Watching this quarter, I couldn't help but wonder, does Seattle perform better in the red zone because John Marshall does less? Seattle's red zone defenses are typically simplistic read-and-react schemes. After watching mismatches created by complex play calls, I can't help but think some of Seattle's problems are in the play calling.
Bad Corner Play: Seattle couldn't buy deep coverage, but its corners played poorly too. In this quarter alone, Marcus Trufant, Kelly Jennings and Josh Wilson combined for five blown coverages. Wilson and Jennings each had two. Those five plays totaled 123 yards and five first downs. Here's a brief rundown of each.
1. First play of San Francisco's first drive of the quarter. Jennings loses his feet against a double move, stumbles into Bryant Johnson, draws a flag, falls away from Johnson and allows a 25 yard reception. That's so bad it's almost two blown coverages.
2. Three plays later, Wilson shades Arnaz Battle out, anticipating a deep pattern, bites right, loses Battle left and allows a 14 yard completion and the first. Wilson was so badly beat he didn't participate in the tackle.
3. Four plays later, Wilson grabs Isaac Bruce's jersey as Bruce fades right-diagonal towards the end zone.
4. Second play of San Francisco's third drive of the quarter. John Marshall dials up a five man blitz from a nickel package. That's not really a bad play call, but it certainly boned Seattle. The blitz fails miserably, Patrick Kerney is the lone player in short cover on the right side. (Begging the question, why would you put your best pass rusher in a short zone?) Deon Grant is lost in between and loses deep containment. Marcus Trufant is matched one on one against Bruce, a matchup you want, but Trufant loses Bruce by staring into the backfield. Coverage blown, the play results in 63 and the first.
5. Two plays later, 2nd and 14 from the Seattle 14. San Francisco breaks 4 WR, Rb, SG. Seattle in a dime. Isaac Bruce aligns outermost left in this four wide receiver formation:
Bruce angles left towards the end zone, J.T. O'Sullivan lobs the ball towards Bruce, Jennings grabs at Bruce's jersey around the shoulder pad, before the ball is intercepted in the end zone by Deon Grant. The officials convene, call pass interference and everyone plus the announcers complain. But it's the right call. When a defender interferes with a receiver while the ball is in flight, it can't legally be called holding and it doesn't matter if the receiver isn't where the ball lands. The officials can't know if Bruce could have made it into the end zone had Jennings not interfered and the ball is theoretically catchable because it's in the field of play, so interference must be called. That's twice a Seattle corner interferes despite good coverage over top. Boneheaded mistakes you don't expect from Seattle's secondary, but mistakes they made.
John Marshall versus doing nothing: This plays defines why people say Mike Martz is a genius and John Marshall a dumbass. I think you'll find it underwhelming.
Seventh play of San Francisco's first drive. Second and 20 on the Seattle 24. San Francisco breaks 5 WR. Seattle responds with - zuh? - 3DL, 1 LB, Quarters. The 49ers align Johnson as the inner most slot receiver on the right. Seattle matches Julian Peterson against him. Peterson is a linebacker. Johnson is a wide receiver. See where this is going? The play starts, every Seahawks DB exits the screen, Johnson jukes Peterson out of his shoes, grabs a short strike and picks up an easy 11. Seattle's play call has it all. No pass rush and a built in mismatch. It's as if Seattle said "here, let's give you a more manageable third down." That brilliant tactician, Mike "genius" Martz.
The new force out rule in effect: On Seattle's third to last play of the half, Matt Hasselbeck passes to Bill McMullen along the sideline. McMullen jumps to make the catch. Nate Clements hooks his arm under McMullen's crotch and carries him out of bounds. I get the reason for the rule change, but should that be allowed?