The first half of the San Francisco 49ers game was filled with drops, a missed field goal, and an ugly interception by Russell Wilson. Luckily during the start of the second half, the Seattle Seahawks scored on a six-play, 71-yard drive. Here’s how it all went down.
Tyler Lockett returned the kick to the 29-yard line and the drive began.
On 1st-and-10, the Seahawks run play-action. They line up with heavy personnel and fake an outside zone to the left. Eddie Lacy is in the backfield. Amara Darboh, who is the lone wide receiver, takes a hard inside release and runs up the numbers. From the left side of the formation, Jimmy Graham runs an out-n-up attacking the left sideline.
Eli Harold, who is responsible for Graham, doesn’t fall for the fake. He watches the backfield and then trails Graham using inside leverage. When the pair reaches the 35-yard line, Wilson throws the ball placing it on Graham’s outside shoulder. Due to Harold’s coverage, I don’t believe the tight end was expecting the ball. He is late to track the pass and the ball sails outside his frame falling incomplete.
In an ideal world, this pass might have been thrown with a little bit more touch, but Wilson was hoping he would recognize the defender’s position and they would be able to execute a back-shoulder throw. These two were not on the same page during this play.
The next play was on 2nd-and-10. The Seahawks motion Nick Vannett to the left and run outside zone to the right. The Niners line up with DeForest Buckner on the outside shoulder of Ethan Pocic, while Tank Carradine lines up on the outside shoulder of Germain Ifedi. This alignment is meant to prevent a double team at the point of attack and this allows Buckner to get one-on-one match-up with the rookie. While Pocic gains a good initial position, Buckner uses his strength to force him backwards while reading Lacy’s path. This combined with Carradine’s outside leverage on Ifedi forced the play inside.
In situations like this, the outside zone reads tell the running back to cut hard into the B-gap which is exactly what Lacy did. San Francisco’s defense just played soundly and won their respective assignments. This is why this run was stopped for a minimal gain.
Now it’s 3rd-and-9 and Seattle is forced into an obvious passing situation. They line up in empty-set shotgun with a trips bunch on the left. With one deep safety and the 49ers dropping into zone coverage, I don’t understand why Wilson turned down the open throw to Tyler Lockett. He’s open at the first down marker and this would have been an easy throw for the first down.
Wilson starts to scramble and while Doug Baldwin originally ran a drag route, he cut up the field trying to find space for his quarterback. The ball is thrown over his outside shoulder and he tracks it perfectly to bring it in for a 23-yard gain.
The Seahawks have now crossed into San Francisco’s territory and have a new set of downs at their 47-yard line. Wilson is able to connect with Tanner McEvoy for another big gain.
This time Seattle actually used one of Kyle Shanahan’s favorite concepts: the “Yankee” concept. In this play design, the offense pairs a play-action bootleg off of a two-man concept down the field. With Paul Richardson stretching the defense, this opens a hole in the middle of the field for McEvoy. This is what gets him so wide open and gives Wilson a wide open read.
The Seahawks then start their third set of downs on this drive. They run a backside inside zone with Eddie Lacy. This is meant to simulate a front-hitting zone play in order to move the linebackers. This run is one of Darrell Bevell and Tom Cable’s favorites and it sets Lacy up for a six-yard gain after he fights through contact.
The final play of this drive happened on a 2nd-and-4 with 6:37 remaining in the third quarter. Seattle lines up with 12-personnel meaning they have one running back and two tight ends on the field. Out of shotgun, Wilson fakes the handoff to Lacy and Bevell sends Vannett on a corner route to the endzone. The Niners are in Cover 3 and the free safety is paralyzed by the backfield action. He completely misses Vannett leaking into the endzone and this gets him open for the score.
One other thing that I really like about this play design is that Lockett runs a simple hitch route on the right sideline. This holds the sideline defender and frees up space in the endzone. Clearly there was a busted coverage by the defense and this allowed Wilson to execute this play to perfection.
After Vannett scored this touchdown, Blair Walsh made the extra point giving the Seahawks a 14-6 lead. On their next drive, Seattle was able to do the same thing and drive 63 yards down the field to score their third offensive touchdown. From here until the last drive of the game, the defense held Shanahan’s offense in check. At the end of this game, C.J. Beathard suffered a knee and hip injury and that set up Jimmy Garoppolo for his first touchdown as a 49er.
On Sunday night, the Seahawks face the 10-1 Philadelphia Eagles. If they are going to compete with them, they need to complete more drives like this. Carson Wentz is having an MVP type season and stopping Doug Pederson’s offense is going to be challenging. I expect this game to be a high scoring affair and unless Russell Wilson has an incredible game I unfortunately can’t see the Seahawks’ offense sticking with them.