The Seattle Seahawks set themselves up for the very strong possibility of making the playoffs on Sunday with the victory over the Carolina Panthers on the road, and one of the biggest plays of the game was the 35 yard touchdown pass to David Moore on 4th & 3 with less than four minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Some fans have speculated that the throw was simply a gamble by Russ that paid off with the tying score, but based on the evidence available, it’s my feeling that Moore was the primary target on the play and that the touchdown was yet another example of Pete Carroll being willing to take a risk and put faith in his players.
There are several pieces of evidence I believe point to Moore being the primary target, so let’s work through them one at a time.
The first thing that sticks out when watching the play is that the Seahawks send only three receivers into the pattern. This is unique because the offense traditionally puts all five skill position players into the pattern, but that was not the case here. Instead, Seattle kept both tight end Ed Dickson and running back Mike Davis in for pass protection, meaning the Hawks had seven players providing protection. In an offense in which the passing game is built around stressing the defense, only sending three targets out doesn’t really add up. Unless, as was the case here, the way the team was stressing the defense was by creating an advantageous one on one matchup that would likely need time to develop.
Here’s a look at the offensive line, with Dickson and Davis helping in protection at the moment Russ reaches the bottom of his drop and pushes forward off his back foot.
I have seen speculation on social media that Wilson’s primary target was Doug Baldwin on the offensive right side or Tyler Lockett on the crossing route, and this seems to be largely based on the fact that Wilson’s helmet is pointing that direction as he makes his drop. However, in having watched so much film of Brian Schottenheimer’s offense, one thing that becomes apparent is that the majority of the time the quarterback is looking a safety off until he reaches the bottom of his drop. Mark Sanchez did it while Schotty was with the New York Jets, Sam Bradford did it while Schotty was with the then St. Louis, but now Los Angeles Rams and Wilson is now showing the same thing with the Hawks.
So, to that end, let’s take a look at what Russ does with his head once he’s reached the bottom of his drop.
Here we see Wilson has barely had time to lift up his back foot, and his head is already snapping to the left. Continuing to focus on his feet, let’s watch how he INSTANTLY repositions his feet, and where that foot repositioning sets him up to deliver the pass.
When using proper quarterbacking technique, a line connecting the heels of the quarterback should point in the direction where he is preparing to deliver the ball. In this image the day glow green arrow seems to indicate that Wilson is either preparing to throw the ball well behind Lockett, or he’s looking past Lockett to another receiver. Transitioning out to the all-22, let’s take a look at what the entire field looks like.
I’ve drawn another arrow based on Wilson’s foot positioning, and it pretty clearly shows that Wilson is preparing to throw the ball to Moore at the top of the picture. Lockett’s crossing route is pretty well covered, and Baldwin does not have any separation at the bottom of the screen.
However, of note is Eric Reid, the safety circled in red in the image. It appears that based on having attempted to read Russ’ eyes, Reid is heading to the offensive right side. This makes sense not only because of the fact that Russ was seemingly looking that way, but also because there are two receivers on that side of the field.
Welp, he’s wrong.
That is most certainly not the prettiest form I’ve ever seen on a catch, but I’m certainly not going to complain about the result.