Skip to main content

Seattle Seahawks Making Strides Finishing in Red Zone

While the Seattle Seahawks have have still left points on the field in the first three games, a more potent short yardage rushing attack and a crisp Geno Smith have led to significant improvements finishing drives inside the opposing 20-yard line through three games.

Though they finished in the top 10 in scoring offense and made the postseason in large part due to their prolific passing attack, struggling to finish drives stood out as a significant pitfall for Geno Smith and the Seattle Seahawks last season.

Despite having a resurgent Smith under center with dynamic weapons such as Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, and Rookie of the Year runner up Ken Walker III around him, Seattle ended the season ranked a dismal 27th overall in red zone touchdown percentage at 49.28 percent. Only one other playoff team - Baltimore - posted a lower success rate finding the end zone inside the opposing 20-yard line.

After coach Pete Carroll and the coaching staff made situational offense a top priority during training camp and the preseason, however, those efforts have paid early dividends with the Seahawks taking a significant step forward in the red zone during a 2-1 start.

Scoring 67 points in back-to-back wins over Detroit and Carolina, Seattle turned seven out of 11 red zone trips into six points, producing touchdowns on 63 percent of those drives. In command under center, Smith has thrown four red zone touchdowns and Walker has already found the end zone four times, vaulting the team up to a respectable 11th in the NFL through three weeks.

What's been the biggest difference for Seattle so far compared to a year ago? Interestingly, Smith's red zone performance hasn't necessarily been the driving force behind the improvement.

A year ago, Smith actually struggled at times throwing in tighter windows near the end zone, completing just 52.8 percent of his red zone pass attempts and ranking 22nd among qualified quarterbacks in that category. On the positive side, he did throw 18 touchdown passes without any interceptions, joining Tom Brady and Tua Tagovailoa as the only quarterbacks in the league with 15 or more red zone touchdowns and no interceptions.

Through three games, albeit with a limited sample size, Smith has completed just nine out of 18 attempts for 63 yards, a 50 percent completion rate, four touchdowns, and a 97.9 passer rating. While those numbers are obviously respectable, the quarterback's production doesn't explain why Seattle is nearly 20 percent more efficient producing touchdowns in the red zone.

Seattle Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker III (9) celebrates with offensive tackle Raiqwon O'Neal (79) after rushing for a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers during the fourth quarter at Lumen Field.

Ken Walker III found the end zone twice on short touchdown runs to help the Seahawks push past the Panthers in Week 3, doubling his red zone total from a year ago after just three games.

Instead, the real game changer for the Seahawks thus far has been improved blocking at the line of scrimmage and far more efficient production from Walker in short yardage and goal line situations.

A year ago, even with Walker surpassing 1,000 yards, Seattle ranked among the NFL's worst red zone rushing teams. The dynamic rookie did score seven of his nine touchdowns inside the 20, but only two of those plays happened from 10 yards or closer and he rushed for just seven yards on 16 attempts in those situations.

Inside the five, Seattle struggled even more as Walker netted negative three yards on nine carries with a single touchdown, the only rushing score the team had from five yards or closer all season long.

But if there's an area where the Seahawks have shown the most drastic improvement from last season to this season, punctuating drives with the run game may take the cake. Pulling a 180 degree turn from last year's dreadful numbers with the offensive line creating more push, Walker already has scored four touchdowns on nine rushing attempts inside the five-yard line, tying for the most by any back in the league through three weeks.

This included a pair of key rushing touchdowns in the second half to put away the Panthers last weekend as Walker finished with over 150 all-purpose yards and received NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors for his efforts.

Based on advanced metrics, Seattle's effectiveness in short yardage via the run hasn't just improved in the red zone. According to, thanks to the hard running of Walker and rookie Zach Charbonnet and a more physical front line, the team has produced 0.880 expected points added and an 80 percent success rate per run play on third and fourth downs, ranking first and third in the NFL in the two statistics respectively.

In the grand scheme of things, while tangible growth has already been evident, the Seahawks still have plenty of room to improve inside the opposing 20. In last week's victory over the Panthers, they had to settle for Jason Myers field goals on all three of their first half red zone trips after failing to move the chains or find the end zone on third down, which won't cut it against superior opponents.

"We might've scored seven times in the game, but Jason Meyers has a record day because we can't get our first downs," Carroll bemoaned after the game. "Have to convert on third down, and we’ve got to just capture the opportunity of the drive. It didn't get any more obvious than that. That is where we're focusing. It's carrying over a little bit. We've seen this for a couple weeks. It's not good enough."

From a situational football standpoint, even considering the aforementioned success in the run game, third downs in general remain the most pressing area of concern for Seattle moving forward. Unlike the red zone, numbers have not improved as hoped extending and sustaining drives, as the team currently ranks 28th out of 32 teams with a poor 30.3 conversion rate. That's somehow worse than a year ago when Carroll's squad finished 20th with a 38.3 percent conversion rate.

For his part, Smith hasn't been on top of his game on money downs, completing just 50 percent of his throws with one touchdown and one interception. On third down drop backs, the Seahawks have only turned 28.6 percent of their opportunities into a new set of downs, ranking 28th in the league.

With the season still young and the calendar set to flip to October, Seattle has plenty of time to address that deficiency starting with Monday's upcoming prime time matchup against the New York Giants. If there's a reason for optimism, look no further than the marked improvements in the red zone to this point.

Given the talent around Smith on the outside, Walker and Charbonnet's presence in the backfield, and an improved offensive line that should get healthier with the return of Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas in coming weeks, the Seahawks should be well-positioned to see their third down efficiency also trend in a positive direction. Already boasting the fourth-ranked scoring offense in spite of those issues, reaching their true ceiling as a group depends on it.