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Little Things, Week 12: No offense, Tampa Bay. None taken.

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Five points isn’t going to do it when you allow seven on the first drive

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Seahawks scored five points Week 12 in Raymond James Stadium. It was not enough to win. They gave up seven points on their first defensive possession. It was enough to lose.

Some big plays happened. The touchdown featured at the end of this post. The second-quarter safety on which the Seahawks scored 40 percent of their output. The fourth-quarter Jimmy Graham fumble in Bucs territory, a giveaway that probably cost points. Russell Wilson’s late interception at the goal line.

And this ball that needed to be in a 18” by 18” window not a quarter-second sooner, or later.

execution matters

Seattle kept Tampa Bay scoreless for the next 47:55. Too bad it didn’t matter.

Since the first drive ended up being the most important one of the game, I’ve chosen three key plays from it. Each play contains a move or a matchup or a decision that made it successful from the Buccaneers’ point of view and unsuccessful from the Seahawks’.

Ready to relive the worst offensive showing of the year?

(As always, the streamable clips are provided by Mike Bar, who is currently accepting your congratulations for his recent graduation from the University of Kearseington-Seattle.)

little thing one: one measly third-down conversion

cicrumstances: qtr 1, 11:40 left, 3rd and 12, ball on tb 44

Footage:

Anytime an opposing quarterback converts 3rd and 12, you’re looking for at least one of these four things to have happened:

  1. the coverage broke down
  2. the blitz failed to get home
  3. the quarterback made a pass into a tight window of space-time
  4. the receiver broke tackles to reach the marker.

The numbers at the line suggest 1) is to blame. Tampa Bay sends two WR, two TE and one RB out and keeps five men to pass protect. Seattle declines to blitz; seven Seahawks drop back and become responsible for five Buccaneers.

But quickly we see that in the left flat, Adam Humphries (11) is left alone — a coverage decision that shows Seattle is willing to concede a completion short of the sticks. Now we’re seven on four. Three of the TB receivers figure to be double-teamed, right?

Jameis Winston and Mike Evans beat the double-team because of at least one of four reasons:

  1. Jeremy Lane lost his man
  2. Lane played the route well but counted on help that didn’t arrive
  3. Bobby Wagner was late to arrive
  4. The crafty receiver created an opening where there should have been none.

The All-22 tape will point us to the correct reasons.

As expected, Seattle appears to be in a zone look, with four men at the sticks and three deep to prevent Winston from going over the top. They’ll concede the six-yard dump-off and rely on reactive quickness if the quarterback goes short.

The meltdown isn’t in the deep middle; Steven Terrell stays home to double-team the streaking receiver. It appears to be on Wagner and Lane. When Evans crosses, you’ll see Sherman stay on his side of the field. (For better or worse.) Chancellor rushes to midfield to blanket the running back who’d just materialized.

Lane inexplicably breaks the wrong way, Winston lets it fly, and Wagner stumbles laterally. That’s all it takes for Evans to get a glimmer of daylight.

One third-down conversion at midfield in the first quarter of a game doesn’t often spell the difference between victory and defeat. The play above comes as close as any in 2016.

little thing two: personnel choices

circumstances: qtr 1, 10:36 left, 2nd and 6, ball on sea

Footage:

Curious personnel.

Will Tukuafu flashes in the backfield — after a ball carrier has ceased to exist there. Cassius Marsh and... K.J. Wright (?) line up on the ends.

Your defensive tackles are Jarran Reed and... John Jenkins (?). It’s curious indeed.

At this moment, not on the field are: Earl Thomas (injury), Michael Bennett (injury), Cliff Avril (rotation), Ahtyba Rubin (rotation). Without those guys to keep the run game in check, bad little things are going to happen, like Doug Martin getting seven when six are needed.

Second downs really killed the Seahawks on the opening possession. For as much as third-down conversion rate matters, second-down conversions are precious, as they keep the offense from facing third down in the first place.

  • 2nd and 8: Winston scrambles for 8
  • 2nd and 6: Evans 10-yard reception
  • 2nd and 7: incomplete
  • 2nd and 6: Martin runs for 7
  • 2nd and 3: Peyton Barber runs for 4
  • 2nd and 7: Barber 4-yard reception

Out of six second-down chances, the Bucs made hay on five. Four conversions and one nice red-zone run that picks up half the yardage. The Seahawks didn’t lose this game via third down-performance, but via collective second-down underwhelmage, with sometimes too much talent sitting on the bench.

little thing three: misdirection works at all levels of football

circumstances: qtr 1, 7:34 left, 3rd and goal, ball on sea 3

Footage:

The read-option isn’t the only way to create a numerical advantage. All you need to do is take a defender or two out of the play.

Play-action to Martin renders Reed’s pressure up the middle inconsequential. Motion by FB Alan Cross takes Wright to the corner and clears out space for Winston to scramble left, by design.

Once Winston is out of the pocket, Wagner is forced to step up and respect his running threat. The space vacated by Wagz is right where Evans camps out, in time to receive a softball from his quarterback. Three Seattle defenders were manipulated into giving up position, and all the points Tampa Bay needed to win have now been scored.

And that’s about all the attention that game deserves. Fast-forward to the Spankthers, please thank you.