Thank god we don't have to hear any more Jimmy Graham is pissed about his role in the offense storylines this week. Graham caught 7 passes for 83 yards and a score while leading the team in targets, and not only that, looked smooth and natural doing so.
This wasn't a "force him the ball at all costs" type of thing and it didn't disrupt the style or feel of the offense. He probably should've had two touchdowns on the day, but a nice play in the endzone (and subtle arm grab prior to Graham's jump) as the first-half wound down kept that from happening. Still -- that's the look Seattle wants, and will get -- and it's something that Graham will definitely convert with a pretty good percentage going forward.
Field Gulls on Facebook
Field Gulls on Facebook
So, it's now been three weeks, and while Seattle didn't get the most out of him in Green Bay, Graham's up to 14 catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns on the year, an approximate rate of 75 catches, 774 yards, and 11 touchdowns on the season, which would be a lot of the Seahawks low-volume offense. For reference, Graham's scored 10, 16, 9, 11, and 5 touchdowns in each of his seasons in the NFL (going from 2014-back), so getting anywhere into the 8 to 10 range would be a huge success in my opinion. The key stat for Jimmy Graham, the Seahawk, for me, is how many times he finds that endzone.
So, after he missed a great opportunity in the first half, I was glad to see that he made a big play in the 3rd quarter to hit paydirt. Let's look at how that happened.
3-5-CHI 30 (4:36 3rd Quarter) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short middle to J.Graham for 30 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
The Seahawks have been bad at passing on 3rd down in 2015. The Bears surely know this, and have scouted this. In the first half, Seattle was 0-6 on third downs, period. This poor performance on that key stat, combined with the fact that the Seahawks were nursing a still manageable 13-0 lead, meant Chicago was anticipating a Seahawks pass that simply aimed to get a first down -- i.e., short routes meant to go "for the sticks."
This is how the Bears defended it, too -- they defended the play with the thought that Russell Wilson was going to be throwing to get five yards. And, guess what, they were right. The primary read on this play is Doug Baldwin's little out-and-up route five yards upfield (this is evident by Wilson's eyes at the snap, and was confirmed by Graham after the game). Here's how it was drawn up:
As you can see, the Bears had the right idea in mind. It's a bunch of short routes -- two toward the sidelines, two crossers over the middle, and a tight end arc release up the seam.
Here's how it went down (via @WhoIsJoseRivera):
At the snap of the ball, Wilson looks for Doug and is hoping to dump it to him and allow Baldwin to make a move to get the five necessary yards. The play looks like it's there too -- the cornerback on Baldwin is playing off quite a bit and had the passing lane opened up, Wilson probably would've just gone to his first option and gotten the first down.
Except as you can see in the video above and the still photo below, the Bears rush three, all to the right side of the formation, and completely obstruct Wilson's throwing lane. He hesitates -- a floater toward the sideline is highly ill-advised -- and decides to go to his next read.
Here's how the Bears are playing this. They've got two safeties over the top of a man-under coverage. In other words, everyone but the two deep safeties are playing man to man. You can see this develop -- CB #24 Alan Ball carries Tyler Lockett across the field as DB #21 Ryan Mundy carries Jermaine the other way (the two underneath middle in the picture below). Middle linebacker #59 Christian Jones takes Fred Jackson out of the backfield, and #45 Brock Vereen takes Jimmy Graham up the seam.
The Bears rush three and leave Shea McClellin to spy Wilson, because after all, Wilson is a good scrambler. It's a three-man rush so I'll temper my praise, but the key to this play was good protection. And, Russell Wilson does a good job being patient in the pocket and moving to his second, third, and fourth reads.
I don't know for sure if Russell's second/third reads are the crossers by Kearse and Lockett and then followed by the Jimmy Graham route up the middle, or visa versa, but whatever the progression is, Wilson executes it well and makes the right decision. Just based on the timing of everything -- to me it looks like Graham is actually the third or fourth read on this play, going right to left (Doug, [Lockett], Jermaine, then Graham), but that's hard to know -- the two crossing routes could just be decoys in this instance, and Wilson never really looks at Tyler.
Two defenders -- the corner in coverage and the safety over the top to the right -- read the Doug Baldwin play and break on it. When Wilson hesitates, that safety comes off of the Doug route and looks for the Lockett route.
Meanwhile on the other side, the other deep safety is concerned about Fred Jackson's route. We've seen the Seahawks run this out-and-up with the over-the-top lob to Marshawn Lynch many times as well.
In the end, Seattle attacks the middle of the field. With great success. Only Vereen is left in trailing coverage on Graham and Graham breaks the ankle tackle.
Here's a little bit better angle on Wilson's read-progression and subtle movement in the pocket below. Note his balanced, solid base and good footwork. Keeping his feet separated and underneath him as he moves slightly to his left means that he makes an accurate, high-velocity throw here. To me, it looks like Wilson is thinking of throwing it to Kearse (or trying to move the deep safety to the left), because look at how he opens his feet up to the left a little to lob it over the top, but then sees Graham break open up the seam.
Whether that's intentional or not we may never know, but it does the job. The safety to that side bites on the sideline routes, and Graham has green grass in front of him.