On Thursday, the Seattle Seahawks were able to hold off the Arizona Cardinals, winning 22-16. It was a great defensive performance by Seattle as they only allowed 10 points through the vast majority of the game and Kam Chancellor was a big reason for this; I want to break down Chancellor’s performance against Arizona, as he left the game with an injury and his status for Monday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons is in doubt.
Chancellor played as the third linebacker in some of their nickel packages and did a great job of covering the flats and shutting down the running lanes. Also, he played as the deep free safety in some of their coverages and did a good job in space.
According to ProFootballFocus, he was the number one run stopping safety with four run stops on 22 run snaps. He helped the Seahawks limit Adrian Peterson to just 29 yards on 21 carries. Additionally, he forced the fumble on Peterson’s very first carry.
Seattle lined up in their 4-3 Under front with Chancellor on the line of scrimmage. He was able to use his outside arm to collapse the running lane while still being able to recover quickly enough to pop the ball out.
Big plays like this weren’t uncommon. A few drives later, the Cardinals ran an inside zone to the left. K.J. Wright penetrated through the backside A-gap which forced Peterson to cut to the backside C-gap. Chancellor, who was the backside linebacker, quickly recognized that Michael Bennett lost his leverage and scraped over top in order to clean up the play for a safety.
In general, he did a really good job of recognizing where the play was going and stopping the run before it gashed the Seahawks’ defense. In this play, Seattle lined up in their 4-2 Over front where he’s the strongside linebacker. The Cardinals ran weakside zone to the left and Chancellor sifted through the running lanes to finish the running back after he broke two tackles.
In coverage, Chancellor usually plays as the buzz safety in their Cover 3 packages. This safety is responsible for playing as the underneath hook/curl zone defender typically on the strongside of the formation. In this play, he’s responsible for the tight end, Jermaine Greshman, who was running a backside in-route. He does a good job of not getting widened, while keeping his left hand on Gresham’s back to prevent separation. It was a 3rd and 10 play and the Seahawks did allow the first down, but his tight coverage was not what allowed it.
In another play in the middle of the fourth quarter, Chancellor played as the deep free safety in the same coverage. Cardinals’ wide receiver John Brown ran a post route from the left side of the field. Chancellor dropped to his landmark and then perfectly broke on the route before the quarterback even threw the ball. This allowed him to break up the pass in the endzone and prevent the touchdown.
His play as the deep safety was definitely reassuring. When Seattle played Cover 1 Man and he was the deep safety, he eliminated yards after the catch from multiple receivers. He took good angles in pursuit for pretty much all of his snaps and finished receivers violently to the ground.
The only negative from this game happened at the start of the second quarter. The Cardinals motioned Gresham from the right side to the left and ran a screen pass. Since Seattle is in Cover 1 Man with Chancellor in man coverage, he’s technically responsible for this pass. However, it was a really good play call and the entire Seahawks’ defense was caught off guard. Additionally, Bradley McDougald overran the ballcarrier and ultimately allowed the touchdown as well.
Speaking of McDougald, he actually played pretty well but he wasn’t really tested during this game. He was targeted twice by the Cardinals and allowed a total of 14 yard in coverage. From my film study, I would like to see him more confidentially attack the ball in space and recognize routes more quickly. In general, it’s not fair to compare his play to Earl Thomas’, but so far he is a clear upgrade over Steven Terrell.
Overall, Kam Chancellor’s presence in this defense will be severely missed if he can’t play versus the Falcons. Coming off of a Thurdsay night game and not playing until the following Monday will hopefully give him the time he needs to heal. With players like Julio Jones, Mohammed Sanu, and Tevin Coleman, the Seahawks will have to be extra careful in coverage. Also, after Adrian Clayborn had a six-sack game versus the Dallas Cowboys, if Duane Brown isn’t healthy the Falcons’ pass rush could be even more problematic.