One of the things that I like to do after a game is take a closer look at both offensive and defensive drives over the course of a game to get a broader view. When watching live, it's easy to forget how a team got from A to B in terms of field position and sometimes taking a step back to look at the bigger picture helps to frame play-calling and strategy a little better. We'll remember a bad 3rd down play or an interception, but what did the four or five plays prior to that look like?
Now, this is just meant as a quick notes session, and I'll do the same for the defense - of course, you're all capable of looking at a gamebook yourselves, but I just wanted to go through and give some thoughts on both sides of the football.
The common theme throughout -- on both sides -- will be easily recognizable: the Seahawks were awful on 3rd downs. Pete Carroll hammered on this during his interviews and post-game pressers the last two days - noting that their play on third downs, both on offense and defense, is just unacceptable.
"If you look at the numbers on first and second down, and look at the average (of) third-and-4 numbers for this game, that's all we could ever hope for," Carroll said, via Clare Farnsworth and the Seahawks official blog. "First and second down has been very effective for us. And we have not had a lot of third-and-longs, either. These are workable numbers. These are on-schedule type of numbers as far as early downs."
Carroll pointed out that the Seahawks are actually tops in the NFL in fewest third and long situations -- something that has improved drastically since week one against Arizona, where the Seahawks were frequently in 2nd and 3rd and long spots.
"We just need to get better (on third downs). And this is a very hard part of the game for all young quarterbacks."
It's true. Let's take a look at the Seahawks' drives. First up, the offense:
The first drive Seattle put together - which was most likely completely scripted, was simply a thing of beauty. They drove 80 yards in 8 plays and never once put themselves in a 3rd down position. I rewatched this drive last night came away thinking/hoping that this was a snapshot of the style of ball the Seahawks want to play and it should be -- they used all their weapons, mixed things up, were unpredictable on first down, and moved the ball with ease.
Drive 1: Seattle Seahawks at 15:00 1st quarter:
1-10-SEA 20 (15:00) R.Wilson pass short right to S.Rice to SEA 37 for 17 yards (C.Finnegan).
1-10-SEA 37 (14:23) R.Wilson scrambles right end to SEA 45 for 8 yards (R.McIntosh).
2-2-SEA 45 (14:04) M.Lynch left tackle to SEA 49 for 4 yards (J.Laurinaitis).
1-10-SEA 49 (13:29) M.Lynch left tackle to SL 48 for 3 yards (W.Hayes).
2-7-SL 48 (12:50) R.Wilson pass deep right to S.Rice to SL 32 for 16 yards (Q.Mikell).
1-10-SL 32 (12:10) (Shotgun) M.Lynch up the middle to SL 25 for 7 yards (J.Dunbar).
2-3-SL 25 (11:26) R.Wilson pass short right to G.Tate to SL 18 for 7 yards (C.Finnegan).
1-10-SL 18 (10:52) M.Lynch left tackle for 18 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
The thing that stood out to me about Seattle's first drive was the variability in play-calling. The game started out with a play-action bootleg by Russell Wilson, which saw excellent up-front blocking on the play-side by Anthony McCoy to give the play time to develop downfield. Sidney Rice came from the left side slot and dragged underneath, where Wilson hit him in stride. A 17 yard gain on the first play of the game is not too shabby.
The 2nd play was broken -- it was designed as a dumpoff to Michael Robinson as he ran through the line but Robinson was tripped up and fell down. Wilson tucked it away and scrambled right for 8 yards. On 2nd and short, the Seahawks rushed off left tackle for 3 yards and a first down and then followed up with 4 yards in the same dirction on the ensuing play. James Carpenter and Russell Okung seemed to work very well together on that left side, and a lot of big runs went that direction on Sunday.
Russell Wilson then got the call to look downfield again and he found Rice down the right sideline on a crossing route as St. Louis failed to find Rice in the zone. Two big plays to Sidney Rice on the first drive - it's almost as if they realize he's a guy they should be targeting.
After hitting Rice for a big gain, the Seahawks went back to the ground where they picked up 7 yards right down the middle. Following play, they hit Golden Tate on a screen pass with Anthony McCoy lead blocking after pulling off of the formation, and Tate picked up 7 and a easy first down.
The next play, Marshawn Lynch went off left guard James Carpenter - literally bumping into Carp's back before bursting through the gap - and with a very, very nice block by Golden Tate, was sprung for a touchdown run of 18 yards. Not sure how many people noticed this, but on the play, St. Louis was actually offsides and really should have blown up the play in the backfield, but Lynch just ran through the arm tackle.
Two passes to Rice, a screen to Tate, several runs to Lynch, a semi-screen pass to Mike Rob (that didn't work) -- this sure beats run-run-pass-punt.
Drive 2: Seattle Seahawks at 4:59 1st quarter:
1-10-SEA 20 (4:59) M.Lynch up the middle to SEA 22 for 2 yards (R.Quinn).
2-8-SEA 22 (4:23) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short middle to Z.Miller to SEA 31 for 9 yards (R.McIntosh; J.Laurinaitis). SEA-J.Carpenter was injured during the play.
1-10-SEA 31 (3:47) R.Wilson pass short right to R.Turbin pushed ob at SEA 37 for 6 yards (R.McIntosh).
2-4-SEA 37 (3:22) M.Lynch right guard to SEA 40 for 3 yards (R.McIntosh). SL-M.Brockers was injured during the play.
3-1-SEA 40 (2:52) M.Lynch left end to SEA 38 for -2 yards (J.Jenkins).
4-3-SEA 38 (2:09) J.Ryan punts 62 yards to end zone, Center-C.Gresham, Touchback.
This drive ended in frustration after a promising start. Zach Miller was the primary target, I believe, up the middle as St. Louis brought pressure from the strong side where Miller released from and Wilson found him for a big gain of nine yards and a first down on the 2nd play of the drive. Unfortunately, Carpenter was hurt on the play and had to go out for a series or two.
Wilson was flushed from the pocket on his next play but as he strafed right he found Robert Turbin leaking toward the sideline. The pass was on the money as Turbin was already running up the sideline and I think that's a tougher throw than it looks. Turbin has emerged a very reliable pass-catcher thus far.
On 2nd and 4, Seattle runs off right guard for 3 yards (note that this is two plays after Carpenter went out) and is now in their first 3rd down of the game. They do not capitalize.
Bevell calls a flip play to try and catch St. Louis off guard -- Seattle had been running up the middle almost exclusively up to this point -- I don't think they had one stretch zone call to that point. Credit the Rams for sniffing it out and after trying to get around the corner, Lynch is dropped for a loss of two. Personally, I'd lean toward the Holmgren-WCO principle that you should expect to be able to get at least a yard every time you run up the gut and just have preferred they punch it forward, but I suppose I can understand the thought that St. Louis would be gearing up to stop this. Regardless -- it didn't work. Seahawks punt from their own 40.
Drive 3: Seattle Seahawks at 14:06 2nd quarter:
1-10-SEA 27 (14:06) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short right to Z.Miller to SEA 37 for 10 yards (K.Langford). PENALTY on SEA-B.Giacomini, Personal Foul, 15 yards, enforced at SEA 37.
2-15-SEA 22 (13:34) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short middle to Z.Miller to SEA 35 for 13 yards (R.McIntosh).
3-2-SEA 35 (13:04) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass incomplete short middle to G.Tate [R.Quinn].
4-2-SEA 35 (12:53) J.Ryan punts 62 yards to SL 3, Center-C.Gresham. D.Amendola to SL 21 for 18 yards (J.Lane).
Seahawks take over on their own 27 and again pass on first down -- this time to Zach Miller, who jukes a tackle and falls forward for a gain of ten yards. Good old Breno ruins that fun though. Instead of being in 1st and 10 at their own 37, the Seahawks are now 2nd and 15 at their own 22. Again, this type of conservative offense cannot function when you're yanking momentum, a down, and positive yardage out from under your own feet.
Seattle, resiliently, hits Miller again over the middle once again and he picks up 13 yards to put the Seahawks in a very manageable 3rd and short situation. Can I just say that I'm encouraged that they're doing this? Feed Miller, and feed him often.
On 3rd and 2, again, instead of just pounding the rock up the middle to pick up the two yards, Seattle goes to a five-wide empty set with Marshawn Lynch slot left and Ben Obomanu slot right. Obo cuts short over the middle and appears to be wide open but Russell Wilson instead looks for Golden Tate on the outside. The ball is tipped at the line of scrimmage and falls incomplete. Tate almost comes up with a catch on the deflection. This is a poor decision by Wilson, in my opinion. It's a quick play with immediate pressure from the edge, but Wilson forces it to Tate as he's bracketed by two defenders.
Seattle punts from their own 35. Again, the big play here was a Breno personal foul that cost the Seahawks 15 yards after the play - a net of negative-5 yards and a loss of the down.
Drive 4: Seattle Seahawks at 11:13 2nd quarter:
1-10-SEA 21 (11:13) M.Lynch left tackle to SEA 30 for 9 yards (J.Laurinaitis).
2-1-SEA 30 (10:34) M.Lynch right tackle to SEA 33 for 3 yards (C.Long).
1-10-SEA 33 (9:54) R.Wilson scrambles right end to SEA 34 for 1 yard (W.Hayes).
2-9-SEA 34 (9:09) M.Lynch left end to SEA 49 for 15 yards (J.Laurinaitis).
1-10-SEA 49 (8:41) R.Wilson up the middle to SEA 44 for -5 yards (K.Heard).
2-15-SEA 44 (8:11) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short right to R.Turbin to SL 49 for 7 yards (J.Dunbar).
3-8-SL 49 (7:35) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short left intended for D.Baldwin INTERCEPTED by T.Johnson at SL 44. T.Johnson to SL 48 for 4 yards(D.Baldwin).
Again, the Seahawks start strong on their drive and their first couple of plays are 'on-schedule,' as Pete Carroll would put it. Marshawn Lynch off left tackle to start the drive for 9 yards. Man, how much do you love to see that? 2nd and 1 is a great place to be, because you can do the obvious and just pick up the first down or you can throw it downfield and hope for a big play without putting your drive at great risk if the play goes incomplete.
In this case, Seattle does the obvious and picks up the first down - Marshawn Lynch right for 3 yards. On 1st down, Bevell dials up a play-action bootleg and protection falters to the right (this was a common theme, I believe) -- Wilson is forced to scramble out right and pulls it down without making a throw. On 2nd down, the Seahawks go back to their bread and butter and run left off of Okung and Carpenter. Golden Tate and Ben Obomanu come up with excellent blocks on the outside and Lynch breaks free for 15. Drive is looking solid at this point.
On the ensuing first down snap, St. Louis jumps the snap and is obviously offsides, which Mike Martz quickly blames on Russell Wilson. I can see his point that Wilson must do a better job with his cadence, but in this case, the Rams were clearly offsides. The play doesn't get flagged and Russell Wilson is hit immediately in the backfield for a loss of 5. On 2nd down, Seahawks go empty set and Wilson hits Turbin underneath for a pickup of 7. I'm really liking what Turbin is bringing to the table. Seahawks now in an undesirable 3rd and 8 situation though.
Seahawks go with '11' personnel with Wilson in the shotgun. Wilson steps into the pocket while looking left and throws, after hitching and double-clutching, to Doug Baldwin underneath left. The play wouldn't have been a first down, but Baldwin misses the pass, which is behind him a bit and he has to react to, and it's intercepted. The pass was a bit off - but make no mistake - it should have been caught. Rams score a touchdown on the ensuing possession with a fake field goal.
Drive 5 Seattle Seahawks at 1:11 2nd quarter:
1-10-SEA 20 (1:11) (Shotgun) L.Washington up the middle to SEA 22 for 2 yards (C.Finnegan).
2-8-SEA 22 (:53) (No Huddle, Shotgun) R.Wilson pass incomplete short right to S.Rice.
3-8-SEA 22 (:49) (Shotgun) PENALTY on SL-R.Quinn, Defensive Offside, 5 yards, enforced at SEA 22 - No Play.
3-3-SEA 27 (:49) (Shotgun) R.Wilson sacked at SEA 15 for -12 yards (E.Sims). Timeout #2 by SL at 00:40.
4-15-SEA 15 (:40) J.Ryan punts 31 yards to SEA 46, Center-C.Gresham, out of bounds.
Oy gavalt. This is a horrendous drive. Seahawks receive possession back from the Rams after surrendering any semblance of momentum prior to the half -- the fake field goal touchdown has turned the tide toward the home team and ignited the crowd. Seattle starts off with a Leon Washington draw play that goes for two yards. They run hurry up to get the snap off quickly -- no less than 20 seconds elapse from the clock between plays -- and as Wilson rolls right after climbing the pocket, he throws the ball a foot or two in front of an open Sidney Rice. I'm not sure what transpired on this play, but it would become a major player in Seattle giving up three more points.
Hit Rice, and you've got a first down - instead, Seattle stops the clock and is faced with a 3rd and 8. The Rams jump, and that turns into a 3rd and 3. On the next snap - Wilson feels pressure and tries to escape left -- it's unclear if he'd have been able to stay in the pocket on this one -- but either way, he cannot escape the Rams and loses 12 yards in the process. So... not good.
Jon Ryan's punt is uncharacteristically bad, and the Rams close out the half with another score, on a field goal of 48 yards. Poor clock management, execution, and strange play-calling (a draw on first down followed by two pass plays?) contribute to the debacle that was the end of the first half.
Drive 6: Seattle Seahawks at 13:46 3rd quarter, (1st play from scrimmage 13:35)
1-10-SL 36 (13:35) M.Lynch left tackle to SL 34 for 2 yards (C.Long).
2-8-SL 34 (12:57) R.Wilson pass short right intended for S.Rice INTERCEPTED by R.McIntosh at SL 19. R.McIntosh to SEA 47 for 34 yards (A.McCoy). J. Jenkins hit quaterback's arm
After a failed onsides kick and another Rams' field goal, this time from 60 f*cking yards, the Seahawks find themselves down 19-7. Wilson, on 2nd and 8, decides to stay in the pocket, which is a positive.
Taken in a vacuum prior to throwing a pick, the still above, to me, is a spot that you'd typically see Wilson juke right to beat the oncoming defender to the outside to attempt to keep the play alive. He instead steps up into the muddied pocket, resets his feet...
....And hitches one too many times.
This is just prior to his 2nd hitch up and the backside defender gets his hand on Wilson's arm to disrupt the throw.
His first hitch (which is basically, a little bounce in his step), is fine -- get yourself ready to throw and get it out of there. But, then Wilson takes a 2nd hitch, and by then it's too late. The internal clock needs to be more accurate here, and it costs Seattle the ball and a probable score.
The 2nd hitch comes because Wilson is loading up, I think - based on the All-22 and the alignment of Wilson's body/arm when he starts to pull the trigger, to throw the ball into the endzone, where Sidney Rice has a step on his defender. Not sure if he'd have connected on this throw, but that tells you just how close things can be sometimes - one more half-second in the pocket and this could have been a TD to Rice, instead it's a gamechanging turnover.
Below, in the absurdly grainy All-22 - you see the deep defender on Rice commit to Anthony McCoy running the seam route (McCoy obscures the 20 yard line marker here), giving Rice a free release. Wilson hitches up to make the throw but is a beat slow. Total bummer.
Drive 7: Seattle Seahawks at 11:25 3rd quarter:
1-10-SEA 13 (11:25) R.Wilson pass short right to M.Lynch to SEA 18 for 5 yards (J.Laurinaitis).
2-5-SEA 18 (10:45) R.Wilson pass short middle to M.Lynch to SEA 34 for 16 yards (J.Dunbar). P9
1-10-SEA 34 (10:01) R.Turbin left tackle to SEA 43 for 9 yards (C.Dahl; M.Haggan).
2-1-SEA 43 (9:25) R.Turbin up the middle to SEA 45 for 2 yards (J.Laurinaitis). R10
1-10-SEA 45 (8:47) (Shotgun) R.Turbin right tackle to SL 44 for 11 yards (C.Finnegan). R11
1-10-SL 44 (8:05) R.Wilson pass short left to A.McCoy ran ob at SL 29 for 15 yards (J.Jenkins). P12
1-10-SL 29 (7:46) M.Lynch left tackle to SL 20 for 9 yards (Q.Mikell).
2-1-SL 20 (7:08) PENALTY on SEA-B.Giacomini, False Start, 5 yards, enforced at SL 20 - No Play.
2-6-SL 25 (6:56) R.Wilson pass short right to S.Rice to SL 20 for 5 yards (C.Finnegan).
3-1-SL 20 (6:22) R.Wilson up the middle to SL 18 for 2 yards (J.Dunbar). R13
1-10-SL 18 (5:46) M.Lynch right end to SL 16 for 2 yards (C.Finnegan).
2-8-SL 16 (5:00) (Shotgun) R.Wilson scrambles left end to SL 12 for 4 yards (M.Haggan).
3-4-SL 12 (4:23) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass incomplete short right to S.Rice.
4-4-SL 12 (4:14) S.Hauschka 31 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-C.Gresham, Holder-J.Ryan.
Seahawks dodge a bullet on a deep pass to Chris Givens and give up no points on the turnover. The Rams go three and out and Seattle gets the ball back at their own 45, still down 16-7.
The Seahawks now appear to have the momentum back, despite the strange turn of events. They carve up the St. Louis defense -- Lynch catching two passes for a sum of 21 yards, Robert Turbin picking up 22 yards on three successive runs, Anthony McCoy picking up 15 yards on a catch, followed by another Marshawn Lynch run of 9 yards. The Seahawks pick up 67 yards on 7 plays and are now at the St. Louis 20 yard line in a very manageable and advantageous 2nd and 1 position. Breno with another potentially devastating false-start penalty in the redzone.
After the 5-yard penalty, Seahawks now in 2nd and 6 so they go short to Sidney Rice, who picks up 5 yards. This play is followed by a QB sneak on 3rd and 1 to give the Seahawks a 1st down.
On 2nd down, the Seahawks overload the left side of the formation with Golden Tate, Sidney Rice and a motioning Anthony McCoy and roll the pocket left at the snap. Wilson looks for but fails to find a target and scrambles for 4 yards. Great defense by the Rams as they have each of Seattle's receiving options bracketed, see below.
Next play, Wilson is forced from the pocket almost immediately - not sure if this was a designed rollout but the edge defender comes on fully-ignored by the Seahawks' offensive line.
Wilson rolls right and has Zach Miller for a split second for what could have been a touchdown, but throws it to Rice instead. If memory serves, I believe Carroll said that Wilson should have thrown here to Miller but the play is a missed opportunity again.
Below, you see Wilson roll out and it looks like the Rams defender has Miller marked pretty well. That defender continues past Miller though in pursuit of Wilson and leaves Miller open underneath. UPDATED: Listening to Warren Mood describe this play on the radio today does put some things in perspective. Moon talked about the idea that because Miller is initially covered on the drag to the flats, many/most quarterback's eyes are already going to move on a secondary receiver -- that's how quickly these things work, you don't want to lock on to your primary, afterall -- and by the time Miller comes open a second later as the defender closes on Wilson, Wilson's gaze is downfield to another option.
Wilson throws to Rice in the back of the endzone and misses badly. Seahawks get three points, now trail 16-10.
Drive 8: Seattle Seahawks at 1:48 3rd quarter:
1-10-SEA 45 (1:48) M.Lynch left end pushed ob at SL 48 for 7 yards (C.Dahl).
2-3-SL 48 (1:19) R.Wilson pass short right to M.Lynch to SL 40 for 8 yards (Q.Mikell).
1-10-SL 40 (:41) R.Turbin right guard to SL 31 for 9 yards (J.Laurinaitis).
2-1-SL 31 (:06) R.Turbin left tackle to SL 18 for 13 yards (C.Dahl).
1-10-SL 18 (15:00) M.Lynch left tackle to SL 13 for 5 yards (J.Jenkins; C.Dahl).
2-5-SL 13 (14:24) M.Lynch left tackle to SL 10 for 3 yards (R.Quinn).
3-2-SL 10 (13:46) (Shotgun) R.Wilson right tackle to SL 12 for -2 yards (W.Hayes).
4-4-SL 12 (13:08) S.Hauschka 30 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-C.Gresham, Holder-J.Ryan.
Another solid drive by the Seahawks here after Seattle's D holds the Rams to a 3-and-out. Lynch picking up 7 yards on first down, 8 on second, Turbin 9 on the 2nd first down, and Turbin 13 on the next play. 37 yards in 4 plays, followed by a 5-yard run on first down. This is how the Seahawks want to run the ball. Lynch picks up 3 on the 2nd down play, leaving the Seahawks in 3rd and 2. Then they get cute with a designed QB run from the shotgun and lose 2 yards. Why?
Seahawks field goal. Now trail 16-13.
The Rams counter with a 15-play drive that eats up a large portion of the 4th quarter but the Seahawks hold in the red zone, forcing St. Louis to kick the field goal. The 15-play drive, though, is spurred by conversions of 3rd and 10 and 3rd and 13 by the Rams -- a subject that I'll likely talk about in my next article.
Seahawks now down 19-13.
Drive 9: Seattle Seahawks at 6:07 4th quarter:
1-10-SEA 20 (6:07) M.Lynch left tackle to SEA 29 for 9 yards (K.Langford).
2-1-SEA 29 (5:32) M.Lynch left tackle to SEA 35 for 6 yards (J.Laurinaitis). PENALTY on SEA-B.Giacomini, Personal Foul, 15 yards, enforced between downs.
1-10-SEA 20 (5:11) R.Turbin left guard to SEA 21 for 1 yard (W.Hayes).
2-9-SEA 21 (4:27) R.Wilson pass incomplete deep left to G.Tate (J.Jenkins).
3-9-SEA 21 (4:20) (Shotgun) R.Wilson sacked at SEA 13 for -8 yards (R.Quinn).
4-17-SEA 13 (3:49) J.Ryan punts 41 yards to SL 46, Center-C.Gresham, out of bounds.
The Seahawks are still in this game, of course, down only 6 points with just over six minutes remaining. They pick up 9 yards on first down, and six yards on the following play for a first down, but that positive gain is nullified by a late-hit by Breno Giacomini. This is a close one, as it looks like he's just pushing the pile, something that happens on nearly every play, but it's a costly penalty with thanks to Breno's reputation.
Instead of first and 10 at the 35 yard line, it's 1st and 10 from the 20 again.
This is where things start to fall apart. After a one-yard gain on first down, Wilson throws it up for Tate but it's too far inside and deep. Tate breaks it up and avoids the turnover. Wilson is sacked on 3rd down after holding on to the ball for too long. Drive effectively neutralized, a large part with thanks to that 15-yard momentum killing penalty. Still, gotta execute.
Drive 10: Seattle Seahawks at 3:09 4th quarter:
1-10-SEA 20 (3:09) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass incomplete short left to D.Baldwin.
2-10-SEA 20 (3:04) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short right to D.Baldwin pushed ob at SEA 30 for 10 yards (C.Finnegan).
1-10-SEA 30 (2:59) (Shotgun) R.Wilson right end to SEA 36 for 6 yards (C.Finnegan).
2-4-SEA 36 (2:48) R.Wilson pass short right to S.Rice to SEA 39 for 3 yards (J.Dunbar).
3-1-SEA 39 (2:27) M.Lynch left guard to SEA 47 for 8 yards (Q.Mikell).
1-10-SEA 47 (2:06) R.Wilson pass short middle to M.Lynch to SL 45 for 8 yards (J.Dunbar).
2-2-SL 45 (2:00) M.Lynch left end to SL 40 for 5 yards (Q.Mikell).
1-10-SL 40 (1:36) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short left to A.McCoy to SL 35 for 5 yards (J.Laurinaitis) [J.Dunbar].
2-5-SL 35 (1:08) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short right intended for A.McCoy INTERCEPTED by B.Fletcher at SL 23. B.Fletcher to SL 25 for 2 yards.
The Seahawks' final drive is another strong one -- four first downs, mixing run and pass, to move the ball to the Rams' 35 yard line with just over minute left. You have to know that Rams fans' pucker factor at this point was in the 8.0, 9.0 range as the Seahawks looked to seal the win in the closing minute with a touchdown. Seattle with a 2nd and 5, with rhythm and a strong run game still intact. A minute is an eternity here. Then, Anthony McCoy falls down on his route. Game over.