Fight past the noise of Richard Sherman, flags, and controversies with kickers’ wives and you’ll notice that incredible football that was played on Monday night. In an exciting Seattle Seahawks victory over the Buffalo Bills, Russell Wilson threw one of the most spectacular lob passes you’ll ever see, and it happened to go for a touchdown to Jimmy Graham. How did it all transpire?
The Seahawks were down by seven when this play happened at the start of the second quarter.
Seattle lined up in shotgun trips bunch right with 11-personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WRs) on the field and motion (16) Tyler Lockett back-and-forth across the formation. Since the defender follows Lockett across the formation, it's a clue to Wilson that the Bills are in man coverage. Let me repeat that for the layperson, just to help explain why what I saw meant what I knew was happening: Defender follows receiver —> Defense is most likely in man coverage.
After the snap, Wilson confirms this by looking at the deep safety realizing that Buffalo is in "Cover 1" defense with a single-high safety. The rest of the cornerbacks are in man coverage.
The Seahawks leave running back (22) CJ Prosise in the backfield to help block but (94) Jerel Worthy still penetrates through the strongside A-gap between Justin Britt and Germain Ifedi. Since Wilson feels the pressure, he starts shifting backwards and to his left before lobbing the pass to Graham on his wheel route. After releasing the pass, Wilson gets hit immediately by (57) Lorenzo Alexander, who beat George Fant on the "double-swipe" move.
As a side note, watch how Ifedi responds to the penetration by Worthy; he is watching the second-level linebacker, not even reacting to the penetrating first-level defensive lineman. This is awful play on the offensive line and Seattle has to be grateful that Prosise was there to clean up for his mistake.
Going back to Wilson, the pass sails high and lands perfectly into the right arm of Graham. Free safety (26) Robert Blanton, who was sitting in Graham's hip pocket, didn't have bad position, but the pass was so exceptional by Wilson that it didn’t matter. Blanton was actually called for defensive pass interference for grabbing onto Graham's left hand preventing him from making a play on the ball illegally.
If you re-watch the tape, you will also notice that (89) Doug Baldwin is open. He actually gets open right as Wilson is throwing the pass and if you are going to throw the ball off your backfoot, you need to err on the side of caution by throwing it farthest away from the deep center safety.
Outside of this pass, Wilson was incredible throughout the entire night. He completed multiple passes down the field, including a 50-yard pass to Doug Baldwin. This was a completely different game for Wilson to his performance last week versus the Saints. Who knows if it’s “safe to say” that Wilson is back to his level of play in the second half of last season, but Monday was a clear display of what he’s capable of when he’s playing at the top of his game; it’s a ceiling that so few quarterbacks have.
The Seahawks face Tom Brady and the New England Patriots next week. The Patriots are 7-1 and are coming off a bye week after beating Buffalo in Week 8, so they’ve had even more time to rest and prepare for this game; it’s a challenge perhaps unlike any other Carroll has faced in the last seven years. This should be an excellent test for him as Seattle looks to continue pushing for their fifth straight trip to the postseason.