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Little Things, Week 10: Seahawks outslug Patriots, Part 2

There was more to say, but don’t be so greedy as to count on a Part 3

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at New England Patriots
prosisely delivered
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t hear anyone complaining about a second week spent on the best game of the year. Do you?

Nine plays down the stretch turned a compelling, competitive game into an unforgettable one. Nine little things in each play may have snuck under your excellent radar.

Today’s angle, as we happily revisit Seattle Seahawks 31, New England Patriots 24, is that background noise — something besides the actual catch, tackle, or fumble that roused you out of your seat, elicited a yelp of celebration, made you wake up the sleeping baby, or caused you to hit your hand on the ceiling. Yes, that paragraph is in large part confessional.

little thing one: too many blocks

circumstances: qtr 3, 7:58, ball on sea 13

LeGarrette Blount breaks contain and sweeps in for a touchdown.

He scores, but not entirely because Kam Chancellor took a poor angle. It would be easy to blame Kam as you rewatch the film. But his bad angle doesn’t end up mattering much if number 46 for New England (fullback James Develin) doesn’t knock DeShawn Shead all the way into Connecticut, while Martellus Bennett takes out two Seahawks all by himself. One way to give yourself a sweet numerical advantage is by removing multiple defenders.

Blocking: it’s not just for Twitter.

little thing two: play design

circumstances: qtr 4, 11:09, ball on ne 41

With so much attention being given to Jimmy Graham and Doug Baldwin on third down, and for good reason, either Jermaine Kearse or C.J. Prosise is bound to receive single coverage. Darrell Bevell’s been exploiting the Prosise mismatch all game, so here’s how he creates another one: Kearse simply gives the DB a fake to the outside then cuts inside. A delayed slant, curl, dig or post would all clear things out for Prosise. Kearse executes a little thing like a convincing route, and the defender bites, and Prosise is isolated, and the ball is on the money. (Not a little thing: Russell Wilson was on that day, everyone.)

little thing three: bees

circumstances: qtr 4, 8:39, ball on sea 43


The Patriots are not loafing by any means on this play. Does that sound to you like something a Bill Belichick team would do? But one team is swarming. One team is the bees. And that ball swarming pays off, sometimes when you need it most.

Look at the screenshot above. Count the white uniforms. There are six. Count the blue ones in support. There’s, like, a receiver’s shoe at the top of the picture, pointing in the wrong direction. I rest my case, Your Honeycomb.

little thing four: veteran savvy

circumstances: qtr 4, 4:29, ball on ne 15

This gorgeous Baldwin score is a lesson on how to get separation without also getting flagged for offensive pass interference. A useful skill indeed.

The ball is released at the exact moment Wilson sees Baldwin gain the inside track, aided by shrewd contact. Baldwin doesn’t extend his arms, but he applies a ton of force to the helpless defensive back, who already wasn’t sure if Baldwin might be running an shorter pattern here.

Hopefully this little trick is something ADB helps teach the other receivers, who might lack the same savoir faire?

little thing five: progressions

circumstances: qtr 4, 2:33 left, ball on ne 46

On this unfortunate catch by Julian Edelman, again on third and long, he gets behind the defense enough to convert. Sure. But that’s a big thing. The little thing is that Brady never gets to his third read. If he does, the game plays out in an entirely different manner.

Watch Brady, closely. His first read is to Rob Gronkowski in the middle of the field. He declines, seeing Edelman break free. A wise decision? Sure. But if Brady happens to glance left for another read, his eyes bulge out, seeing Jeremy Lane has been torched. It’s an easy touchdown to Danny Amendola, who has a step. Tie game.

little thing six: great coverage doesn’t always win

circumstances: qtr 4, 1:30, ball on sea 28

The ball is perfect.

It has to be. That’s the thing here. All the coverage is spot-on. The windows are too small to force it in to the crossing Edelman and Amendola. Only a perfect redline pass gets it done. Tom fucking Brady, everyone.

little thing seven: interior penetration

circumstances: qtr 4, 0:36 left, ball on sea 1

Kam Chancellor makes the tackle of a season. But he had help. (He always has help, even when he’s bouncing the ball backward to K.J. Wright at home, near the back of the end zone, for easy disposal.)

What’s harder to see from this angle is the work put in by Wright and Bobby Wagner. Let us rotate the play.

Wagner arrives simultaneously with Chancellor. Wright follows, to ensure no forward progress will be summoned. Individual excellence, buttressed by relentless teamwork from large, fast, smart men incapable of quit. Your Seattle Seahawks.

(Also: don’t you love Frank Clark’s late smash into Cliff Avril, sending him to a regal-looking seated position atop a throne of defeated rivals?)

little thing eight: foreshadowing

circumstances: qtr 4, 0:19 left, ball inside sea 1

We know Tom Brady is going to fumble the ball right here. We know it because it happened already!


There is precious little to say about a broken play except a Nelsonian “HAH-hah.” How about, then, we go with the matchup laid out at the top of the screen. It is already Kam vs. Gronk. Foreshadowing. Each of them gets one last chance to size the other up before all the marbles are thrown at once.

Maybe this defensive alignment influences Belichick’s final play call; maybe it prepares the Seahawks better for fourth down. Anyway, it’s foreshadowing, and if I’m reaching here, it’s only because you should see Brady fail in the clutch as many times as you can in your life.

little thing nine: basketball matters?

circumstances: the patriots’ final offensive play

Last stop to glorytown. There’s press coverage on the offense’s right side. Brady never looks that way, he’s going Gronk pre-snap all the way, but still. Cool to see the Seahawk DB’s be physical at the line of scrimmage in a big moment.

Kam kamps out four yards off the line of scrimmage, within his rights to engage the receiver, then receives the contact from his opponent like a hoopster taking a charge.

Football isn’t basketball. But Chancellor, by crouching into basketball’s textbook triple threat position in a predetermined location, does a great job of making Gronkowski look like the aggressor.

With a back judge (presumably) predisposed to let the players, not the stripes, sort out the final play, it’s a pretty smart tactic. For any sport.

Hope you’ve enjoyed two servings of Seahawks-Patriots. The fun Eagles game is up next week, as we romp toward the bittersweet ending of a memorable, if frustrating, 2016 season.