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Seahawks 26, Broncos 20 (OT): Closing the Book on Denver

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So, that was fun. Can we do it again in February? I'd sign on for that.

DIME.
DIME.
Jeff Gross

What I hope to do with "Closing the Book" is focus on a few sequences and/or players in each game that can have some influence on the season. To close out Denver, I will concentrate on the sequence of plays culminating in Ricardo Lockette's touchdown reception from Russell Wilson.

Play 1: Lockette's Offensive Pass Interference

The takeaway from this 2nd quarter sequence is Russell Wilson's growth. He is developing his ability to create critically needed space with subtle movements.

This sequence begins with just under 5 minutes in the first half. Denver CB Aqib Talib, is one of the smartest and best CBs in the NFL. He challenged Wilson to a battle of wits throughout the game. I'd say the two battled to a draw.

2-6-SEA 31

(4:46) (Shotgun) 3-R.Wilson pass incomplete short right to 83-R.Lockette (21-A.Talib). PENALTY on SEA-83-R.Lockette, Offensive Pass Interference, 10 yards, enforced at SEA 31 - No Play.

At the snap Talib is backing off Lockette, back turned, possibly loafing just a bit. He allows Lockette to eat up his cushion in order to entice Wilson with thoughts of an easy completion. Wilson takes the bait. Talib jumps Lockette's stop route. He might have intercepted Wilson's pass and scored a pick-six had Lockette not simply grabbed him, drawing an offensive pass interference flag in the process.

What's difficult to know here is whether Lockettte ran his route a step too long, thereby creating an angle for Talib to break on the pass. It seems more likely that Talib simply never respected the route and jumped to a spot. Either way, Lockette's OPI might have been the game's most important play. Still, score one for Talib in the battle of wits.

Wilson's countermove would come just a few plays later at the end of the sequence.

Before that, I must give Darrell Bevell his due for the fake to Percy Harvin/really screen to Marshawn Lynch play.

Play 2: Screen Pass to Lynch

2-11-SEA 26

(4:39) (Shotgun) 3-R.Wilson pass short left to 24-M.Lynch to SEA 47 for 21 yards (95-D.Wolfe)

This was just a beautifully designed screen, and frankly something that could and perhaps should be a bigger part of Lynch's repertoire. This play is important because of the team's struggles in pass protection. Seattle has the potential to be a devastating screen team. I mean "Greatest Show on Turf" quality.

Screens play to the line's ability to get downfield and put hats on people in space.

I'll make a distinction between "inline" screens, typically run for backs and tight ends, versus screens for wide receivers thrown to the edges. My interest is in the Inline screens. They can be extremely useful plays even if they don't go for big yardage. They can work equally well from a variety of personnel groups and formations. They can demoralize a pass rush by making rushers hesitant. They can also encourage defenses to play more zone coverage. Seattle's non-Harvin WRs are best in the regular passing game when attacking zone coverage.

Play 3: Wilson to Lockette Touchdown

1-10-DEN 39

(3:12) (Shotgun) 3-R.Wilson pass deep right to 83-R.Lockette for 39 yards, TOUCHDOWN

Everything that happened before Wilson threw the touchdown pass demonstrates how far he has come as a QB. He has always had fantastic touch on his deep ball. So it's not about the throw. It's about what led to it.

On this play Talib is matched up again with Lockette, this time in off coverage. He's giving Lockette a pretty good cushion at the snap. So at first glance it appears his focus is on keeping Lockette from beating him deep. But, Wilson uses Talib's proclivity to jump routes to buy Lockette a half-step--enough to get on top of coverage and own the red line. It's just enough to get the CB to hesitate slightly.

Wilson gives Talib a subtle shoulder fake. More importantly he opens his feet slightly toward Talib, showing him the ball. Talib's slight hesitation allows Lockette to get on top. Once there Lockette--and let's not understate his role in the play--uses his body (not just his speed) to keep Talib under control. The ball is perfectly placed. Lockette makes the catch and performs his tribute to Jimi Hendrix.

In fairness, Talib baits Wilson again in the fourth quarter. This time his pass breakup leads to an interception deep in Seattle territory that sets up a Denver score.