This week's question from Marshall Faulk: "To be GMC Professional Grade you must be precise. The playoffs demand precision, as the talent gap has narrowed considerably. As the last month of regular season winds down, what areas need to be sharpened to give your team an edge?"
19-3 is an uncommon score. There have only been 15 games with that final score in the history of the NFL, dating back to 1943. Seattle has won their last two games, 19-3.
Regardless, that 19 is kind of a weird number to finish with. In both games, it meant Seattle scored one touchdown and four field goals, respectively. Points are always good, so I don't necessarily feel bad about getting so many field goals, but it also means the Seahawks are getting field goals and not touchdowns and these commonly come in the redzone.
Over the last two games, the Hawks have only been able to convert two redzone trips out of 10 into touchdowns. While it's good news is that they're eight of ten in scoring points on redzone trips (and really they're eight of nine, as one was a victory-formation kneeldown), Seattle will likely need to improve their performance in the redzone in order to put teams away down the stretch and in the Playoffs, if that happens.
So, for today's tape study, let's take a look at Seattle's redzone possessions against the Niners, one by one:
Redzone efficiency vs San Francisco 49ers: 1 of 5
3rd Drive (1st Quarter):
The Seahawks didn't get into the redzone on Thanksgiving against the Niners until their third drive, and it came after Richard Sherman picked off Colin Kaepernick and returned it to the San Francisco 45 yard line. A big third down play where Russell Wilson connected with Doug Baldwin got Seattle down to the 10 yard line, and helped set up the Seahawks' only touchdown.
(Here's that play):
This is a play that we've seen Wilson and Baldwin connect on in the past -- it's designed to work against this Cover-3 look -- and as Marshawn Lynch carries the safety outside toward the sideline, Doug is supposed to sit down and give Wilson a target. In this case, Wilson's read is that linebacker who is reading the hook/curl area. If he pursues it (and he does), the route adjustment would take Baldwin toward the middle of the field.
Think about the moving parts in this play -- both Baldwin and Wilson must make the adjustment based on coverage (it's an option route) and be on the same page. If Wilson throws it to where Baldwin first settles, it could be six points for San Francisco. However, when they're both seeing the same thing and reacting, it turns into a big gain. Baldwin runs a 'backdoor cut for an alley oop' and it's a huge play. Great job by Wilson and Baldwin, showing some of the chemistry they've developed.
1-10-SF 10 (2:21) M.Lynch left tackle to SF 13 for -3 yards (C.Borland).
First down is blown up in the backfield by Chris Borland, who makes a nice read and sifts through the line to hit Lynch for a loss.
2-13-SF 13 (1:36) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short left to R.Turbin for 13 yards, TOUCHDOWN. Caught at SF 12. 12-yds YAC
Seattle's next play is well designed. They're in a two-back set with Robert Turbin and Marshawn Lynch aligned in a pistol formation with Russell Wilson (swoon at this formation). Lynch motions out, and the ball is snapped. The Niners look to be in a Cover-2 or Cover-4 look, and Wilson's "key" on this is cornerback Chris Culliver, #29.
With Jermaine Kearse lined up with "nasty" reduced split on the left (in toward the line at the numbers), Culliver is already pretty tight in to the formation, defensively. This is by design. Kearse's route carries Culliver inside -- he has the option of "passing" Kearse off to the linebackers -- but to do that quickly requires quite a bit of trust and unspoken congruity between corner and linebacker. Remember that the Niners are playing with two backups in the middle too. Additionally, Tony Moeaki's route carries the safety to Culliver's side downfield, so Culliver can't immediately come off of Kearse without leaving hm open.
The result is that Turbin leaks out to the sideline and Culliver is too far inside now to react. Wilson quickly throws it to Turbin, (after reading Culliver carry Kearse inside), then Turbo finishes the job. Good play design, good execution.
Incidentally, this play design's concepts have been around a while. The Seahawks used it to grab a touchdown against the Niners back in Week 16 of 2012 (Seattle's Xmas blowout) -- in that play, TE Tony Moeaki's role was replaced by a receiver (ie, this is from different personnel/formation, but is essentially the same play), and instead of going all the way outside, Lynch "converts" the route into a quick in-angle route. He does this because the cornerback in that play did indeed get himself wide outside instead of following the receivers inside.
Anyway, this play may be a San Francisco special, designed to combat some of the formations and schemes that Vic Fangio favors.
But I digress...
4th Drive (2nd Quarter):
Seattle's next redzone trip would come on their subsequent possession, and they'd get to the 1-yard line with that crazy-ass Tony Moeaki play. Unfortunately, the Hawks declined to challenge the ruling that Moeaki was down at the 1, then compounded that by failing to get into the endzone.
1-1-SF 1 (12:43) (Shotgun) M.Lynch up the middle to SF 1 for no gain (E.Reid).
The Seahawks run their trusty read-option play on first down. I noticed that the Niners did a really great job defending this play in short yardage situations, where Seattle has normally had some great success with it. It didn't happen this week, for whatever reason. The Niners surely knew what was coming here, and they defended it well.
2-1-SF 1 (12:04) G.Gilliam reported in as eligible. R.Wilson sacked at SF 2 for -1 yards (A.Brooks).
Seattle's 2nd down play was well designed, in my opinion, but was thwarted by excellent penetration from Tony Jerrod-Eddie. Center Lemuel Jeanpierre had a very difficult assignment in reaching TJE at the snap with the way that Seattle's blocking was set up for on this play. This type of "reach" block is Max Unger's specialty and one of the reasons he's one of the game, but LMJ can't get it done here. Needless to say, though, it's not easy.
Jerod-Eddie penetrates, LMJ tries to salvage it, but lets up to avoid getting a holding call. You can see Tony Moeaki chipping here. He'll release after the play-action fake is executed by Wilson.
After faking the block for a second, Moeaki releases, and is open, but unfortunately for this play, the pressure gets to Wilson and he's forced to move. With Wilson's escape, the timing is thrown off, and the Niners recover into coverage on Moeaki.
Wilson is tracked down on the backside by Ahmad Brooks, who trips him up to save the day (Wilson probably would've have scored anyway -- but it would've been close).
3-2-SF 2 (11:16) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass incomplete short right to D.Baldwin (A.Brooks).
Oh hey, this play isn't frustrating.
Seahawks settle for a field goal.
4-2-SF 2 (11:12) S.Hauschka 21 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-C.Gresham, Holder-J.Ryan.
5th Drive (2nd Quarter):
This drive was screwed up because Christine Michael failed to get a first down on his big catch and run that got Seattle into the redzone -- Michael stepped out of bounds a yard short, even though he the room to get to the flag.
3-1-SF 17 (6:32) (Shotgun) R.Turbin up the middle to SF 18 for -1 yards (C.Carradine).
The third down try was stuffed -- and to absolve Michael a little bit, this is really something that Seattle should convert. Seattle settles for a field goal.
4-2-SF 18 (5:45) S.Hauschka 36 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-C.Gresham, Holder-J.Ryan.
7th Drive (3rd Quarter):
1-9-SF 9 (10:26) (Shotgun) R.Turbin up the middle to SF 7 for 2 yards (C.Carradine).
2-7-SF 7 (9:44) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short right to P.Richardson for 7 yards, TOUCHDOWN NULLIFIED by Penalty
PENALTY on SEA-R.Turbin, Offensive Pass Interference, 10 yards, enforced at SF 7 - No Play.
Turbin gets a needless offensive PI call on Paul Richardson's touchdown. Bummer. Still, the process was good.
2-17-SF 17 (9:39) (Shotgun) R.Wilson scrambles left end to SF 16 for 1 yard (A.Lynch).
On second down, the Seahawks look to pass. Tell me what you think about the depths of all these routes -- I found it a little odd that there is nothing within about 20 yards of Wilson (as the crow flies). I don't know -- this seems like a strange combination and San Fran bottles it all up. Wilson looks to escape (which is maybe the reason for the play design?) but gets tripped up.
3-16-SF 16 (8:55) (Shotgun) R.Wilson sacked at SF 17 for -1 yards (J.Smith).
3rd and long. San Fran plays it well. 3rd and 16 is a shitty place to be, so it's hard to be too mad about taking a sack here.
Seattle again settles for a field goal.
4-17-SF 17 (8:10) S.Hauschka 35 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-C.Gresham, Holder-J.Ryan.
9th Drive (4th Quarter):
1-10-SF 21 (3:10) R.Wilson pass incomplete short left to D.Baldwin.
2-10-SF 21 (3:03) C.Michael right tackle to SF 23 for -2 yards (C.Carradine).
3-12-SF 23 (2:17) (Shotgun) R.Wilson scrambles left end to SF 13 for 10 yards (C.Culliver).
4-2-SF 13 (2:03) R.Wilson pass incomplete short right to L.Willson.
Seattle challenged the incomplete pass ruling, and the play was Upheld. The ruling on the field was confirmed.
I won't break down the Seahawks' final possession too closely because this is pure garbage time.
Bottom line, the concepts that Seattle used in the redzone were sound -- particularly on the three plays following Moeaki's big gain. But, execution just needs to be sharper. Football is violent chaos play-in and play-out, so that's obviously easier said than done. The Hawks will need to do a better job down the stretch though, if they want to not only make the playoffs, but make some noise once they're there.