Richard Sherman may be getting all the bad press, but if you ask Pete Carroll, the Seattle Seahawks' problems on defense can be summed up in one stat.

"We've had 13 (instances of) third-and-2 or less in the last two weeks. That's really hard to win like you would like to on third down," Carroll told reporters Wednesday. "We have to play better ball on earlier downs, and then we have to get off when we have our chances. But it has been kind of a theme here allowing these third-and-shorts and not getting out of those. That's really the focus."

The Seahawks have allowed opponents to convert 58 percent (31 of 53) on third downs in the past three games. On Monday night they allowed 30 first downs to Buffalo.

The inability to stop teams on third down has kept the defense on the field too long and kept the Seahawks from winning the time-of-possession battle.

Carroll still put a positive spin on it, and despite the defensive letdowns the Seahawks sit atop the NFC West at 5-2-1.

"I think we're getting stronger," he said. "If we've endured it, I think we're in pretty good shape. If we can get a game of 60 or 70 plays, it's going to seem like a lark. We'll see if we can change it a little bit."

The timing of the struggles on defense is troubling because the Seahawks appear to be morphing offensively and potentially exposing their defenders to even more time on the field. Seattle enters this week 30th in the NFL in rushing, averaging just 75.4 yards per game, and in Monday's win had 26 passes and just 12 runs. No matter who is in the backfield, Seattle has been unable to establish the run and keep drives moving on the ground. Seattle has one offensive drive of longer than 6 minutes in the past five games and ranks 25th in the league in time of possession.

And with Seattle visiting New England on Sunday night, with Tom Brady on a tear, the Seahawks need to figure it out fast.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.