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The Seahawks Three Steps to Failure

It's hard to say when it started, but Matt Hasselbeck holds the ball too long. Maybe it's always been a problem heretofore disguised by great offensive line play. It could be the system. I noticed it last season. Last season blame fell easily on Hasselbeck's wide receivers. They were bad. He had been good. This season his wide receivers are studs. Will we now blame the line?

3. The system shared some blame for Hasselbeck's sack. On the first play of the drive, Seattle stretched left. Sean Locklear and Chris Spencer pulled forward to block Andra Davis and D.J. Williams, Denver's starting inside linebackers. Neither blocked their man or even much managed to interfere with them. Both linebackers converged on Duckett as he entered the hole. It's a testament to Duckett's ability to grind it out in the pile and fall forward that he rushed for two. I say the system, because Seattle's entire offensive line is struggling with zone blocking. That better shape up fast, because right now it looks like Seattle has mismatched its system and talent.

2. That put Seattle in second and eight. That's not a terrible down and distance, but it is an unfavorable down and distance. It's not a pure rushing or passing down, but most coordinators will design a play that can achieve some minimum yardage, some small gain to avoid third and long. That's why T.J. Duckett was releasing into the flat.

Seahawks: WR (left), WR (right), TE (left), I (left)

Broncos: 3-4 (outside linebackers walked outside the defensive ends, what I label 3-4 (5))

Hasselbeck takes a five step drop. The Broncos blitz five. Seattle's offensive line, aided by Owen Schmitt, pick up the blitz. Schmitt engages and slows Elvis Dumervil. Dumervil is gradually walking Schmitt back. The offensive line creates a seamless if collapsing pocket. Hasselbeck reads and reads. He shuffles slowly into the narrowing pocket.

Duckett has released into the flat without a defender within five yards.

Hasselbeck throws the pass towards T.J. Houshmandzadeh and barely out of bounds.

1. A pass to Duckett might not have netted the first down. It might not have been a Hidden Game "success". It would have prevented third and long and increased Seattle's chance to convert.

Seahawks: 2WR (left), 2WR (right), RB (left), Shotgun

Broncos: 3-3 Nickel

Justin Griffith is the left flanker. Andra Davis is walked over to cover Griffith. Deion Branch is in the left slot. I guess the strategy is to isolate Branch one-on-one against a defensive back. I can see no other logic for substituting Griffith at left flanker. The running back is Justin Forsett. Forsett is considerably worse at picking up blitzing linebackers than Duckett or Schmitt.

Hasselbeck receives the shotgun and takes a three step drop. His plant foot is now over eight yards behind the line of scrimmage. The Broncos rush four. Davis chucks Griffith out of bonds. Branch, barely deeper than Griffith, is beginning his break towards the sideline. He is running an out. Kyle Peterson, playing nose, and Dumervil, playing right end, stunt. It is beautifully executed. Seattle's line bows. Forsett joins Rob Sims to stop Dumervil. That's when Williams triggers his delay blitz. Before Hasselbeck can see the fifth pass rusher, he's sacked.

Should Sims have disengaged? That would leave Forsett alone against Dumervil. It might have bought a little time, but it wasn't a solution.

Should Hasselbeck gotten the ball out faster? Hasslebeck should almost always get the ball out faster, but this wasn't a particularly egregious example.

I think Justin Griffith shouldn't have been playing left flanker. I think Hasselbeck should have targeted Duckett on the prior play. I think ignoring the continuum of the drive blinds us to who and what is really responsible for Hasselbeck being sacked. Mostly, though, I think this is another example of how the preseason is not the regular season. Experimenting with formations and seeing if Forsett can handle his own were this play's goal. The experiment was a success even if the outcome was a failure.