Narrative Of The Game:
The irresistible force meets the immovable object. All anyone could talk about prior to this game was defense vs offense, as Seattle matched up with the explosive Philadelphia Chip Kellys (I assume that's their name because it's the only thing anyone really talked about).
The Seahawks were second-fiddle in the media as everyone got their popcorn ready to see if this "New Wave" offense (which isn't all that new) could match up with the secondary that had held their last two teams to just six points. I struggled to write this without sarcasm because no one seems to remember Denver, and what I said about how Seattle prepares to play games defensively. So before we get started a quick flashback to something that's pretty important to the result.
Seattle plays base defense, simple calls on 1st and 2nd down. It's pretty simple, until you get to 3rd down. Why is that? Well, think about it, it's third down, what are teams trying to do? That's right, get a first down to keep the drive moving. This means that they will limit their own playbook for you, using only a certain set of plays "money plays" if you will, and so Pete Carroll and Dan Quinn will work more on taking apart these downs than any other down.
Seattle's defense owned third down against the Eagles, and thanks to a suggestion on twitter, I've elected to cover third downs as the main focus this week. The goal is to work out all the details of just how Seattle took this top flight NFL offense and humbled it to '93 Rick Mirer Seahawks status.
[1st Quarter 3-10-PHI 8 (8:16) (No Huddle, Shotgun) M.Sanchez pass short left to J.Matthews to PHI 14 for 6 yards (B.Maxwell)]
A nice gimmick here by Chip Kelly. Motion by WR Jordan Matthews brings Byron Maxwell with it, with Earl Thomas in the box as well. With Zach Ertz split out wide, K.J. Wright actually settles in closer before the snap. This is a small detail but it matters mechanically, as Byron now doesn't get picked by the slant pattern.
At the snap, Ertz runs his slant, clearing some space, but Maxwell puruses the play with a nice pair of slide steps before breaking on the developing out-route. This is just recognition here.
If Byron attacks this outright instead of perusing laterally first there's a huge chance he gets beat in man to man coverage once the route break happens. No such mistakes here, just beautiful technique.
[2nd Quarter 3-9-PHI 48 (9:46) (No Huddle, Shotgun) M.Sanchez pass incomplete short middle to J.Matthews (B.Maxwell)]
Another motion by Matthews here puts Maxwell in traffic again. Ertz out wide again. Instead of an out-breaking route though, Matthews is going to try and go underneath Zach here and Maxwell just doesn't bite on it.
He mirrors the lateral move again. This play is so smooth and while there is a little contact here remember that Maxwell has a 5-yard window for contact until the ball is thrown. Once the pass is tossed, Maxwell rips it out and has to say "Come on, you tried this already, dudes."
[2nd Quarter 3-6-PHI 24 (1:48) (No Huddle, Shotgun) M.Sanchez pass short right to R.Cooper to PHI 28 for 4 yards (B.Maxwell)]
Apparently this is the Maxwell show this week. A focus on third down has taught me two things so far, 1) K.J. Wright was right, the Eagles are pretty predictable, and 2) Maxwell in the slot is challenging the Eagles' best tackle breakers at receiver so far on 3rd down.
All the routes so far completed on these third and longs are flat routes in the box -- nothing has gone down field at all.
So, here comes so motion again by the Eagles. Maxwell signals to Simon to stay outside as Cooper comes underneath Maclin (this isn't always an easy "hand-off". Again, Maxwell just drifts to square up Cooper but Cooper still gets a good jump on him. The crosser, though, is hard to get up field on once caught, and the delay on a catch like this can allow a trailing defender to make up some ground.
Byron's little precise lateral moves to stay square have prevented these gimmicks to make space or get him caught in traffic on a pick from working. Also, having to do this hasn't stopped him from breaking on the receiver or the football.
[3rd Quarter 2-7-SEA 3512:16) (No Huddle, Shotgun) M.Sanchez pass deep left to Z.Ertz for 35 yards, TOUCHDOWN.]
The only mistake all day by the Hawks secondary results in a long TD. The Eagles live on forcing these with speed and scheme, overwhelming you with motion and number of plays hoping to get five or six of these big plays. Kam Chancellor blows this one big time. Not really sure why either. Kam should have this the whole way as it's the only route combo to his side the way he's split with Earl. K.J. even not obstructed by the slant route, is going to have issues on this wheel route and this was Kam's chance to hit another guy and make him more famous for getting hit than catching the football.
[3rd Quarter 3-3-PHI 37 (7:28) (No Huddle, Shotgun) M.Sanchez pass incomplete deep right to J.Maclin.]
Mark Sanchez has his best pocket of the day on this pass attempt. Zach Ertz has a huge chunk of space on a smash route with a late breaking Kam Chancellor, but Mark either doesn't see him or doesn't like to throw deep to his left. Even with Chancellor being late on the route, Sanchise would have to really put something on this because putting air under the pass would probably let Kam play it in the air.
However, we don't get anything nearly that exciting as he just chucks an uncatchable pass at Maclin with no real contact, and Chip Kelly is left wondering where the "emphasis" is. His offense was solved on this as every route was covered outside of Ertz.
[3rd Quarter 3:46 3-6-PHI 37 (3:45) (No Huddle, Shotgun) M.Sanchez pass incomplete short right to J.Matthews (B.Maxwell)]
Oh look, another crossing pattern. A bump at the start of the route sort of makes it interesting but Maxwell hangs in and Philly does more whining for flags. *Yawn* This game is awful.
[4th Quarter 15:00 1-10-PHI 20 (15:00) (Shotgun) M.Sanchez sacked at PHI 15 for -5 yards (M.Bennett)]
No blitz here, the pocket just collapses and it's been iffy most of the day despite the lack of sacks to this point. Jordan Hill has a great surge, which allows Michael Bennett a pure 1-on-1 swim move, and he almost pulls down Sanchez's pants. Your welcome for the visual. Truly though, it was rare to see truly solid pockets for the Eagles in this game and Sanchez went short a lot because of it. Sometimes numbers lie and in this case a lack of sacks certainly does.
[4th Quarter 9:07 1st and 10 (9:07) (Shotgun) M.Sanchez pass deep left intended for R.Cooper INTERCEPTED by T.Simon at SEA 30. T.Simon to SEA 41 for 11 yards]
Awareness is how this pick happens. Simon stays with Cooper the whole way (he had to choose between two routes here, and he chose correctly) but then is working to find the ball.. He turns in the air and makes a spectacular catch. This isn't easy, but it's also a ball that shouldn't be thrown and it's one of only three deep balls that Sanchez threw in this game. Simon is showing some real deep cover skill and athleticism more than Browner or Maxwell even. I like him and so should you.
Overview Of The Game:
Seattle's secondary can tackle. They also can make sure they stay square to their man in man to man coverage. So much of what Seattle did to win this game was just speed up the fundamentals that they already practice week to week. The Eagles are talented but they gimmick a lot and gimmicks only work in moderation or teams, "smart ones," sniff them out.. I swear if I had to type out "Crosser, Maxwell, or pass breakup" one more time, I would probably just smash my keyboard into bits and pieces while shouting something about playing video games.
This was as bad/good a game as the Packers game to break down. It's just the same play concepts over and over and over and they got Seattle one time. Once. I just don't know what to think. This didn't even call for a great game plan you could have let Earl Thomas call all the plays on the field and Seattle is walking away with this one in hand. Bleh. I absolutely hated this game as an fan analyst (obviously not as a fan).
A Quick Note:
I wanted to focus specifically on third downs, so this inevitably left the run game out of the spotlight. I apologize to anyone that feels this was an oversight here. Here are some bullet points about the run defense against the Eagles:
--The Eagles O-line, much like its pass protection, was slow and generated little surge on the LOS. This meant that McCoy and Sproles were typically dowfield completely naked with no blockers.
--The run game for the Eagles couldn't deal with the speed at linebacker or safety at all and several of their gimmick motion runs lost yards because of this.
--Both Jordan Hill and Kevin Williams had great games making sure the o-line couldn't set up delay draws by shedding blockers almost at will.
Byron Maxwell played a great game and kept making plays in key spots. The Eagles like to work against slot guys and most can tackle but most don't have speed to keep up with route combos. You see a lot of broken tackles or bad angles by Eagles opponents but Seattle tackles and specifically Byron Maxwell and his Stretch Armstrong arms tackle well and rip the ball out. I don't know that this switch is just schematic for this game or a permanent switch at nickel but this guy needs all the praise for the win this week.
Kam Chancellor's deep cover responsibility. It's been an issue all year actually and usually I don't use these as soap boxes to call out one player but TEs getting TDs is exactly why you drafted a man Kam's size. Too many issues covering TEs this year and Kam has been a huge part of that problem.
**As Always Thanks to Jennifer Chen for the great GIFs.