Reloaded: Using Play-Action Out of "13" Personnel

DENVER - SEPTEMBER 19: Wide receiver Deon Butler #11 of the Seattle Seahawks makes a reception as cornerback Andre Goodman #21 of the Denver Broncos pursues to make the tackle at INVESCO Field at Mile High on September 19 2010 in Denver Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Seahawks 31-14. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

I often marvel at the amount of work that goes into writing for this site, not just from me, but the hours and hours that are dedicated to writing, researching, and watching football (for study, not necessarily enjoyment) from all the staff. Those long hours of work have gone into bringing our readers, Seahawks fans, hopefully insightful and educational analysis that is interesting to read and makes watching the games more enjoyable - that's the goal anyway. I'm well aware that the pace at which we write here can lead to articles getting buried down into the Field Gulls archives fairly quickly, so with that in mind I've decided to start re-featuring some of the still-relevant analytical or commentary pieces from over the last year or so, because in my opinion, frankly, most of them are worth another read. This should give you another chance to delve into some of our in-depth analysis if you missed it the first time, and should give the author a much-deserved front-page slot a second time around.

I find myself going back in my spare time and reading or re-reading a lot of things from writers I respect - Chris Brown, Matt Bowen, Doug Farrar, Greg Cosell, or delving into books now by Pat Kirwin, Brian Billick, Ron Jaworski - and find that even if the subject material is in reference to a play or game that happened a year or more ago, the nuts and bolts football X's and O's, details, schemes, theories, or ideas don't become irrelevant or any less applicable to the current state of the NFL or the Seahawks. Similarly, I can go back to articles written here and find awesome nuggets of information or insight that I missed, glossed over, or more importantly, didn't really understand the first time I read it. Really, this is what has inspired me to re-post older articles now and again going forward. Hopefully you all are cool with that, because I think there's a distinct difference between linking back to something (how many people really click on hyperlinks?) and re-featuring it on the front page. I'm going to re-publish an article or two of my own today (this won't be a daily thing - but just wanted to kick this off), but ultimately going forward it's also a way to say thanks to my co-writers for putting together such great work at this site by bumping their stuff back to the front.

Anyway - I wrote about play-action this morning after seeing some interesting numbers from Football Outsiders, so there are a couple of articles I wanted to point you to today and tomorrow as well. The first of which I wrote on June 3rd, breaking down some examples where the Seahawks used play-action. See it after the jump.

The Hawks used a heavy dose of play-action in their Week 17 23-20 loss to Arizona - and with the addition of Kellen Winslow this offseason I can see the Seahawks upping the ante there going forward as they potentially increase their usage of multiple tight end sets. Depending on who emerges from the tight end group as TE3, there are quite a few things the Seahawks can do with these 'heavy' sets - power runs, seam passes, dumpoffs - the versatility and ability to disguise run/pass from this grouping is what makes it effective.

Below, I've broken down a couple plays out of the same initial look, one pass and one run.

One of the things that you'll hear the Seahawks' coaching staff talk about when it comes to their dedication to the run, Marshawn Lynch, and the acquisition of Kellen Winslow, is that teams began to stack the box with seven, eight and even nine defenders to counter their success there at the end of the season last year. Below is a nice example on a second down, with the Seahawks backed up into their own end.

2-10-SEA 12 (8:29 2nd Quarter) M.Lynch up the middle to SEA 19 for 7 yards (D.Dockett).

Below, you can see that for all intents and purposes there are nine defenders loaded up to stop the run. That leaves Deon Butler on an island on the wing with a deep safety patrolling the middle of the field. The Seahawks just run it anyway. This is where Marshawn Lynch proves his worth. Below you see Seattle in a three tight end set, Cameron Morrah, Anthony McCoy set back off the line, Zach Miller in-line, and Marshawn Lynch in the backfield.

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The ball is snapped. Lemuel Jeanpierre, starting at RG for an injured John Moffitt, pulls left, followed closely by both Anthony McCoy and Cameron Morrah.

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The Cardinals read it well - Jeanpierre attacks the OLB to the left, and McCoy is charged with lead blocking through the hole.

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The play doesn't really look like it's going to go anywhere. The Cards play it well enough with their nine men in the box. Below, you can see that Lynch has broken off up a seam that has emerged in what looks to give him a yard or two before he runs into a pile.

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In typical Lynch fashion though, he keeps his feet churning and with the help of a few pile-moving offensive linemen, grabs an additional five or six yards. This has got to be demoralizing for the defense.

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Fast forward a few minutes and possessions and you can find the Seahawks in a similar situation, down and distance. The Cardinals would naturally go to their scouting report, which says in this formation, down and distance, the Seahawks like to run, and did so earlier in the game.

2-10-SEA 20 (3:23 2nd Quarter) T.Jackson pass deep left to D.Butler pushed ob at ARZ 49 for 31 yards (S.Acho). PENALTY on SEA-P.McQuistan, Offensive Holding, 10 yards, enforced at SEA 20 - No Play.

The play actually doesn't even count due to a hold by Paul McQuistan, but it works for the study of strategy and execution, for the most part (apart from the hold, obviously). Seahawks lined up in exactly the same set and the Cardinals respond again with an 8- or 9-man look for their front.

Morrah, McCoy, and Miller set right, with Deon Butler out on the wing left. Lynch the lone back.

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Ball is snapped. McCoy pulls left, which grabs the attention of the right DE. The play action works fairly well here - you can see several defenders moving toward the line of scrimmage.

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Below, you can see the Cardinals defense recognize the play-action but now it's much too late. Deon Butler is already ten yards deep and one in a one-on-one situation with the cornerback. He'll sink down and comeback toward the sideline after getting a little deeper to his side. The play action has effectively created a big enough cushion in that deep zone by sucking the DE to that side in toward the line of scrimmage right off the bat. You'll see him try to adjust but he cannot react quickly enough.

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Above, you'll see Morrah running up the seam, which should grab the attention of the middle third safety. Below, you'll see LT Paul McQuistan blow his block and then egregiously hold his man.

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Turns out McQuistan didn't even need to grab his defender's ankle, as Tarvaris locks and loads and throws a deep out to Butler, who has done a great job of getting separation on the sideline. I should note this is a pretty tough throw - the deep comeback - and the quarterback must put a lot of zip on it to prevent the pass from getting batted down or intercepted by the cornerback.

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Ball is complete. Play doesn't count. The use of play action is clear though.

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