Narrative Of The game
A lot of folks had this as an absolute trap game for Seattle after the team's woeful efforts last year against the winless Tampa Bay Bucs was spun forward into this very different season. This Seahawks team doesn't have that same swagger that got it ambushed by both Tennessee and Tampa Bay, so I personally never thought they would put themselves too far ahead of the Raiders. Especially so when, meaningless as it is (except for one play, which I will cover below), the Seahawks had a harsh finish in their final preseason game in losing to the Raiders in Oakland.
So, let's take a look at the Seahawks going old school with the ol' AFC West rival and see how the defense put their signature on this game.
[First Quarter 13: 58 1st and 10 Run by Darren McFadden loss of 1 yard tackled by Cliff Avril.]
I love this play because it is, first, a demonstration of Brandon Mebane and why you don't single him up on a guard, and two, it's one of the many plays where Cliff Avril makes and unblocked stop in the backfield. It was a good day on the line of scrimmage for about 45 of the 60 plays on defense. This is more a perfect play to GIF because words don't do justice to it. You just gotta see it.
[1st Quarter 11:55 2nd and 10 Run by Darren McFadden gain of 2 yards tackle made by Brock Coyle]
This was the best play I could find of Coyle getting a clean one-on-one tackle. He's smooth and patient to finish here. It's such a weird thing to see him here in the nickel look with DeShawn Shead with K.J. Wright, but it was already better than anything that had featured Malcolm Smith, and this is a prime play that shows Pete will put young guys in every situation and package he can so he can get a read on who they are.
Note: He probably also doesn't want to tip a pass defense weakness for Coyle either, if you start pulling him on key downs as well. Coyle is smooth, as I said, but not explosive like Wagner, probably balancing being in his gap and also attacking the ball. It's the tight rope all linebackers walk, some more successfully than others. Right, Aaron Curry? God, I still hate watching games with him.
[First Quarter 9:25 3rd and 3 Pass intended for Rivera defensed by KJ Wright]
K.J. makes the play here, and in fact, I'm pretty sure he sniffs the concept pre-snap. He begins to move closer to the right side of the defensive scheme once Darren McFadden goes in motion and sets outside as a receiver. Carr never even sees him, as I'm sure he thinks KJ is going to come down and eat up the back in coverage. At least that's my thought. This must have been something the Seahawks saw on film because it's perfectly timed by KJ and they needed this game from him, as everyone in the LB corps was unproven, or not an entirely natural position in the case of Irvin.
[First Quarter :13 Pass intended for James Jones Tipped + intercepted by Bruce Irvin returned for a Touchdown]
A three and out drive after the field goal to open started to show jitters in the young kid. This one, I think he thinks he has James Jones in the slot, but he doesn't. He also doesn't see the drift of Irvin right into the intermediate throwing lane after starting at the line of scrimmage. Irvin's move is so fast Carr probably had no chance to actually absorb what he sees in his line of sight. (In simpler terms he had pre-determined he was going to throw there. Earl was over the top and had a chance at a pick as well.)
[Second Quarter 13:42 3rd and 5 Pass Intended for Andre Holmes intercepted by Richard Sherman returned for 21 yards]
This is one fans remember because it's a back shoulder fade and Sherman gave up a huge pass play in preseason on an incredible throw by Carr. It was a famous a throw, as it was blown up by everyone who hates Sherman and anyone looking to take him down a peg, plus it helped Carr win the starting job in Oakland. Carr goes for the back shoulder, but just like his last interception to Irvin, he telegraphs the throw. Holmes doesn't help by giving it away almost instantly with the route.
"But guys, I totally beated him with that throw in preseason. You remember that don't you guys?" -Derek Carr
You can be sure that's a play Sherman watched on repeat on his Microsoft Surface(TM) all week and especially as he finished dressing he probably grabbed one more look at it.
[Third Quarter 7:42 2nd and 10 Run by Darren McFadden loss of 2 yards. Tackled by Cliff Avril]
I had to note this play specifically because Cliff Avril played out of his mind in this game. I counted double digit plays where he dominated against the run and was untouched on a pass rush. It was his best game of the year. Team that with Mebane beasting for 30 snaps and you have a crippled run game for the Raiders offense.
[Third Quarter 5:14 1st and 10 Pass caught by Mcfadden for 23 yard gain tackled by KJ Wright]
I haven't called Deshawn Shead's name at all until now, and that's been a good thing, but he makes a slight mistake in zone. He gets too loose with Mcfadden here. If you look at the GIF, watch him widen just a yard wider than he should in terms of a zone drop. He tries to make up for the mistake but can't even gather enough momentum the other way to bring a good tackle attempt and slides harmlessly to the turf. This play is a perfect example of really how small mistakes like an extra step can really take you out of the position needed to make a decent play.
[Fourth Quarter 9:19 1st and 10 pass to McFadden for 12 yards. Tackled by Earl Thomas]
"Mine mine mine mine mine BOOM!"
That is all.
[Fourth Quarter 7:53 3rd and 5 Pass intended for #18 Holmes incomplete pass defensed by Marcus Burley]
Marcus Burley has had some rough patches no doubt, but he has made some key plays. None more key than this one, slowing down a solid Raider drive. They use three wideouts and late motion with Holmes and Jones tightening strong side just before the snap. Burley doesn't panic despite the jam as Jones tries to clear Burley out to create space for a slant by Holmes. Marcus shrugs Jones' hands off pretty quickly, and leaves him to Sherman as he picks up Holmes moving under the Jones' route.
(I think this would only be considered a pick if the ball is thrown.) However, the recovery by Burley to recognize the route by Holmes and get sticky with him again, then deflect the throw, shows phenomenal awareness, and it's one of the reasons I like him more than fear him playing in Lane's place.
[Fourth Quarter 1:58 3rd and Goal Pass complete for a two-yard touchdown pass to Rivera Shead in coverage.]
I don't mean to pick on Shead here but this is just a small technical thing that has been missing, even with the injured Chancellor -- and that's tight end threats in the redzone. This is just a simple miss of his responsibility -- Shead's got the flat all the way to the pylon, but doesn't see Rivera get behind him until Rivera has three steps on him. Shead tries his damnedest to make up the ground and get back underneath this throw but can't unless he's The Flash.
Note: I think he freezes on the bootleg but if he doesn't peek, and carries the flat the way he's supposed to here, he's got a better chance to make a play for both scenarios of a run by Carr or a pass to Rivera. The kid froze in a tough spot, it happens, but it's Redzone defense again failing to do things and come through in the clutch.
Overview Of The Game:
Outside of a few plays by Shead, and some bad work by the punt team, there was nothing bad about this performance by the Seahawks defense. There were a couple of plays here or there for Oakland, but nothing smooth after the field goal. The plays and personnel were matched up well, and Brock Coyle, Kevin Pierre-Louis and K.J. Wright played big boy football underneath in coverage.
The D-line looked unstoppable, particularly on the right side of the offensive line, and Brandon Mebane had his most complete game since Week 3 against the Broncos and it showed. This would be an A+ for the entire defense were it not for some redzone deficiencies cropping up again.
K.J. Wright was all over the field in coverage against the run, with so many key guys out it's important that a guy steps up and plays a little above what his usual game says he is. KJ was locked in for the duration of this football game, and thank god, because Brock Coyle and Kevin Pierre-Louis are young and pass coverage, especially in the NFL, is a hard tiger to hogtie. Thanks K.J. for bringing your hard hat to work on Sunday
Redzone defense again needs to be a focus in practices, as Seattle continues to be one of the worst in that category regardless of circumstances.
**Special thanks to Jennifer Chen for this week's set of GIFs and for the extra indulgence of the Earl Thomas tackle