Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Explosive Plays Go *POOF*

Pete Carroll has made mention of "opening up the offense" and the lack of "explosive plays" a few times following the shutout loss to Pittsburgh. Explosive plays are defined differently by various sources, but most would agree the minimum yardage for an explosive play is 20. Some analysts will say a pass play must be 40+ yards to be explosive, while a running play only needs to be 20+ yards. Knowing how hard yardage has been to come by for the Seahawks, let's stick to a 20-yard minimum across the board. With that in mind, take a guess how many plays of 20+ yards the Seahawks have through eight quarters? Don't look it up. Just guess.

The correct answer is one. NFL.com apparently double-counts plays that are 40+ yards as also being 20+ yards. While, technically, that is accurate, it sure makes it difficult to compare with other teams unless you want to go through every play by every team. The Seahawks explosive play was the Doug Baldwin 55-yard touchdown against San Francisco. The Seahawks have no running plays over 20 yards through two games. In fact, they only have two running plays over 10 yards, and one of them was a 13-yard end-around to Ben Obomanu. Remember Shaun Alexander's streak of 68 straight games with a 10+ yard run? No Seahawks player broke double digits against the Steelers.

Now, take a guess at which team leads the NFL in explosive plays (20+ yards)? Nope. Try again. Nope. It's the Carolina Panthers with 16 passing plays of 20+ yards and zero running plays of 20+ yards. They have three passing plays of 40+ yards as well. Only 11 NFL teams have more than one running play of 20+ yards so far. The Buffalo Bills and Oakland Raiders share the lead with five apiece, followed by the Kansas City Chiefs. The top three explosive passing teams are Carolina, New England and Dallas. Huh, I wonder whether explosive passing or explosive running is more conducive to winning?

The Arizona Cardinals enter this weekend's game with 11 total explosive plays (9 passing, 2 rushing). Of their nine explosive pass plays, three went for 40+ yards. That's a big part of why they are 3rd in the NFL in yards per attempt at 9.8. The Seahawks are 31st in the NFL in that stat with a paltry 5.4 YPA.

There is hope on the flip-side. Seattle's defense is tied for 6th in the NFL in limiting explosive pass plays, with only five allowed so far. Arizona's defense ranks 29th in the NFL, having allowed 13 explosive pass plays, three for more than 40 yards. Seattle and Arizona are both among the 21 NFL teams that have allowed one explosive running play or less (both have allowed one).

Sidney Rice is clearly the Seahawks biggest deep threat, and he appears ready to play this weekend. That helps. No quarterback can throw deep if they are limited to three-step drops due to poor pass protection, so the line has to help. Finally, the quarterback and offensive coordinator must have the confidence and swagger to take a shot down-field. This Seahawks offense has a long way to go before it could be considered explosive, but the first step could come this weekend.

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