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On Zone Defense and Aaron Curry's First Two Drives

Zone defense looks comically inadequate when defenders are not executing. Houston Texans receivers were flashing open, sometimes in pairs, before Seahawks defenders could finish their backpedal. Quick hitters attacking Seattle's off coverage have been a staple attack for Seahawks opponents since at least 2007. Sometimes what we perceive as poor planning is poor execution and sometimes what we perceive as poor execution is poor planning.

Consider this set of plays by Aaron Curry. In the first, both Curry and David Hawthorne backpedal too deep and allow indefensible space underneath.

The result: 1-10-SEA 31 (11:53) 8-M.Schaub pass short left to 44-V.Leach to SEA 22 for 9 yards (59-A.Curry, 27-J.Babineaux).

Nine yards on first down is a sizable blow to a defense. Curry dropped too deep, but his misread may have only meant the difference between five or nine yards gained. It didn't impact the reception. That was obvious later in the quarter when Curry did everything right and still allowed an easy and successful reception. He read the target, avoided a built-in pick and closed on his receiver as he approached the right sideline.

The result: 2-7-SEA 9 (3:39) 8-M.Schaub pass short right to 85-J.Dreessen to SEA 4 for 5 yards (59-A.Curry).

Which tells you something about Seattle's zone defense: It breaks down when its players fail to react and execute and it breaks down when its opponent calls the right play. I hope the coaches witness plays like the latter and debit themselves. Curry could not have reacted to the play faster, better avoided the pick, or closed quicker, and he's among the fastest linebackers in the NFL, yet the Texans achieved 71% of the yardage needed to achieve first down. The Texans ran a quick out to their second string tight end and made it look like an unstoppable new tactic. They would score a touchdown on the next play.

I am looking at Aaron Curry this week. He had a terrifically bad first quarter. Sometimes though, it looks like he and most of Seattle's defense is running a flawed scheme that cannot succeed even when executed to perfection. Months back, I mentioned how Brian Russell personified a incorrect belief that a team could allow yardage if it avoided touchdown scoring plays. Russell is gone, but that thinking persists.

Curry moved towards the left offensive flat before being panned into oblivion. The camera tracked Andre Johnson running uncontested towards the end zone. Curry did not factor.

He next series went:

1. [Out]

2. Cut-blocked out of the play.

3. Pursues horizontally left and chases Ryan Moats as Moats turns the corner runs for the first down.

4. The aforementioned reception to Leach.

5. Pursues end-around motion and blows containment.

6. Drops too deep into his zone.

7. Caught watching the quarterback at the snap, misreads play and takes a poor angle to the ball carrier.

8. Again caught idle at the snap, botches the blitz entirely, so that he never impacts but does remove himself from the play, and is saved when Brandon Mebane tears through the interior and forces an incomplete pass.