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Sam’s Film Room: Russell Wilson’s last-minute drive versus the Falcons

Atlanta Falcons v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr /Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks lost to the Atlanta Falcons in a heartbreaking fashion on Monday night. Russell Wilson led the offense down the field in a nine play, 41-yard drive set up a game-tying field goal attempt. After leading them down the field, Blair Walsh’s kick was a few yards short and the Falcons won the game 34 to 31. In this breakdown, I wanted to look at that final drive and discuss some of the play calls that got them to that point.

To start the drive, the Seahawks received a punt at their own 35-yard line. Josh Forrest got called for a holding penalty that brought back the ball to the 25-yard line.

On first and 10, Wilson completed an 11-yard pass to Jimmy Graham on the right side of the field. The Falcons were playing with two deep safeties with their cornerbacks in man coverage.

Darrell Bevell called a mixed man-zone play design for the first attempt. The left side runs slant-flat concept while the right side runs a seam-fade-under concept. The left side is meant to attack any Cover 3 or Cover 1 defense, while the right side is good against Cover 2 looks both man and zone. Russell Wilson identifies the coverage correctly pre-snap and makes a good throw underneath for the first down. This is simply a good play call by Bevell.

On the Seahawks’ next play, there is immediate pressure by Adrian Clayborn. He uses a swipe-rip move around Duane Brown which forced Wilson into a bad spot. Either he throws the pass, which will likely be an incompletion, or he’ll be sacked. I am okay with his decision to throw the football simply because a sack could have destroyed this drive. There weren’t many other options on this play if you watch the All-22 film. Atlanta’s man coverage was good and it held the Seahawks’ receivers in check.

Note: This “swipe-rip” move was the same move Clayborn used versus Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys to get six sacks. I broke that down here on FieldGulls.

On second down and 10, the Falcons are caught offsides which gives Russell Wilson a free play. Wilson knows this so he throws the the ball deep down the field with zero risk. The ball falls incomplete, so Seattle accepts the penalty and gains a free five yards.

On the Seahawks’ fourth play, there is 1:09 left on the clock. They use dig-flat concept on the right while on the left they run three verticals. If this was a Cover 2 look then the left side would be the choice, but seeing that the Falcons had one safety deep gives Wilson the matchup he wanted. In this play, he tries to get the ball to Jimmy Graham. Graham was sitting underneath the outside deep zone cornerback, but can’t hold onto the ball.

Now it’s third and five and Seattle has 1:06 on the clock. Bevell calls a mesh concept over the middle of the field. This gives Wilson a triangle read and he should have seen Doug Baldwin. Wilson has plenty of time to throw it, but decides to scramble instead. While he did get the first down, the pass to Baldwin would have given them more yards in roughly the same amount of time.

On the sixth play, the Falcons are playing zone coverage. Wilson identifies it quickly and finds Graham underneath for a quick five yard gain. Similar to the fourth play, Wilson trusted that Graham would hang onto the ball through contact and this time it works for the offense.

The clock kept rolling on the completion and now there is only 30 seconds left in regulation. The Seahawks have breached into the Falcons’ territory and they need roughly eight yards to get into field goal range for Walsh. In 2012, Walsh kicked a 56 yard field goal versus the Houston Texans. It’s reasonable to think he should have enough leg to do it here.

On this play, the Falcons drop eight into coverage while the Seahawks send five receivers down the field. Wilson looks down the field, but ends up passing the ball to J.D. McKissic for a two-yard gain underneath.

With only 30 seconds left, this isn’t a bad throw, but I just wish Wilson would have seen Baldwin on his seam route. If he focused on that route instead, there is a chance he could have squeezed the ball to him or he potentially could have moved the linebackers enough to give McKissic more room to gain yards. Regardless, Seattle should only need six more yards to get into likelier game-tying position.

At the end of this play, the Falcons are forced to call a timeout since Brian Poole got injured. This stopped the clock with just 21 seconds in regulation.

On the eighth play, all of the Seahawks wide receivers run slants. The idea is to give the quarterback multiple one-on-one matchups that he can choose from. Wilson sees Paul Richardson in the left slot versus Robert Alford in off-man coverage with outside leverage. In this quick hitting concept, this should give him an ideal throwing lane. Wilson fires the pass and Richardson catches the ball for an eight yard gain.

After this play is over there’s only eight seconds left, so Wilson spikes the ball. Pete Carroll actually sends his offense back on the field which drew the criticism of many including myself. With this little time left, if there was a sack, completion in-bounds or any sort of offensive penalty, this would likely end the game.

Atlanta calls a timeout and, in my opinion, Seattle does the smart thing in sending out their field goal unit. Unfortunately, Blair Walsh’s kick was short and the Seahawks lost the game.

In hindsight, it’s very easy to criticize decisions by the players and the coaches. You can argue that if Wilson saw Doug Baldwin in the fourth play, then maybe they would have had more time to get closer for Walsh’s kick. You could also say Bevell should have called more out-breaking routes to give chances to get to the sideline and preserve time on the clock. I disagree with this criticism since the Falcons were playing a good amount of zone coverage on the outside and this forced Wilson to look inside.

The last, and fair thing to criticize, is trusting Walsh to make this kick. In my opinion, I would have done the same thing as Carroll. If you ignore the horrific 0 for 3 performance versus the Washington Redskins, Walsh was 17-18 so far this season. Yes, he hadn’t made a 50 yard field goal yet, but at 17-18 and when most kicks actually looked good, I have no problem giving him the chance. The Seahawks were just unlucky that he missed it and they lost the game.

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