clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

This Week In Defense: Seahawks come out ahead in first real test of 2016

New, comments
NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Seattle Seahawks Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Narrative Of The Game:

This was the first time all season that the Seattle Seahawks defense had a real challenge, according to experts and fans. I don’t remember a time when it took this long for the defense to get tested and it was certainly something I’ve been waiting for myself. Add to it the story of former Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn returning to Seattle as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons and there’s intrigue galore. How did his former defense do against his number one ranked offense?

[First Quarter 11:29 1st and 10 Delay draw up the middle with Devonta Freeman for 1 yard. Tackled by Tony McDaniel.]

“Are you blocking me, or nah?”

Nice play selection here by Atlanta coming out of the gate. A deep drop and delay on the run looks to take advantage of an over-eager defense. They do get the seven defenders backpedaling out of the box here, but the surge by Michael Bennett and McDaniel of the left side of the line prevents a lane from becoming immediately available. The surge from Bennett on the edge really forces the issue here. You could even credit him with the tackle.

[First Quarter 8:35 2nd and 9. Run right by Freeman for -2 yards. Tackled by Bobby Wagner.]

“Look at all this room for making tackles!”

Wagner continues his best year with one of his six plays in the backfield. The Seahawks called five blitzes against the Falcons in the first quarter, which is a key note because they just don’t blitz that often, especially outside third down. The other thing to note is Atlanta’s use of pulling concepts to try and get space for Freeman to use his elite slashing in the open field. Seattle was all over these plays and Bobby was a huge reason why.

[First Quarter 8:00 3rd and 11. Matt Ryan pass intended for Mohamed Sanu incomplete. Defended by Earl Thomas.]

“I got ya where I want ya and now I’m gonna ‘smack’ ya!”

Being without Kam Chancellor meant that more was going to be asked of #29 Earl Thomas. This was his first of four shots on receivers setting a tone for the first half of the contest. It’s a simple read as only one route comes into Earl’s space and Jeremy Lane does a great job keeping the receiver from getting outside of him here, giving Earl a easy strike zone to lower the boom.

[First Quarter 2:18 3rd and 6. Matt Ryan sacked by Clff Avril. Fumble recovered by Tony McDaniel.]

“Throw the ball dude. Throw the ball dude. THROW THE F*****G BALL!” - Falcons O-line, probably.

This is just a case of Matt Ryan not throwing the ball away. The note here for me is how Atlanta moved to deal with the Bennett / Avril right side games Seattle likes. The blocking with that little wrinkle gives Ryan some time. Once Avril was in the clear, I think you, me, your dad, my uncle, your sister and my grandma would know exactly what’s about to happen.

[Third Quarter 11:07 2nd and 10. Matt Ryan deep pass to Julio Jones for a 36-yard Touchdown. Defended by Kelcie McCray.]

The Falcons started using late formation shifts in the third quarter to force the defense to set itself and communicate late. Normally not an issue, but with Kam and his years of experience on the bench, the Seahawks’ defense had trouble responding to these situations. Levine Toilolo moves outside late carrying Richard Sherman away from Julio Jones. McCray doesn’t realize this and so he doesn’t ever demonstrate the awareness of Jones — who runs up and right by him for an easy touchdown for the former Alabama beast.

[Third Quarter 6:16 2nd and goal. Matt Ryan pass to Mohamed Sanu for a 10-yard Touchdown pass. Defended by Jeremy Lane.]

I use the term “defended” in my description very loosely. Lane gets caught flat footed in zone coverage and Sanu takes easy advantage. It’s pretty rare to see Lane do this, even when he’s watching a QB he’s usually really solid at staying sticky or getting his feet moving a bit more before the ball is thrown. Very uncharacteristic of Seattle’s nickel corner.

[Third Quarter :29 1st and 10. Matt Ryan pass to Levine Toilolo for a 46-yard Touchdown. No one defending.]

“Oh my God, I’m wide open. Okay. Okay, don’t f*** this up oh God, I’m the blocking tight end my cardio sucks. My lungs are on fire someone tackle me.” -Toilolo definitely.

A neat little wrinkle from the Falcons puts the Seahawks in a tough spot. In the context of the quarter as a whole and this specific drive, the eyes are starting to drift to Julio Jones. A short slant by Jones and a route by Toilolo that comes of like a fade is wide open as no one picks him up. The defense was out of sorts and really hasn’t had this many wide open dudes against them since Carolina last year at home. Watch this play a few times. It’s worth appreciating the concept.

[Fourth Quarter 3:57 1st and 10. Matt Ryan pass intended for Julio Jones intercepted by Earl Thomas. Richard Sherman defending.]

“Let’s see if Bobby can top this spectacular interception.”

This play has a bit of a hidden gem. A simple square-in pattern from Julio. It’s really a high percentage throw because the defense will have to respect his speed. The eyes would tell you that Julio flubs a pass that hits him in the hands, but if you look closer, Cassius Marsh is pressuring Ryan who hurries his throw just ahead of Jones’ break in the route. You can see from his reach that he wasn’t quite expecting the football yet. Earl Thomas is Johnny on the spot to catch the double-deflection.

[Fourth Quarter 1:47 3rd and 10. Matt Ryan pass incomplete intended for Mohamed Sanu defended by Deshawn Shead.]

“Some people said Deshawn Shead would be the weak link in the LOB this year. Boooo!”

Shead continues to make these incredible plays where any other corner would be expected to panic. Ryan scrambles and extends the play and then throws up the field where Shead is in perfect position to contest the catch for the Seahawks setting up fourth down’s great controversy of 2016. Watch it, enjoy it, it’s awesome.

Overview Of The Game:

Seattle survived a tough third quarter to win it’s fourth out of five games and it’s first real test. Outside of that disaster, Atlanta had 110 yards and three points in three quarters along with four sacks and two turnovers. The most ridiculous thing I saw yesterday on Seahawks Twitter was one person who said “Fire Kris Richard!” On closer inspection, there really isn’t a flaw I found in his plan or calls that says he lacks the know-how to wield this defense. The early blitzes were something I’d like to have seen versus L.A. in week two, but you’ve got the home crowd here and you’re also attempting to minimize Kam Chancellor’s absence. I hope with this article, I gave you a bit of context to what was happening and stop waves of panic. This team is better than that third quarter and so is Kris Richard.

Game Ball:

Gotta Be one Earl “Killshot” Thomas heating receivers and causing drops and incompletions. This was the most impact he’s had in a game first snap to final gun where you saw it as actual impact instead of a quarterback just holding on to the ball because Earl Thomas deep is scary. Probably the easiest pick I’ll make all year outside of the next time Bobby Wagner draws one of these.

Enjoy one more big shot from Thomas before you go.

“Mmmmmm ribs.”

Needs work:

Communication. This team put a lot of negatives on tape in the third quarter. Don’t think for a second Seattle is going to get away unscathed with no consequences. Kelcie McCray needs to get things right if the Seahawks need to run with him for any length of time.