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This Week In Defense: It’s time to once again turn our attention to the Seahawks defense

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NFL: Seattle Seahawks at New York Jets William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

Narrative Of The Game: This has been a strange four game stretch for the Seattle Seahawks. In so much as they have had almost all of the narratives and questions and conversations about the team on the offensive side of the ball. Perhaps it’s the quality of offensive opponent or perhaps it’s just the assumption that it’s the 2013 defense all over again, but for the most part when it’s come down to picking a side to struggle it’s been the offense.

With Eric Decker down, and pass-catching tight ends being as mythological as the unicorn, the Jets were heading in under-powered versus the Legion of Boom. Add in a six-interception game by Ryan Fitzpatrick the previous week and everyone was drooling at a potential sideways blowout in New Jersey. Well, at least, I was. So let’s take a good long look at Seattle’s 27-17 road beatdown of the J-e-t-s, Jets, Jets Jets!

[First Quarter 14:53 1st and 10. Run up the middle by Matt Forte for 5 yards. Tackled by K.J. Wright. ]

This play had me grinding my teeth out of the gate. It’s a simple run, but the ease with which the Jets push against the D-line here just had me really worried. The Jets would run nine times for thirty-one yards ( 3.4 yards per carry) on the first drive, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but it was just enough to keep them in rhythm on this opening drive. They needed to run well enough to open things up for Ryan Fitzpatrick as I’ll demonstrate later.

[First Quarter 8:54 2nd and 5. Pass by Ryan Fitzpatrick complete to Quincy Enunwa for 11-yards. Tackled by Earl Thomas.]

When you don’t have a big play tight end you better find another way to attack the middle of the Seahawks’ defense. This play I wanted to highlight because of how quickly Enunwa actually gets in and out of his break on this whip-route concept for 11-yards. Enunwa would present some trouble in this game, especially in the Jets’ two first half scoring drives. He’s young, but watch out, size and athleticism like this is rare. Quincy Enunwa shows real potential on this simple play.

[Second Quarter :17 1st and 10. Pass by Ryan Fitzpatrick complete to Brandon Marshall for an 18 yard Touchdown. Sherman in coverage.]

One false step by Richard Sherman and a great move by Marshall illustrates yet again the infuriating mantra of “It’s a game of inches.” Sherman demonstrates how good he is by trying to make up ground and almost gets his hand on the ball despite his disadvantaged position. Quite frankly, it’s a bit ridiculous to me that this is even contested in any fashion. Sherman’s “bad” is some other corner’s best.

[Third Quarter 7:56 3rd and 14. Pass by Fitzpatrick intended for Bilal Powell incomplete. Defended by Cassius Marsh.]

Seattle got a coverage sack from Michael Bennett to set up this third down play and after five or so big chain moving catches by Powell, Kris Richard decides to spy Powell with Marsh here while the Seahawks’ defense continues it’s deep zone drops. (I’ll discuss this approach in the game wrap below.) They force a punt and this is the point where you see that Pete and Kris have made adjustments against whatever small successes the Jets have enjoyed up to now.

[Third Quarter 4:13 1st and 10 Ryan Fitzpatrick sacked by Bobby Wagner for -6 yards.]

A little 3-4 scheme wrinkle against the Jets gets Bobby a crease. This is a great call against a deeper drop because the line will fan out more to play outside pressure. I like Bobby’s pass rush attitude. He’s just stubbornly tough. When he gets a legit free run he buries the competition. This is Seattle’s third sack of the day against a line that had surrendered three total sacks the three previous games. Impressive.

[Third Quarter 2:46 3rd and 8. Pass by Fitzpatrick intended for Anderson incomplete. Defended by Deshawn Shead.]

The Seahawks came in knowing deep passes to the outside are Fitzpatrick’s favorite. He can complete stuff shorter or over the middle, but his mentality is working deep to short. These types of shots are only a matter of time and I have to show this one because it’s become my go to play type when showing Deshawn Shead love. For all intents and purposes the double move by Anderson causes Shead to fall behind by almost a full stride, but he recovers here to start contact at the point of the catch, hang on through contact and force the ball out. Shead just doesn’t panic here. He knows what’s happening and just does his best to contest. Sometimes you win, like here, sometimes you lose, like Sherman did earlier.

[Fourth Quarter 14:36 1st and 10. Ryan Fitzpatrick pass intended for Brandon Marshall intercepted by Richard Sherman.]

Listen, I have to stop with the knee-jerk reactions on twitter; I said after the touchdown that Sherman is making sixteen some odd million dollars and getting clowned. After looking at that play again and then seeing this one live, I know I’m a giant idiot. This is all about Sherman knowing the timing of how Ryan has been throwing at Marshall. He’s probably counting the ticks in his head and waiting to make his move. If he had anything to say to Brandon Marshall here, it probably went something like this:

Sherman: “Hey, I’m gonna switch with you, get over the top.”

Marshall: “Okay buddy....wait....what?”

Sherman: “Thanks for taking the bait, dork.”


Game Wrap: This game wasn’t really that much of a contest despite the final score. The luckiest of bounces on one of Avril’s sack fumbles gave the New York Jets their only score of the second half. It’s clear when you watch the game early that Seattle is sitting back deep on passing downs. They’ve done the same thing with the likes of Joe Flacco and Philip Rivers. They do this because they count on the dump passes coming so late that they can get pressure or rally to the ball.

This left Bilal Powell to do some damage underneath early and Quincy Enunwa to get open on shorter crossing routes, or the one whip-route I showed above. Seattle squeezed down a little bit in the second half, but the opportunities for big pass plays didn’t materialize for New York.

The pass rush did just enough in the second half to get Fitzpatrick off his spot. I wouldn’t rate it great, but combined with the rush defense that only surrendered 58 total yards after 31 yards on the first drive really makes me want to cut the front a break here in this road contest.

Game Ball: Richard Sherman. Not only did he have two interceptions participating in Seattle’s best day for turnovers in a while, he seemed to be the only guy targeted for Ryan’s big shots down the field. Sherman proved his toughness against one of the most physical receivers in football and in the end he got the better of it.

Needs work: I’d like to see more innovative blitz designs come out, especially as the Seahawks prepare to face Atlanta and Arizona up next.