Much of Seattle’s struggles offensively can be traced back to the team’s inability to score in the red zone. Seattle finished with a 39.58 scoring percentage in the red zone, ranked 30th overall last season.
And in 2008 that number was a little better at 50 percent, good enough for 21st overall. By comparison, one of the best offenses in the league last season, the Indianapolis Colts, finished at 66 percent in red zone percentage in 2009, ranking second overall.
Red zone percentage, the measurement of a team’s ability to score once they are inside the other team’s 20-yard-line, is an important statistic in terms of Seattle putting pressure on its opponent by consistently putting points on the board when they are in scoring position.
Seattle seemed to struggle in this area for a couple reasons.
For one, they didn’t have a consistent running attack, limiting their options once they got near the goal line. Typically, the closer you get to the end zone, the harder it is to run the ball because the defense becomes compacted when they have less space to defend, limiting an offense’s ability to stretch the field and create running lanes. Seattle finished with only seven rushing touchdowns in 2009, tied for 27th overall.
Secondly, the Seahawks did not establish any “bread-and-butter” plays – a handful of plays that they could run in several different formations or using different motions that consistently worked for them once they got near the end zone. I thought that T.J. Houshmandzadeh and John Carlson would develop into good red zone targets for Seattle, but Matt Hasselbeck never developed a good rapport with Houshmandzadeh last season, and Carlson was kept in to block much of the time because of Seattle’s struggles in protecting Hasselbeck.
However, Carlson still finished with seven touchdowns on the year and has 12 touchdowns in two seasons with Seattle.
Seattle should be a better red zone team this season for several reasons. First, the addition of Russell Okung and Ben Hamilton has helped to solidify things up front, so Seattle’s second year running the zone blocking scheme should result in a more consistent running attack in all areas of the field, including the red zone.
And Seattle now has a good, short yardage and red zone back in LenDale White, who has a nose for the goal line.
The addition of tight end Chris Baker, along with improved play up front, should free Carlson up to get into the routes more. And having big receivers like Mike Williams, Reggie Williams, Mike Jones and Ruvell Martin available to use for fade routes or slant routes near the goal line should improve Seattle’s overall effectiveness throwing the ball into the end zone.
The second play is Hasselbeck’s fumble while trying to lateral to Justin Forsett for a first down against Tampa Bay. Technically this is outside the red zone because it takes play on the 27-yard line. But the play is a good example of some the poor decisions the Seahawks made when getting close to the end zone.