There isn't an offense in the NFL that's designed to play from behind the sticks, but there are certainly some that handle it better than others. Brian Schottenheimer noted on Thursday that the Seattle Seahawks are not a team that's built to recover from losing yards on early downs.
Sacks, penalties and negative runs led to unfavorable down and distances for the Seahawks throughout their Week 1 win against the Cincinnati Bengals. Four sacks allowed and a meager 2.9-yards per carry average limited Seattle to just 232 total yards. Because of those miscues and self-inflicted wounds, Schottenheimer said it was a "really weird game."
"When we do that we're not playing at our best level, because we're not great when we're behind the sticks," the team's offensive coordinator said.
Seattle was balanced for the most part on first down – running 11 times and passing nine times on 1st-and-10 – but the Seahawks averaged just 2.0 yards per carry and 6.44 yards per pass attempt in those situations.
The Seahawks had eight possessions (out of 12) go for 10 yards or fewer. Four went for negative yardage. So although the Seahawks went 4-of-7 on 3rd-and-9 or less, fans at CenturyLink Field voiced their displeasure following multiple lifeless drives.
"We had five (third downs) that were third and 16 plus," Schottenheimer said. "I mean, shoot, I was over there booing. ‘What are we doing?' Again, we own it and that's not the position you want to put yourself in."
Run plays in those situations are understandable – minimize risk, punt and live to fight another day. No offense is equipped to pick up a first down on 3rd-and-16+. What fans bemoaned, though, were the four run plays called on 2nd-and-10 and the one called on 2nd-and-16+. Those five plays went for a combined seven yards.
So is there a remedy to salvage drives when you get behind the sticks on first down?
"It's hard. I think that's one thing that we looked at as a staff this week, maybe some other calls or things that can help us," Schottenheimer said.
It's important to give the Bengals some credit. They gave the Seahawks multiple looks that Seattle's offense was unprepared for. Schottenheimer recalled Dre Kirkpatrick's sack of Russell Wilson late in the third quarter. Cincinnati called a "double corner cat blitz" on first down that resulted in a 9-yard loss.
"It was a really good blitz," Schottenheimer said. "It was a better call than what I had on at the time."
The Seahawks aren't going to change who they are. I suppose some silver lining to this is that Seattle knows the pitfalls of its own offense. But if its Achilles heel is falling behind the chains, the Seahawks better be productive on first downs if they hope to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 2.