RENTON -- Through the first half of last season, the Seattle Seahawks were the most productive offense in the NFL.
Twelve months later, Seattle's offense has become one of the league's most anemic units with Russell Wilson being injured and struggling upon his return to the lineup in November.
Wilson's surgically-repaired finger isn't the sole reason for all of Seattle's slide on offense. They've been bad as a unit all season in time of possession, offensive plays run, and third down conversions even with Wilson healthy or with Geno Smith in the lineup instead. Wilson has also been the league's worst quarterback on third down, completing just 37.1 percent of his passes this year.
The current stretch is one of the first times in Wilson's professional career that he's faced significant criticism for his performances. However, Wilson vows that he and the offense will come out the other side of their current stretch of poor performance.
"There's always going to be adversity. You know, there's always adversity in the sport," Wilson said on Thursday. "There's always adversity in professional sports and in general in life. And so I think the dynamic of being able to balance success, balance challenges, balance tough games, tough moments, but also great ones, and to be able to stay poised in the midst of it all and be thankful for it all. And I think that's one of the things that I really believe. It's always been a goal for me and always been part of my my perspective of life.
"The one thing that I do know is is that my resume shows I'm an overcomer. you know, a resume shows that I'm an overcomer. So, you know, "The reality is that for me, you know, I know what's gonna happen. I know, every time there's adversity, there's something great on the other side of it. So for me, I always keep that great perspective of that and understand that with great language with great mentality with great belief, and great attitude and ultimately great habits. I think all that stuff is gonna come to fruition and all everything that you ever dream of, and that's what I've always believed That's what's always happened. And I don't believe any other way."
The struggles on third down have been the most common thread for the Seahawks throughout the season. The inability to keep drives going by converting on third down has helped kill the team's time of possession opportunities and limited the number of plays the team has been able to run. Seattle is converting on just 32.5 percent of their third downs this season, which is worst in the NFL. The average conversion rate across the league is fractionally shy of 40 percent with the Kansas City Chiefs leading the league at 51.5 percent.
The Seahawks were just 4-of-12 on third down on Monday night against Washington. They've only had two games all season where they've converted over 40 percent of their third down chances (at Indianapolis, at Green Bay).
“We need to be consistent with the throws and make sure that he’s hitting the guys when he gets his chance, specifically on third down, that’s just been an Achilles heel for us,” head coach Pete Carroll said on Wednesday. “We need to get out of this thing and get going and get moving. We had those five series in a row, five chances with the football that we didn’t get anything done. Those are all opportunities to convert. In those situations, they were very makeable. We had one third-and-8, and third-and 5 or less on the rest of them. Those are situations we need to excel at. We expect to and we’re not settling for anything but that.
“He’s got to do his part, We’ve got to catch the football. We’ve got to get the protection right. Everything adds up so we can be successful. Really, the whole part is frustrating because we’ve been talking about the same thing. We need to get better and show that. It’s on me. It’s on all of us.”
Carroll said that they "weren't as sharp as we needed to be." Wilson missed on several throws against Washington with throws off-target for incompletions.
"I missed some passes that we can hit," Wilson said. "One early in the flat, just tried to rip it too firm there. I had the third down to Gerald [Everett], just mis-read him, you know, I was thinking he was a little further inside. Just mis-read him. And I was high on another one to him."
Said Carroll: “As we went through it, and we watched it together, there’s a few plays in there on the shorter passing game that he just really tried to drill the football and maybe threw it a little too hard, harder than normal,” the Seahawks head coach said on Wednesday. “Trying to make sure the ball was there and crisp and all that. The balls down the field he threw the ball really well. On the move, really well. We weren’t as sharp as we needed to be, and it showed up on three specific third down situations that all could’ve been very convertible for us. That’s just as we looked at it. Easily corrected. Easily corrected."
Wilson and Carroll have been firm in their assertations that Wilson's finger is not limiting him on the field.
"He feels great. He does not feel like he’s burdened by the surgery from the past and all that. He’s ready to go," Carroll said.
“He doesn’t need to be rested. He’s not tired or worn down or anything. He needs the action. He needs to get back to the activity. He needs to play more and get into the flow of it as much as possible.”
The 2021 season is certain to end as the least successful campaign of the Wilson-Carroll era in Seattle. Their 3-8 record through 11 games is the worst mark the team has had since 2008 when the Seahawks started 2-9 en route to a 4-12 finish.
There's little reason to expect the offense to suddenly make a significant shift at this point in the season. It's possible if Wilson's finger gets even closer to 100 percent that his standard of play will improve a bit more. But the Seahawks appear to be exactly what their record and statistics indicate they are at this point in the season.
Wilson compared the Seahawks current situation to the past few years of the Golden State Warriors and believes the team will eventually come out of the rut they are in.
"I think about the season, I love watching the Warriors play, for example, and in their 2019 stuff, they went through some tough moments there," Wilson said. "I also think about where they are today, and I think about how good they are, how Steph Curry kept battling in the midst of being injured or whatever it may be. Like I said, my resume shows that I’m an overcomer and I have no doubts. I have tremendous confidence in who I am, where I am, what I’m going to be, how I’m going to be, how I’m going to get better every day about my craft, and how our football team is going to get better because there is no other choice. We always respond with the right mentality, the right mindset, the right language, and the right energy around it too. That’s what I’m pumped up about, honestly. People can say whatever they may be or whatever it is, but the reality is that we are going to bring as much joy as we can to this game, as much passion, as much energy, as much focus, as much gratefulness, and if we do that, great things are going to happen. That’s just what I believe."
Photo Credit: LANDOVER, MARYLAND - NOVEMBER 29: Kamren Curl #31 of the Washington Football Team sacks Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks during the third quarter at FedExField on November 29, 2021 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images)