of how Seattle has done things on the down, but first: some stats!
The Broncos are near the gold standard for this stat: converting 46 percent of their third-down attempts during the regular season, as noted by Hsu. Only San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers managed better, with a whopping 49 percent of third-down attempts.
How important is this third-down conversion rate? Hsu examines:
If being good on 3rd down was the most important stat in relation to winning, I am sure Pete Carroll would make it the number one emphasis of his "program". While it's surely very important, four of the top ten teams on 3rd down did not make the playoffs (Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago, Tennessee).
That being said, of the bottom 14 teams in the NFL on 3rd down -- NONE OF THEM -- made the playoffs! Right above those bottom 14 were the four most "average" teams on the 3rd down (18th SF, 17th SEA, 16th NEP, 15th IND, and they all made the playoffs and netted wins in the playoffs).
The NFL median for this is a 38 percent conversion rate on third down. The Seahawks' defense finished at No. 10 in the league with a 35 percent conversion rate allowed, while the Seattle offense finished below average at 37 percent, No. 17 in the league.
Obviously, it's an area of great importance and will be a big deal against the Broncos. Denver doesn't have nearly as good a defense as Seattle's though, and the Seahawks having a solid conversion rate is something of a smart bet. Hsu notes that the third-down stats aren't the most important thing -- backed by the stats above -- but that the numbers specific to the red zone are most important.
Check out the full piece for more, with play breakdowns.