I've got a partially written article on the Seahawks passing game. But it won't be finished till the 49ers video retrospective comes out and I can get a look at Thursday's game. In the mean time, I'm going to breakdown Rice's game winning TD catch versus the Pats. Mostly because that's a more pleasant subject than what happened on Thursday.
If you think only running two routes against seven guys in coverage is crazy, you're not alone. Bevell called for eight blockers because both of the routes take a long time to develop. And with enough time, the play actually comes down to a 1-on-1 situation. Hence the 8 blockers. Just a way to make sure that "enough time" happens.
The first thing the offense does is a play-action fake. This effectively takes all 3 LBs out of the play. #1 and #2 both react strongly to the fake, stepping upfield and towards the offensive left. Their reaction was well warranted. There's 4 blockers (Okung, Carp, Unger, M-Rob) center/left. There's also 4 defenders (the 2 LBs, the DT and DE). If everyone makes their blocks, Lynch goes up the left side for a modest gain before getting tackled by a safety. If the LB's don't rotate that way, he takes it to the house.
LB#3 drifts that way, but is clearly responsible for a cutback, rather than making a play on the ball carrier. His motion is important not because it takes him out of the play, but because it helps sell the slant route. More on that later.
On the Orange part of Tate's route he gets an inside release. With the play fake sucking the LBs towards the line of scrimmage he gets behind them easily. I don't know for sure how the play was drawn up, but I believe Tate had an option route here. Had the Free Safety (defender #5 in the first picture) bit on the run fake as well, and had aggressively come into the box, I suspect Tate would have run the post away from the corner and behind the safety. It's the dotted green line in the first picture, and goes directly into my wall of text in the second one. With the safety forwards this is an easy completion for a bunch of yards.
My suspicion is supported by the fact that Russell is looking at Tate at this point. This both lets him see if the route is available, and keeps the free safety on that side of the field.
But the play action didn't move the FS at all. So instead Tate ran the odd question-mark looking curl. The route's completely dead and isn't designed to get him open. Instead, combined with Wison's look it keeps the FS on that side of the field, instead of drifting into the center where Rice's route is designed to go. Effectively Tate's running a clear route at this point, except he's clearing the deep middle rather than an underneath route.
With Tate's route dead, it's Rice or nothing.
The first two parts of Rice's route are what's known as a Slant and Go, or Sluggo route. The blue part of the route heads inside and behind the LBs. Here's where the LB drifting to the offensive left is important. The corner (who can see the play action) thinks the play is a slant. Knowing he's got safety help over the top, he sells out to prevent the quick hitter, spinning his hips and running sideways across the field. As soon as the corner's hips are turned and his momentum is carrying him parallel to the line of scrimmage, Rice cuts upfield in a single step. This red portion is the "go" in sluggo. The defender has to halt his momentum and accelerate to full speed, while Rice merely has to keep running. This results in the corner being burned easily.
With the LBs out of the play on the run fake, Tate occupying 2 defenders and the Corner burned by the slant and go, the play comes down to Rice one on one against the strong safety (Defender #7 in our first diagram). Yup. 7 guys in coverage and its STILL a 1 on 1.
To beat the Safety (Travon Wilson) Rice employs a double move that uses the same principle as the move he used on the CB. Scroll back up to the second picture (go ahead, I'll wait). You'll notice that Wilson is playing inside. Sidney's first move on him (the purple part) is a gentle drift towards the sideline. Wilson sees rice heading for the sideline and is forced to defend the corner route. To cover that much ground, he turns his hips to the edge of the field and charges hard in that direction.
Rice, whose hips and momentum are largely going downfield, easily manages to cut left in a single step. Circle the foot Danny! Wilson takes three steps to mimic the move, (yes I #$#%ing counted) and is beaten like he was dating Chris Brown.
The Patriots ain't from china baby, 'cause nobody's got Rice.