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EPA Replay, Week 2: The 10 biggest plays from the Seahawks’ victory over the 49ers

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday’s Seahawks-49ers game was not pretty. It was a low scoring affair with few big plays (only one touchdown and one turnover) and as a result, most of the plays listed below resulted in modest changes in an estimated win probability that remained in the ballpark of 50% for most of the game. In a game like this, every little advantage gained mattered. Seattle had just enough consequential plays to be able to come away with a victory.

For an overview of EPA and this series, see my intro article here. Onto the plays:

#10. Q1 3-6 SEA 40: (12:18) (Shotgun) Russell Wilson pass short left to Doug Baldwin pushed ob at 50 for 10 yards (D.Johnson).

EPA:2.12. Score before play: SEA0, SF0. SEA WP change: 51-> 58. TD% before: 33. TD% after: 46

Alternate view:

I’m showing both views here because SF shows 7 defenders on the line of scrimmage on this 3rd down, eventually rushing 5, and Seattle actually picks up the blitz. When the rushers don’t get home immediately, it is an easy conversion to Baldwin in space.

#9. Q1 3-1 SF 34: (7:56) (Shotgun) Carlos Hyde right guard to SF 34 for no gain (Sheldon Richardson; Kam Chancellor).

EPA:2.26. Score before play: SF0, SEA3. SEA WP change: 55-> 62. TD% before: 42. TD% after: 30

Hyde stuffed and the 49ers would punt on the next play. A couple things of note here:

  • Richardson, K.J. Wright, and Chancellor all converging on Hyde to stuff this 3rd and 1 and force a punt on the next play. Sheldon Richardson, especially, is impressive here
  • Michael Bennett getting double teamed and driven back off the screen which didn’t cause the play to fail but looks funny

#8. Q2 3-12 SF 30: (:42) (Shotgun) C.Hyde left tackle pushed ob at SEA 43 for 27 yards (Richard Sherman). PENALTY on SEA-Cliff Avril, Face Mask (15 Yards), 15 yards, enforced at SEA 43.

EPA:2.31. Score before play: SF3, SEA6. SEA WP change: 59-> 51. TD% before: 8. TD% after: 28

On a 3rd and 12, Seattle doesn’t respect the run and Hyde has a big hole. He should have been tackled for a 5 yard gain on the 35, short of the 1st down, but Chancellor overruns the play and no one else makes a tackle until too late.

#7. Q3 2-9 SEA 21: (9:29) R.Wilson pass deep right to D.Baldwin to SEA 39 for 18 yards (Rashard Robinson).

EPA:2.38. Score before play: SEA6, SF6. SEA WP change: 47-> 55. TD% before: 28. TD% after: 41

Play action allows the line to hold up, giving Baldwin time to work free and Wilson delivers.

#6. Q1 3-8 SEA 27: (13:50) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short left to C.J. Prosise to SEA 36 for 9 yards (Jimmie Ward).

EPA:2.47. Score before play: SEA0, SF0. SEA WP change: 46-> 54. TD% before: 26. TD% after: 40

This play should have failed but Prosise makes a nice move to get the 1st. I discuss my bafflement at this play on twitter here.

#5. Q1 4-1 SF 41: (10:53) (Shotgun) R.Wilson left end ran ob at SF 32 for 9 yards (J.Tartt).

EPA:2.71. Score before play: SEA0, SF0. SEA WP change: 52-> 61. TD% before: 30. TD% after: 51

On this 4th down play, the 49ers gamble hard that Wilson won’t keep on the read option. It doesn’t work out for them.

#4. Q3 2-18 SEA 31: (8:19) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short left to Paul Richardson pushed ob at SEA 41 for 10 yards (R.Armstrong). PENALTY on SF-R.Armstrong, Unnecessary Roughness, 15 yards, enforced at SEA 41.

EPA:2.93. Score before play: SEA6, SF6. SEA WP change: 49-> 59. TD% before: 30. TD% after: 48

The 49ers player covering Richardson gets caught with his eyes in the backfield, probably assuming that Seattle’s offensive line won’t be able to hold up past two seconds into the play. For once, he is wrong as Wilson has a nice pocket to work from.

#3. Q4 3-7 SF 9: (7:13) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short left to P.Richardson for 9 yards, TOUCHDOWN [DeForest Buckner].

EPA:3.49. Score before play: SEA6, SF9. SEA WP change: 50-> 65. TD% before: 32. TD% after: 100

This EPA calculation assumes touchdowns are worth 7 points to make the calculation more simple. Perhaps that is not a safe assumption.

#2. Q2 2-4 SF 17: (3:54) C.Hyde left tackle to SEA 22 for 61 yards (Jeremy Lane).

EPA:3.65. Score before play: SF0, SEA6. SEA WP change: 70-> 58. TD% before: 17. TD% after: 45

Kam is focused on the fake end around while Hyde runs past him at full speed while carrying the ball. It’s possible Kam was assignment-correct here but he is the only one in position to prevent what ended up as a 61 yard gain.

#1. Q1 1-10 SF 39: (5:39) (Shotgun) Brian Hoyer pass short middle intended for C.Hyde INTERCEPTED by Bobby Wagner at SF 43. B.Wagner to SF 36 for 7 yards (Marquise Goodwin). FUMBLES (M.Goodwin), recovered by SEA-R.Sherman at SF 36. R.Sherman to SF 36 for no gain (C.Hyde)

EPA:6.05. Score before play: SF0, SEA3. SEA WP change: 53-> 72. TD% before: 42. TD% after: 8

Brian Hoyer throws this ball straight to Bobby Wagner, who is patrolling the middle of the field like he usually does.

Concluding thoughts

One of the main stories of the game was Chris Carson appearing to take over as the team’s lead back, being given 20 carries while all other running backs on the team combined for 5. However, while he was instrumental in icing the game at the end, none of his plays were in the top 10 in EPA. This is not to diminish his accomplishments, but rather note that many of the plays that show up here are not the plays that one most remembers once the game ends. Plays 10, 9, and 6 are great examples of this: Plays 10 and 6 were 3rd down conversions on the 1st drive of the game that led to Seattle’s first points of the game, and Play 9 caused SF to go 3 and out on their first drive of the game.