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The Seahawks and the lead draw vs. the Lions

Al Messerschmidt

The Seahawks finished last Sunday's game with 133 yards rushing on 19 attempts, a 7.0 yard per carry average, boosted heavily by Marshawn Lynch's 77-yard touchdown run. When you take away that one run though, Seattle's YPC average dips to 3.1 yards per carry and the Seahawks' staple run, as I pointed out earlier in the week, the zone stretch or 'outside zone,' was neutralized pretty effectively early by Detroit's attacking defense.

With Kyle Vanden Bosch, Cliff Avril, Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley getting penetration into Seattle's backfield on the snap, the normally effective zone runs to the outside were blown up with ease. This can happen when you face an aggressive and talented defensive line like Detroit's and before Seattle made some adjustments, they couldn't get much traction on the ground.

I'll just point to a few plays on the Seahawks' first drive -

1st and 10, Seahawks zone left run is blown up as Max Unger and James Carpenter cede the line of scrimmage to an attacking Fairley, blowing up Lynch's running lane and stopping the play dead.


Later that drive, Seattle looks to go zone lead right, and a happy-footed Cliff Avril times the snap well and blows Breno Giacomini back into the running lane, getting a hand on Lynch and making the play breakdown for a loss of three.


Seattle would settle for a field goal on their first drive and Lynch carried the ball four times for a grand total of 2 net yards. Here's the good news though - against an attacking, aggressive defensive line, there are blocking schemes and strategies you can use to take advantage of that -- a good example would be the wham and trap plays that San Francisco used to beat Seattle up in the run game a few weeks ago.

This Seahawks team doesn't utilize a lot of traps or power schemes, but they do have some multiplicity up their sleeves in the run game, apart from the basic zone runs they utilize for the most part.

A great example came on the first play of Seattle's next possession, where Darrell Bevell adapted to the situation and called a crack toss right to Lynch, which he broke upfield for 77 yards untouched. The toss, with receivers cracking in on defense ends and linebackers, effectively took Fairely, Suh, Vanden Bosch and Avril out of the action and left Detroit's secondary there to try and get to Lynch. I'm going to break down that play in detail tomorrow.

First though, I wanted to talk about another type of play that Seattle used to take advantage of Detroit's attacking nature - the inside handoff lead draw out of a shotgun formation.

By my count, Seattle used the inside handoff lead draw out of a shotgun set on three occasions, and averaged 9.0 yards per carry on them. They were used on two first downs and a second down, and Detroit simply had no answer for it on those three snaps.

1-10-SEA 20 (:47 2nd Quarter) (Shotgun) R.Turbin up the middle to SEA 31 for 11 yards (C.Avril).

Late 2nd quarter, the Seahawks regained possession and looked to drive to get within field goal range before the half. The Lions still had two timeouts so a run-call for Seattle on first down was probably the prudent decision, but not a given. Regardless, the Lions responded to Seattle's 'pass-look' of '11' personnel with their nickel defense and with Zach Miller set all the way out to the right wing. Turbin was offset to Russell Wilson's right in the shotgun set.


Check out Detroit's line - both Suh and Fairley are aligned in the respective 3-technique to their sides, with only Justin Durant eyeing the two A-gaps. Vanden Bosch and Avril are both aligned in wide-9 looks.


Seattle dials up the lead draw, pulling RT Breno Giacomini instantly, leaving Avril naked on the outside, and Russell uses an inside handoff (almost looks like a read option handoff) to give it quickly to Robert Turbin.


Below, you can see Giacomini diving through the hole. James Carpenter has taken Fairley out of the play completely, which allows C Max Unger to move into the 2nd level as well.


Avril runs himself out of the play as Turbin powers up into the hole, and Unger engages with Durant.


Giacomini meets Stephen Tulloch head on and Turbo makes a great spin move to keep the play churning downfield.


Avril actually recovers nicely and makes the play on a spinning Turbin, but by then the Seahawks have picked up 9 yards.

2-7-SEA 36 (13:56 3rd Quarter) (Shotgun) M.Lynch up the middle to SEA 43 for 7 yards (S.Tulloch).

Early 3rd quarter, and Seahawks break out the exact same formation on 2nd and 7, except with Lynch in the backfield, offset to Wilson's right.


Lions are in a more traditional set, alignment-wise. This simply means that Max Unger must double-down on Nick Fairley instead of instantly moving downfield into the second level.


On the offensive right, McQuistan does a nice job of getting inside leverage on Suh.


Giacomini leads through and picks up Tulloch. Again, at the top left of the screen, you can see Avril run himself out of the play. This is what allows Seattle to pull Giacomini so easily - not to mention Russell's theoretical ability to pull the ball back in a read option play and roll right if Avril over-commits to take away the lead draw.


Lynch puts his foot in the ground and cuts upfield. (You're welcome).


Not a great lead block by Giacomini, but a great job of Tulloch to avoid it and tie up Lynch. He's a vet.


Still, Lynch picks up 7.


Moving on to the fourth quarter:

1-10-SEA 31 (9:20 4th Quarter) (Shotgun) M.Lynch up the middle to SEA 40 for 9 yards (J.Durant).

Seattle has just given up the go-ahead touchdown to Matt Stafford on a badly defended naked bootleg. 9:21 in the fourth quarter. The offense has to mount a scoring drive here. Following a great pass to Sidney Rice on 3rd and 10 to keep the drive alive, Seattle grabs a little momentum and confidence and now find themselves with a 1st down. Bevell calls the tried and true.

Again, same personnel, same formation.


Carpenter and Unger double down on Fairley and McQuistan again does a good job of getting leverage on an over-aggressive Suh. This is why these plays are designed. Suh is going to attack his gap to the outside shoulder of RG McQuistan (the B-Gap) and the wily redhead is going to use that initial push to his advantage.


Breno pulls and picks up the linebacker filling the hole. This allows Lynch to sneak through.


Pickup of 9 on first down. I'll take that.

Michael Robinson picks up a first down on the next play with a quick dive, and Seattle has their 2nd first down of the drive. Momentum building.

Seattle huddles and substitutes. It's '11' personnel with an off-set shotgun look, similar to the lead draw plays illustrated above, but this time Zach Miller is setup closer to the line, outside RT Breno Giacomini.

1-10-SEA 42 (8:10 4th Quarter) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass deep right to S.Rice pushed ob at DET 40 for 18 yards (C.Houston).


At the snap, instead of pulling, Breno just downblocks, leaving Zach Miller to block on Cliff Avril. You can see how Suh has reacted at the snap, jumping to McQuistan's inside shoulder and, I assume, looking to stuff the lead draw. Both Lions' linebackers briefly suck in forward anticipating the run. Wilson fakes the handoff though and rolls right.


The playfake (and previous lead draws) have set up this play nicely, as the Lions defenders are all sucked to the offensive left.


You can see Sidney Rice running his route above - it's a simple deep out route.

Below, Wilson rolls out. This is a 'levels' route combination concept, with Charly Martin, Zach Miller, and Sidney Rice all running parallel at different depths.


Wilson, though, hits his primary read. Sidney Rice.


The Seahawks would go on to score and recapture the lead on this drive, and it was spurred by a couple of well called and well set-up plays to get out of their side of the field.

Overall, I thought the Seahawks used the lead draw very nicely, if not frequently enough. It was their own version of the Harbaugh "Trap" play - using Detroit's aggressive nature, both at DT and DE, against them.

The only regret of course is that Seattle didn't end up with the W in the end.

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