Through the first three games of the regular season, a lack of ability to convert third downs regularly has been the biggest hindrance for the Seattle Seahawks offense.
The Seahawks rank 24th in the league in third-down conversion rate and were 0-for-6 in the first half of last week's 26-0 victory over the Chicago Bears. Seattle is converting just 36 percent of third-down opportunities so far this season, but wide receiver Doug Baldwin says the numbers are even worse when they're broken down a bit further.
"We're last in the league in third-and-three to six right now, and we didn't do too well, we had two mistakes on third-and-short this week that we should've gotten," Baldwin said.
Seattle improved in the second half, going 5-for-10 against Chicago as they pulled away for an easy victory. Nevertheless, the struggles to keep the chains moving are a key reason for Seattle's offensive struggles at times in the first three weeks.
"The first half really got screwed up because of the third-and-shorts that we didn't convert," head coach Pete Carroll said. "Normally we're really good there, and we didn't get them, so we lose all those third down opps. ... Once we started getting our third downs in the second half, and running, then everything worked out really well."
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said they were among the best in the league in converting those distances last season. The Seahawks hope to get into third-down situations with six-or-fewer yards to gain and Bevell believes they are giving themselves enough chances in that range. Now they just have to do a better job of being successful when they get there.
"We know that we have the ability to do it but we've just got to find a way to do it more consistently and earlier," Bevell said.
The Detroit Lions are ranked 26th in the league on third down defensively, allowing teams to convert 46 percent of the time.
Monday night's game against the Lions gives Seattle a chance to get back to .500 after an 0-2 start to the season.
"Heck yeah. There was a lot of relief with that," Carroll said of getting their first win last week. "But you're still looking at 1-2, so it's a long ways home. So we need to be very patient."
Meanwhile, the Lions will desperately be trying to avoid an 0-4 start to the season. To do so, they'll need to beat a Seattle team that has not lost a prime-time game at home in six seasons under Carroll. They are 13-2 in prime-time games over that span and have outscored their opponents 232-84 at home.
SERIES HISTORY: 13th regular-season meeting. Seahawks lead series, 7-5. Lions won last regular-season meeting, 28-24, in 2012. Seattle had won the prior three meetings.
--Head coach Pete Carroll said he fully expected his offensive line to be a work in progress this season. The Seahawks have two new starters in Drew Nowak at center and Garry Gilliam at right tackle. In addition, Justin Britt has moved to left guard after spending all of last season at right tackle.
Through the first three games of the season, the line has had its struggles. Quarterback Russell Wilson has been sacked 12 times, tied for second most in the league.
"We knew that they were not going to be a finished product as we started the season off," Carroll said. "We do like their approach and their toughness and their mentality about learning and the discipline that they're trying to generate in their play. They've got all the right stuff to make up a good group."
Nowak, a converted former defensive lineman, and Gilliam, a tight end for most of his college career, are getting their first starting opportunities in the NFL. They are still learning their roles and positions and getting more comfortable on a weekly basis.
"They're growing. They're working at it hard. Their confidence is gaining and we're going to see them continue to improve," Carroll said.
Carroll said it may take another 4-5 weeks until around midseason to know what the true potential of the unit can be.
--For just the second time in his career, Wilson has attempted at least 30 passes in a game in three consecutive games.
Wilson attempted a career-high 41 passes in the team's season opening 34-31 overtime loss to the St. Louis Rams. He's attempted 30 passes a piece in each of the last two games against Green Bay and Chicago.
The Seahawks have always been a run-first attack with Marshawn Lynch and Wilson in the backfield. Ultimately, Bevell said the fact they trailed in both St. Louis and Green Bay forced them to throw the ball a bit more frequently. But against Chicago, they wanted to open up the passing attack.
"In this last game, we wanted to come out and throw it a little bit early," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "We wanted to throw the ball a little bit. We never come out and say 'we want to do this. We want to do that.' We try different things every now and then."
Seattle managed just 125 yards of total offense in the first half and Wilson was just 9-of-14 for 95 yards. After halftime, the Seahawks offense had 246 yards with Wilson completing 11-of-16 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown. The running game also set up their play-action attack as Thomas Rawls had 98 of his 104 rushing yards in the second half.
"We would love to be our identity and we'd love to be able to run the ball and it sets up everything," Bevell said. "If you look at that second half, you saw kind of the style we were able to get to in that second half. We feel like that's us and that's kind of when we came to life."
Bevell said that he believes Wilson, now in his fourth season as the team's starting quarterback, is having his best year so far as a pocket passer.
BY THE NUMBERS: 5-0 - Seahawks record in games played on Monday Night Football since Pete Carroll took over as head coach in 2010. Seattle has outscored its opponents 119-58 in those games. Seattle has won its last nine Monday night games with the last loss a 43-39 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Dec. 2004.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's never really been a big deal for me, honestly. It's just another football game where you lose a lot of the day. You have to play at night for some apparent reason. I wish you could play early. I hate playing at night. I feel like it's a day wasted." -- CB Richard Sherman when asked about playing on Monday Night Football.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--RB Marshawn Lynch (hamstring) did not practice after being sidelined for the second half of last week's game against the Bears. Head coach Pete Carroll said it will take all week for them to figure out if Lynch will be able to play Monday.
--DT Brandon Mebane (groin) did not practice after leaving in the first quarter of last week's game. Head coach Pete Carroll said Mebane is also going to need the whole week to determine his availability.
--CB Tharold Simon (toe) did not practice Thursday and is questionable this week.
--S Steven Terrell (hip) did not practice Thursday and is questionable this week.
--DE Demarcus Dobbs (shoulder) did not practice Thursday and is questionable this week.
--TE Luke Willson (back) was a full participant Thursday after missing last week's game with back spasms.
--LB Kevin Pierre-Louis (knee) did not practice Thursday. Head coach Pete Carroll did not mention his injury on Wednesday.
--LB Bobby Wagner (ankle) was a full participant Thursday.
--LB Mike Morgan (hamstring) was a full participant Thursday.
--LB K.J. Wright (hip) was a full participant Thursday.
--The Lions rank last in the league in rushing through the first three weeks of the season. Detroit will have to succeed throwing the football against Seattle's stellar secondary to generate their offense. Matthew Stafford passed for 352 yards and three touchdowns in the last meeting between the two teams in 2012.
Linebackers K.J. Wright, Bobby Wagner and Bruce Irvin will have to play well in zones to cover the middle of the field against tight ends Eric Ebron and Brandon Pettigrew and former Seattle receiver Golden State.
Offensively, the Seahawks need to perform better on third downs. That will start with a successful running game and finding themselves in more convertible yardage situations. Thomas Rawls may have a large role in Seattle's backfield again this week if Marshawn Lynch is unable to play.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
--Seahawks CB Richard Sherman vs. Lions WR Calvin Johnson.
Sherman referred to himself as "Optimus Prime" to counter Johnson's "Megatron" moniker prior to the teams' last meeting in 2012. Johnson caught just three passes for 46 yards in the game with none of the catches coming against Sherman in coverage.
--Seahawks C Drew Nowak vs. Lions DT Haloti Ngata.
Nowak had his hands full with Aaron Donald of the St. Louis Rams and B.J. Raji of the Green Bay Packers in the first two games of the season. He'll have another challenge in Ngata. Seattle's offensive line has struggled to find consistency through the first three weeks of the season and Nowak's improved play could solidify the unit.