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A quick look at the pick-6 Russell Wilson threw against the Chargers

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Los Angeles Chargers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

On Sunday the Seattle Seahawks opened up a brutal November schedule against the Los Angeles Chargers needing a win to maintain early playoff positioning following a win by the Minnesota Vikings earlier in the day. With the Chargers up 19-10 in the fourth quarter, the Hawks had first and ten at their own 36 with 6:44 to go in the game, and visions of Wilson’s first fourth quarter comeback of the 2018 season were swirling in fans’ heads.

And then came a pick-6 on a dreaded six yard curl. Now, I don’t mean to toot my own horn. Okay, nevermind, we all know that’s a lie. I’m here to tell all y’all how smart I am and how much I have hated the Brian Schottenheimer hire as offensive coordinator since it happened in January. And then I grew to despise the hire when I sat down during the offseason and did a lot of film study of Schotty’s offenses with the New York Jets and the then St. Louis, but now Los Angeles Rams.

In any case, getting to the pick-6 at hand, here’s a still shot from the All-22 film for what things looked like and what the play design was supposed to do versus what actually happened (for those wondering, the All-22 isn’t out yet, this was shown on the broadcast footage, so I yanked the screenshot from there).

As you can tell, Wilson has already thrown the ball in that picture, so here’s a breakdown of why the defense was successful in stopping the Hawks offense on this play.

Friday I gave a quick breakdown of the theoretical concepts of the Air Coryell passing system, and on the pick six these concepts were on full display. In order to better help explain things, here is the same capture of the fated interception with players highlighed using colors to help explain what the play was designed to do.

This is the defense lined up in a textbook cover-3 in big dime personnel. The outside cornerbacks are circled in red, with the deep safety circled in yellow and those three defenders are the deep layer in the zone. The four defenders making up the underneath layer of the zone defense are circled in black. The underneath defenders are comprised of an inside corner (Desmond King II), two safeties (Adrian Phillips and Derwin James) and a linebacker (Denzel Perryman).

The way the offense attempts to attack this defense is nearly exactly how I described it in theory on Friday. The two receivers to Wilson’s right, Nick Vannett and Tyler Lockett both run short curls that should be able to gain yards against a zone defense. Vannett appears to be wide open, albeit for a short gain, but even a short gain is better than a pick-6 the other direction. In addition, we see Mike Davis slipping out of the backfield as the fifth receiver in the pattern on the play. Obviously by this time it’s too late for Davis to have any impact since Wilson has already thrown his pass, but this makes Davis the fifth receiver in the pattern that I noted in my piece on Friday.

The pass to David Moore that was intercepted was simply a bad read by Russell. Going back to the still shot, it’s possible to see what offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was trying to do. In particular, looking at the receivers to Wilson’s left in the still, we see that the outside receiver, who is circled in blue at the top of the screen runs a curl. The inside receiver is Doug Baldwin, and he is underlined in green. In theory, what should happen on this play is that Baldwin’s intermediate to deep route should drag the inside corner clear of Wilson’s throwing lane to Moore at the top of the screen, while also demanding the attention of the deep safety. However, the Chargers have seen this combination from Wilson and the Seahawks enough already in 2018, and King was ready for the route. The rest goes down in the box score as the third pick six of Wilson’s career, and the second of 2018.

Now, before anyone starts defending Wilson and Schottenheimer, let me go ahead and toot my horn and point out that I’ve been yammering about this stupid offense and this stupid route all season. Here’s me complaining about Schotty’s propensity for the curl route after the pick six in Week 2 against the Chicago Bears.

If Week 2 isn’t far enough back for you, here’s me explaining the theory of Air Coryell route combinations the day after the Seahawks lost to the Chargers during the preseason.

And if that’s not far enough back for you, here’s me complaining about Schottenheimer’s offense being built on curl routes on July 25.

Now, for those who don’t recall the importance of the date July 25, 2018, let me just say that it is the day before the Seahawks reported for training camp.

The Seahawks are 4-4 this season, with two of those losses coming in large part thanks to a fourth quarter pick-6 on a six yard curl route to an outside receiver. Fans have wanted to get behind Schottenheimer and this offense, but Wilson’s performance on Sunday was exactly the type of performance I expect the offense to produce several times during the second half of the season, simply for schematic reasons which I will go into in another piece.