Seattle Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril, coming off a dominant performance against the Atlanta Falcons, was no worse for the wear versus the Arizona Cardinals. He finished the game with 2.5 sacks, six quarterback hits, and two pass deflections. This was easily his best game of the season.
As I was going through the game tape preparing for a deeper dive into Earl Thomas’ performance (that will be released Wednesday), I stumbled across Avril’s sack in the 4th quarter with 3:13 left in regulation and decided it deserved its own post.
The Cardinals line up in shotgun with twin stacks on the left. David Johnson is the running back in the backfield. Arizona has three receivers releasing to the left side of the field while Michael Floyd (15) runs a shallow cross underneath the Seahawks’ “Cover 3” defense.
After the snap, Carson Palmer looks left watching his receivers to see if any of them break free. Seattle’s D covers them well.
Palmer progresses to his fourth read, Floyd, and starts his throwing motion while shifting to the left side of the pocket. Right before he can release the football, Palmer is thrown down from behind by Avril for the 8-yard sack.
From the endzone view we can see how Avril beat the right tackle (74) DJ Humphries. Avril lines up in the 9-tech well outside the tight end. He starts his pass rush hard up the field before reaching his outside arm into Humphries’ chestplate.
He then swipes down with both arms to completely disengage himself from his blocker. After getting by Humphries, he rounds the corner and one-arm sacks Palmer to the ground. This move is also called, “the double swipe.”
Watching the game live, I was surprised that he didn’t get a forced fumble from this hit. Give credit to Palmer for holding onto the football, because I imagine he was surprised too being tackled from behind.
This sack encapsulated Avril’s performance versus the Cardinals. He consistently pressured Arizona’s line by making plays in the backfield. It was effortless.
Even though the Seahawks tied in an overtime kicker battle, they still remain in first place of the NFC West and have a slightly better advantage over the Cardinals with their rubber match scheduled to take place in Seattle towards the end of the season.
This was one of the most fascinating games of the year (or ever) for any fan, but these types of performances are becoming standard for Avril, who is on pace for a new career high in sacks. His string of eight seasons without a Pro Bowl nod should come to an end this year at this rate.
Last week I broke Avril down in greater detail in the Seahawks’ victory over the Atlanta Falcons (here), so make sure you check out that article too.