This ugly series by the Broncos proved to be the game-winning drive. Blech.
I only have the stomach for notes.
Denver aligns with three wide receivers on the left. Seattle, inexplicably, counters with just two defensive backs. And that's exceptionally frustrating, because the Seahawks are in dime. It's a zone, and like most zones, it's chopped up, but not through time in the pocket and route running, not this play, but by a screen to Demaryius Thomas. Denver has blockers and position and the Seahawks are lucky to survive at all.
- Denver only ran for 20 yards on this drive, but it was a big part of the drive's success. Denver had five successful runs and converted two first downs on the ground. The 49ers ignored the Leo, or at least didn't specifically attack it. Denver attacked it mercilessly.
- First run: Daniel Graham blocks out Chris Clemons and that allows Ryan Clady to run into the second level and block David Hawthorne. Knowshon Moreno runs right in front of Clemons and Clemons is able to disengage and tackle, but only after five.
- Second run: Daniel Graham blocks out Chris Clemons and that allows Russ Hochstein to run into the second level and block David Hawthorne. Earl Thomas and Marcus Trufant combine to stop Moreno after four. Defensive backs making run stops, that's typically bad.
- Third run: Converted because where the ball is spotted. Was it a good spot? I don't know. I do not believe the officials really know where the ball was when Correll Buckhalter was tackled.
- Daniels blocks Raheem Brock, Hochstein pulls left, but, for whatever reason, Moreno decides to cut back right and towards the Seahawks strong side. Red Bryant closes the hole by blasting free of Dan Gronkowski and Tatupu evades Hochstein to shoot across the backfield and tackle Moreno for no gain.
- Exceptional play by Aaron Curry: Curry sprints around Gronkowski, around right end and flies into the backfield. He vaults Moreno and closes on Kyle Orton. Orton looks left, finds Graham disengaging from Brock, and passes. Graham receives but is immediately swarmed by Blue. Seahawks surround Graham, but it's Curry, from right end, around Gronkowski, over Moreno, from right of Orton, that closes and tackles Graham for a loss of four.
Seahawks substitute three quarters of their defensive line. Bryant, Kentwan Balmer, Junior Siavii and Brock are entrusted to create pressure, and in a game where pressure was scarce, this was an extinction. Broncos play fake. Seahawks counter by milling around the line of scrimmage. Thomas runs a curl in front of Trufant. Orton steps into an immaculate pocket and fires for an easy completion.
Tatupu lands a late hit. Total yardage gained: 35.
So, the Leo sucks against the run, the secondary botches third and 18, the Seahawks new and bigger defensive line is incapable of providing even the most basic of pass rush, and a drive that slumped to third and 14 in Broncos territory now looks certain to score. With time ticking down in the second quarter, and the Broncos looking to build an insurmountable lead, McDaniels exploited every obvious weakness, and it worked.
Here's an interesting wrinkle: Seahawks attempt to protect the Leo and it backfires. Graham motions left and opposite Leo end Raheem Brock. Hawthorne sprints wide, to counter Graham. Essentially, Curry, as the strongside linebacker, typically plays up by the line, and Hawthorne, the weakside linebacker, plays more towards center, around the guard-tackle area. Hawthorne moves into a strongside position, so that Seattle is accounting for gaps, initial and created. It works. Graham blocks Hawthorne and Clady blocks Clemons. It doesn't work. Graham blocks out Hawthorne and Clady trucks Clemons. Seven yards in, Milloy pops the ball free and it rolls out bounds, ending the play.
I didn't know if the Leo end would be enough to undermine what otherwise looks like a great run defense, but the right combination of running back and offensive coordinator is going to punish this team. Jimmy Raye ignored it. McDaniels did not, and when he had to, the Seahawks weak side proved an easy target.
On the next play, Clemons runs around Clady and forces an incomplete. This is, through two quarters, the first play Clemons disrupts. Seattle, for the entire game, had one quarterback hit: Brock's sack.
How pitiful is that?
On Clemons disruption/forced incomplete, Hawthorne keyed Buckhalter the entire way and was ready to tackle or force an incomplete should Orton have thrown a better pass. Your Seattle Seahawks: stack the execution; stack the failure.
How much do you hate the three man rush? A lot, eh? I like it, when the Seahawks have the proper personnel. You know what I hate? The two man rush. Seahawks rush two. Nose tackle Brandon Mebane does not rush, but instead controls/spies. Why? Well, you certainly wouldn't want your best defensive linemen doing something useful. No pressure, Mebane accomplishes nothing, back to the drawing boards.
Orton eats a club sandwich and then finds Thomas flashing free in front of Milloy, and hits him for nine and the first.
The two man rush didn't work, so let's mix it up. Seahawks set in a standard 4-3, but Raheem Brock drops into coverage in the left flat. Thomas curls. Brock over-pursues left. Kelly Jennings over-pursues underneath. Thomas catches and is tackled after nine by Brock and Jennings. Nothing like sacrificing a pass rusher to create a liability in coverage.
Gronkowski pulls from right to left and blocks Brock, Clady pulls forward and blocks Hawthorne, and Moreno runs for two and the first off left end. Thomas makes the tackle.
Tatupu sniffs out the screen to Eddie Royal but misses the tackle. Mercifully, Trufant works through Brandon Lloyd's block and Thomas screams from the end zone and the two cap the play after four.
Gronkowski blocks Clemons, setting a soft edge on the right. Eric Olsen pulls out to block Curry but Curry fights through and teams with Thomas to tackle Moreno off right end.
Seahawks survive when Orton misses a wide open Buckhlater releasing towards the right flat.