Three weeks ago Danny invited me to join up as a staff writer. Then the bye week happened, and there weren't any plays by the Seahawks to break down. Then the Dolphins game happened and there STILL weren't any plays by the Seahawks to break down. I was concerned that hasty retreat into the desert horizon would be required. All the while, whimpering soft apologies to members of the 12th Man along the way for jinxing a potential playoff run. Then we showed the world that the Bears are what Dennis Green thought they were and all is again right with the world. I may be posting under my real name now, but I'll still be whipping out the full breadth of my football-nerd lexicon in my customary timlin45 style.
To me, this play was the most crucial play of the game. I want to set-up the situation a little bit before we get into the juicy, teriyaki-infused meat of this breakdown.
3-14-SEA 41 (1:41 4th Quarter) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short middle to D.Baldwin to CHI 48 for 11 yards (S.McClellin).
The Seahawks have just had a first down nullified by a holding penalty and now face 3rd & 14, late fourth quarter, trailing 14-10. If I had a nickel for every time I've seen a penalty like this kill a drive I would have something close to $20. On second thought, that metaphor doesn't work very well without blatant hyperbole, but then again the Bears don't work very well without blatant hyperbole either so it's fitting for the purposes of this article.
The play itself is pretty straightforward, although I imagine it sounded pretty interesting in the huddle. By the verbiage I know, this play would be called as "Trips Right 999, R Left Punk Hitch 2, H-Flex 9". Whatever you're doing, that's a whole bunch of 9 (go) routes. All three receivers to the right (Trips 999) and Edwards (Our flexed "H" which means directly on the line) attack the intermediate zones downfield. Baldwin, in this case, is running a fake (punk) hitch that converts into a slant, or 2 route. Note how well he slow-plays the fake, almost like he quits on the route, to really sell Tillman.
There are two sensical thing that can happen on a fake hitch route here:
- Get the two defenders to that side to read screen and come downhill at Baldwin letting Edwards settle in the pocket between an out-of-position Briggs and comically overly-deep safety.
- Provide time for Edwards to attack the zone with his fade, to provide Baldwin a void that he can exploit as an outlet receiver.
In this play, the second scenario applies. Charles Tillman sees the hitch action and bails immediately to bracket Edwards in the slot.
Considering the likelihood of Chicago being in their typical Tampa-2 shell, this play call is designed to get within 5 yards of a first down. By flooding the defensive zones with four options, the defense is forced to choose between creating a 1:1 matchup somewhere deep or giving an extra 3-6 yards to the underneath pass. This is fantastic situational football. I give credit here to Darrell Bevell for calling this play, expecting to pick up 7-10 yards. A 4th and 4 is a far, far better prospect than 4th and 7.
One final thing of note on this play is Yet Another Example Of Wilson Playing Above His Rookie Status, or a "YAEOWPAHRS," if you will. Wilson reads the bracket and gives a hard pump-fake toward Edwards. This is an example of the "veteran savvy" you hear about oh-so-often from the human refuse that comprises the color-commentary corps of modern NFL broadcasts.
Watching closely you can see the fake causes Briggs to snap his head toward Edwards. Briggs sees Baldwin crossing underneath and is talented enough to be able to recover. Seeing these kinds of subtleties are exactly why I'm giddy-bordering-on-stupid excited for the Hawks future. That pump didn't affect the outcome of the game, but another "YAEOWPAHRS" moment just like it did. The uncanny progress made by Russell Wilson in the last 13 weeks is direct evidence of the work ethic and preternatural understanding of the game possessed by our young Rookie-of-the-Year candidate.