This Week In Defense: Seahawks at Colts

Michael Hickey

Narrative of the game:

Lots of folks were leery of this game in terms of whether or not the offense could come in and be effective after really lacking strong starts in previous road matchups. Some may have been overlooking the offensive game of the Colts while believing the Texans had been a bigger challenge, and I was feeling, personally, that if we contained T.Y. Hilton that we would be okay, defensively.

[1st Qtr 1:18 1st and 10] A.Luck pass deep right to T.Hilton for 73 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

You all know this play. It's already been broken down to death in the span of the 24-hours since the game (at the time I am writing this). It just keeps making me angrier and angrier. A 73-yard catch by T.Y. Hilton. A guy that the team should have highlighted - and even Pete says they had him circled in this game as the Colts' big play threat.

A couple of key points for the break down.

1) The play call by the Colts is fantastic here. It's 1st and 10 and in their first three drives they ran or quick screened it on these situations.

2) There is a soft zone call - obvious by how Sherman plays at the snap. This play alone changed the entire complexion of the game and it had to do with one guy getting confused and one being far too late to impact the play. I don't like the defensive playcall, first off. T.Y. is their big play threat, you run doubles on him any way you can regardless of formation or any motion or call you find HIM and eliminate HIM in passing downs.

Sherman though, he plays in-between, but it's worse than that. He knows T.Y. is there but almost seems to ignore him as he runs by. Richard assumes Earl Thomas is going to get this all day. TY Hilton is too fast for even Earl Thomas to catch him on a flag pattern from his single high spot.

Sherman can't press from this position because he'd be vulnerable to the out and up pattern against the formation. So, the Colts have taken his best asset away. However, Sherman doesn't even react as he assume's Earl has the play and you can see him start to slow up as he sees Earl coming over. It's quite clear that Earl did not see it until Hilton breaks to the sideline away from him. It's a wonderfully executed play but avoidable by the Seahawks. The thing that makes me really angry is Sherman's jogging as he assumed Earl was going to make the play. This isn't what I wanna see from a guy who believes himself to be the best corner in the league.

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Side note: These plays have been a habit for Sherman over the last two years. I previously documented a similar case in which Kam Chancellor and Sherman mis-communicated on a coverage in Detroit and it resulted in a long TD pass to Titus Young. Again, Sherman had a huge TD play against the Falcons go against him when he thought Kam had some responsibility in the deep middle. He said later that that catch was a result of a good disguise by the Falcons. This play here makes it three of the same type - Richard specifically gets off the hook for the first two because safeties could have helped him, but this is starting to become a way in which teams target Seatte's secondary.

[2nd Qtr 5:16 2nd and 13] A.Luck sacked at IND 7 for -9 yards (B.Irvin).

Bruce Irvin gets a sack.

I like Bruce Irvin so much. It wasn't all bad for the Hawks and Bruce shows great instincts to prove he's all ready for his new role. I'm sure some of the play calls were limited as this was his first game back, but after what they saw and we saw, it's gotta be full speed ahead with Irvin as your Clay Mathews type playmaker.

One thing I noticed about Bruce when I combed his college highlight package was his instincts for locating the football. After a 2010 season plus 5 games filled with the potential wasted by Aaron Curry, it was the ball instincts that first made my eyes pop out. It's not just speed guys, it's finish.

Lots of guys can get into the backfield, but it takes true patience and skill to finish. We saw Bruce earlier in the game make a play against the run where he was patient and held his leverage perfectly before he finished in strong fashion. This was more impressive. The Colts' blocking scheme is unable to match wits with brilliant pressure call.  I say that because the Seahawks bring Wagner on a blitz and Bruce moves unblocked to apply pressure. The tackle thinks he has to block Red Brant, who instead slants in toward the guard, and is late to come back and block a blitzing Bobby Wagner. This means the backs are left with two blitzing LBs - #46's attempt to block Irvin, but he's got a head of steam and the angle. Red Bryant's great move off the snap made the decision impossible for for the tackle to just pass Bryant's rush to the guard entirely. Successful pressures all about moving parts. Bruce gets a sack with a great rush. Love the design.

So many times we see rushers with free runs like this really try and run through a blocker to get to the QB. Bruce does this little dip move and it leaves their extra blocking TE grabbing mostly at air. Luck doesn't even have time to unload the ball as he's taken down.

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Side Note: Bruce Irvin has much more of a chance at double digit sacks this year as he will get free runs at the QB. Pete Carroll and Dan Quinn are really good designers of pressures and so I think we will see many more situations where they draw up things to get him 1-on-1 vs TEs and RBs, and I can't wait to start breaking these plays down because we haven't really had much exotic pressures to look at yet, and the Seahawks aren't exactly facing the best lines in the coming weeks. Bruce is also going to add a threat teams have to respect opening up potential for other players to step up.

[3rd Qtr 6:35 3rd and 5] (6:35) (Shotgun) A.Luck pass short middle to C.Fleener to IND 46 for 11 yards (K.Wright)

This play really exemplifies the problems with defending Luck. This play is actually defended well at first. K.J. Wright, who has had a nice season so far and is much farther along in his awareness in pass coverage than last year, kind of gets shrugged off by Colts TE Coby Fleener, who then runs in behind Sherman who doesn't even realize what has happened. KJ can't get back to him and Luck's ability to step up and away from the pressure of Michael Bennett creates enough time for Fleener to get to open space.

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[3rd Qtr 4:32 1st and 10] A.Luck pass deep left to T.Hilton for 29 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

Another quality 1st and 10 call by the Colts. I was disappointed on this play immensely, because Brandon Browner played so well last year in deeper man coverage. After a really bad 3rd and 17 passing TD surrendered to the Washington football team and Rex Grossman in 2011, Browner really did not get beat deep at all the following year.

This play he just looks slow, not unathletic or anything, just like he's in between - perhaps he's expecting a back shoulder or something. If you watch his reaction, it's like he's peeking in at another route while running down the sideline with Hilton, and unfortunately he gets caught in between on a great throw by Luck, and gets burned.

Side note: I heard some people ask if Browner is a liability in coverage. My personal opinion is that in most cases, no he is not. He plays with good leverage and controls plays on deeper throws with solid technique. He is going to get flagged - that's what being his size will do to him. He had a really nice game against the Texans and other than a slant and a couple of back shoulder fades he blanked his opponents. This play really has been a rarity for him so I don't see it as a problem. Brandon's biggest issues are in some zone looks or in the redzone, where his lack of quickness and agility can be exploited in short space.

Lastly:

I do not have a specific play to illustrate Walter Thurmond's game, but I have to say I came away impressed with him. Andrew Luck is impressive, but Thurmond made every completion Luck got in his area tough. He got picked a few times, but for the most part he was velcro'd to his man and a couple of tough plays have just increased my confidence that this is the guy we want at nickel cornerback.

Overall view of the game:

I hated this game plan. Double T.Y. Hilton like Julio Jones. It should have been all over the whiteboards in meeting rooms. Hell, I'd even have written it on the back of my eyelids if I was the Seahawks' DC. He burned Seattle for two plays resulting in 105 passing yards and two touchdowns.

You make that production go somewhere else, and who knows what could have happened. I had this kid circled myself, knowing all too well Seattle's history of troubles with smaller, quicker receivers. Everything else went okay with the defense. Everyone came out of that game saying that the LOB got torched, and they did, but it wasn't like Andrew Luck was 33 of 47 for 450 yards and 5 TDs (he finished with 16 completions for 229 yards). So, I don't know that I am super down on the LOB just yet. I may be down on Dan Quinn and Pete Carroll this week though. Also Reggie Wayne is a beast, ok? Runs great routes, schooled Sherman on a slant like a child, and just had a second half where he was just a step ahead of the 'Hawks defenders.

Game Ball:

This week there really wasn't a consistent standout and that is disappointing after their efforts on the road last week. No one really took hold of this game at any position on the defense and so I won't be selecting anyone this week.

Needs work:

The LOB must lick their wounds. It's time for Richard Sherman to double down and stop these in-between plays or plays where he gets "tricked" by formations or offensive gimmicks. You wanna be the best and run your mouth about it, you better back it up and no more jogging in coverage, please.

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