SEATTLE – Mike Pettine felt OK about what the Browns defense accomplished on most of its first and second downs against one of the NFL's hottest offenses.
It was third down that ultimately doomed the Browns on an afternoon in which they couldn't get off the field when it mattered most.
Seattle converted three third downs on its first possession of the game and hit on a number of others to avoid punting on all but one of its eight possessions. As a result, the Seahawks dominated time of possession and methodically extended their lead after falling in an early 7-0 hole.
"We did a good job of getting them in longer third downs than they're used to," Pettine said. "Offensively they'd been very efficient in having most of their third downs be of the medium variety. We got them in a bunch of third-and-longs and couldn't get them off the field. That sums up the day … You're not going to be very successful."
The Seahawks boast the league's top-ranked rushing offense, yet they weren't able to deploy it much on the majority of their third downs because of the distance. When the Browns were able to force third downs, Seattle often needed 5 or more yards to move the sticks.
Russell Wilson and a slew of receivers kept the chains moving in the face of a Browns pass rush that brought constant pressure. Wilson's elusiveness and ability to extend plays were key at these pivotal moments, and the result was a 75 percent success rate (9-of-12) on third down.
Six of the Seahawks' nine third-down conversions came through the air. Another was picked up because of a pass interference penalty in the end zone and was subsequently followed by a touchdown on third-and-goal. Six were from third-and-6 or longer.
Seattle didn't punt until its first drive of the second half and had four possessions go 10 or more plays. It followed with a touchdown drive, a field goal drive and a possession that ended with a quarterback kneel to close out the 30-13 victory.
"We didn't make the plays when we had the opportunity to," linebacker Karlos Dansby said. "We had an opportunity to break up passes and we didn't break them up. We didn't make enough plays to win the game. It was a close game at first but we didn't make enough plays to really get over that hump against a great team."
One of the toughest to stomach came near the end of the third quarter with the game still well in balance. Trailing 20-10, Cleveland had Seattle pinned deep in its own territory and facing a third-and-6 from the 8-yard line. Wilson dropped back and found Fred Jackson on a dump pass that the veteran running back was able to corral with one hand and gain 7 yards to keep the drive alive.
Seven plays and 85 yards later, Seattle was in the end zone once more to take a 27-10 lead.
"If we get off the field, we're great," Dansby said. "But we didn't. We were playing against a great team and they made enough plays to win."