Seahawks Replay Booth: When preparation meets opportunity

Bob Levey

The film study that led to the pick six.

"It was a play we had seen on film that they like to run on short yardage. And coming out of the end zone, they like to jump it to the guy in the flat, roll Schaub out, and usually either send the fullback or the receiver on an in-and-back-out route with a corner out behind him. It was one of those plays where you have to take the opportunity for what it was. If you jump it, you're pretty much leaving the safety one-on-one with the corner route behind you. But, with our safety and our guys, Earl did a great job disguising it, I was able to jump it, but he didn't throw it where I thought he was. He kind of put air under it so his guy could grab it, and I was able to wrestle it away from him, then it was just heart and resilience." -Richard Sherman on Sunday's pick six.

A lot of people, mostly bitter Texans fans, will say that the Seahawks got lucky with the pick six in the 4th quarter. I'll throw myself in with the bitter bunch and say the Seahawks did get lucky. However, my feelings about luck may be different than theirs. To me, luck is when preparation meets opportunity.

So yes, the Seahawks did get lucky with that pick six in the fourth quarter. They got lucky that Gary Kubiak called that play, that Matt Schuab forced the ball into coverage, that Owen Daniels didn't out wrestle Sherman for the ball and all the other things that had to go right for the pick six to occur. However, the Seahawks never would have capitalized on this opportunity without hours of intense film study, excellent coaching and countless repetitions.

During those hours of film study, the Seahawks noticed that the Texans like to run a play that involves two WRs to one side of the formation, a TE to the other, a FB offset to the strong side and RB in the backfield. They then motion one of the WRs into a stacked alignment with the other WR. One of the WRs then runs a curl-out route and the other runs a corner route. The QB then executes a play action fake, rolls out to the weak side, with the primary WR being the one on the curl-out route and the secondary receiver being the one on the corner route.

Here is an example of the play against the Tennessee Titans - the Texans ran this in Week 2. Note that this is from the opponent's 40-yard line.

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Notice how the CB bails out to provide underneath assistance with the deep WR. This allows Andre Johnson to come wide open for a 6 yard gain.  This six yard gain is undoubtedly what the Texans were hoping to get on 3rd and 4 against the Seahawks. Also from the Seattle 40-yard line.

The version that the Texans ran against the Seahawks was slightly different than the version that they ran against the Titans. The version that they ran against the Seahawks was out of "22" personnel instead of "21" personnel, and Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels did the route combination instead of Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins. Also, the receiver that came in motion ran the curl-out route and the stationary receiver ran the corner route.

Despite these minor changes, it is more or less the same play from the same field position, but from a different personnel grouping. Regardless, Seattle knew to expect this play because of their study on play selection tendencies.

Down and distance. Field Position. Personnel. Formation. Play recognition. This is why you hear so much about tape study.

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Notice how Richard Sherman holds his ground just waiting for Daniels to run the out route right into him. He knew the Texans were going to run this play as soon as Daniels went in motion (and you can see him motioning to his cohorts to run what they had practiced). The Seahawks were in cover-3 so this was a huge gamble by Sherman. Though it was a gamble, it was a calculated one because he prepared earlier in the week to defend this specific play.  This psychic ability derived from hours of film study is a huge reason why Sherman is in the conversation for the best CB in the league.

Kam Chancellor also deserves huge amounts of credit for this play. He too knew this was play action from the start because he did not bite on the run at all. Chancellor's pressure forced Schuab to rush his throw to Daniels which allowed for Sherman to jump the route and take it to the house for six. Without the pressure from Chancellor, Schuab would have thrown it to Johnson on the corner route who was one on one with Earl Thomas, or at least had had more time to make a decision, throw the ball out of bounds, and regain a better base to make the throw. Thomas was in good position on Johnson but as Johnson proved throughout the game, even if a defender has good position on him, he can still come down with the catch.

In conclusion, the Seahawks played wonderful team defense on this play. This exemplary play was made possible by hours of film study and countless repetitions.  These hours and repetitions provided the preparation to capitalize on the opportunity to tie up the game late in the 4th quarter.

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