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The Tape: Second Half Reflections 9/11

  • The one thing that the Seahawks opening drive of the second proved unequivocally is that quick slants just do not work against the cover two. The Hawks attempted two and both were blown up the second the receiver caught the ball. It's lucky, considering the game plan, a younger, more powerful Bucs team would have probably laid somebody out on one of those routes. They face that younger, more powerful Tampa 2 in week 11 when the Bears come to town. Hopefully by then they will shelve the quick slant before someone gets broken in two.

    While I'm talking about the Tampa 2, I've read a rather erroneous idea tossed around as late: That the Tampa 2 was designed to shut down a team's top two wide receivers. It's one of those viral factoids that someone says, others repeat and it becomes almost common knowledge without ever passing scrutiny. The Colts, Bears and Bucs have all used the Tampa 2 the last two seasons.

    According to Football Outsiders their overall pass defenses have been, Colts: 18th, 4th. Bears: 2nd, 1st. Bucs: 27th, 14th.

    Compared to their performance against only #1/#2 WRs, Colts: 29th/22nd, 6th/7th. Bears: 21st/2nd, 8th/13th. Bucs: 27th/26th, 5th, 16th.

    That's right, with little variation #1 and #2 receivers have outperformed other receivers versus the Tampa 2. The Tampa 2 stifles short passes, the Hawks happen to use their primary receivers on many short passes, especially slants, therefore in the Hawks' Walsh style offense primary wide receivers suffer, but shutting down the #1 and #2 receivers is not the emphasis of the Tampa 2. Sheesh.

  • Shaun gets credit for his own fumble on the eighth play of the Hawks' fourth drive of the second half. Not sole credit, but damn near. The Hawks are using an unbalanced formation right, with both wide receivers to the right, a wing formation with Mack Strong to the right and only Marcus Pollard on the left side. A formation this unbalanced is usually a run play for Seattle, and being third and one, the Bucs look like they know what's coming.

    Here's the play design: Both wide receivers fake pass routes but quickly, very quickly, break into run support. Strong is the lead blocker. Shaun's job is to explode through the right B gap, the one between the guard and tackle. Rob Sims and Chris Spencer are attempting to collapse the middle of the Bucs line, not just block but really collapse it. Both employ low, take-out style blocks. Chris Gray and Sean Locklear are attempting to pull the remaining defenders hard right. The play is not designed to do anything but pick up the first down. No one is drive blocking and the resulting hole created is definitely more a crease than a `92 Cowboys HOLE.

    Once the play starts the first mistake is made by Strong who doesn't get a good block on Barrett Rudd. It's not disastrous, per se, but Rudd definitely gets penetration too quickly. Regardless, the crease is still there and should Alexander simply blow forward a first down should be converted. Instead, sensing pressure, Alexander cuts to the outside. This play is designed with zero outside containment. Now in the flat he's a sitting duck. He fumbles, recovers, but really never had a shot. Alexander can be a very undisciplined rusher, and this was big mistake that just escaped being disastrous. I would like to see Maurice Morris, who's better at simply taking what his defense gives him, get more looks on third and short plays. This was an easily convertible play and instead of converting the third down and extending a potentially back breaking drive, he not only failed to convert, but made such a blunderous decision that nearly caused a turnover.

  • Final play, sorry guys I've got to house sit tonight, is one filled with intrigue. I watched this over and over attempting to sort out all the intricacies, and though I'm still not certain about everything that happened, I have some ideas.

    The series ends with Morris making a tumbling catch in the endzone for the score.

    Let's start with the first play of the drive. Leonard Weaver's in as the lone back. Seattle's in a three wide, single tight formation. Weaver pops into the flat, Beck scrambles for three, but what's interesting here is that after the play ends Beck chews out Weaver seemingly because he ran the wrong formation or was supposed to stay back and block.

    Flash ahead to the presnap huddle on the seventh play of the drive. The Hawks only have 10 men on the field, and once everyone gets to the line of scrimmage that becomes clear. Someone, possibly Holmgren, calls a timeout from the side line. Beck, again, is visibly agitated. The camera zooms on him approaching Holmgren and I think I see his lips say: something, something "Wide Open".

    The following formation is similar, but now instead of three wide and a single back, the Hawks start 3 wide with an I back formation. Presnap Morris motions to the left and you can see Hasselbeck watching as Derrick Brooks shadows out on coverage. It's really almost too obvious. The play starts, Beck looks right briefly and then keys on Morris running a fly pattern. Beck launches a real lofty pass, lots of arch, and Morris nearly loses the ball in flight, but is so wide open that he manages to catch it while crumpling into the endzone.

    I don't know if this was all planned together, if the ten men in the huddle was an attempt to see the Bucs coverage, or who spotted the obvious mismatch, but this is a great example of strategy conquering talent. Seattle scored that touchdown through sheer guile and almost in spite of Morris' efforts. It wasn't a by Websters trick play in true, but it was an obvious attempt to deceive the Bucs D and it worked to near perfection. Just fun football there.

I'll update this with stats later, I've got to run.