Having watched the tape and entered another dimension via excessive caffeine consumption, it was clear that Kyle Shanahan fantastically (grossly) exploited Seattle’s defense. The 49ers head coach and offensive mind left me wanting to write on three topics: Calitro struggling, Thompson struggling and the Seahawks’ gameplan struggling.
There was so much to focus on that, once I’d chugged a few glasses of water and exited galaxy brain-mode, I narrowed the focus down to the passing game only and converted the article into a twitter thread. Shanahan proved his savviness as a schemer by using Seattle’s coverage rules and tendencies against them. It was similar to the stuff Schottenheimer tried to do against a near-mirror defense in San Francisco, especially the coverage identifiers and play-action usage.
Kyle Shanahan scheming against the Seahawks thread, full article will be @FieldGulls this afternoon:— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) December 21, 2018
The personnel usage is nice here. Coming out in 21 personnel. Yet the versatility of fullback Kyle Juszczyk means Shanahan is quite happy motioning into a 2x2 formation.— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) December 21, 2018
And the quick pre-snap shift has Bradley McDougald run off downfield. Juszczyk commands respect downfield.
You’d have liked Frank Clark to have remained more patient here. Yet that’s part of this play’s brilliance; it keeps pass rushers honest and adds doubt to their minds.
Somehow, I doubt we will see as much Bandit from now on. Keeping things simpler for the Seahawks worked far better in the second half after the terrible pair of second quarter third downs. The first one was just a smart 49ers play. The latter was a defense beating themselves through lack of familiarity or understanding. Ultimately, that comes down to coaching.
Same drive, Norton Jr. went back to a Bandit blitz— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) December 21, 2018
Shanny's pre-snap motion from trips into 2x2 caused a coverage bust for Seattle
Shaquill Griffin blitzed when he should have stayed (with similar rules to the top of the screen)
Mullens did well to get off the wide open throw. pic.twitter.com/LvW6b18RgW
Working Mable and Skate
If you’d like to read more about Mable and Skate, check out this edition of Seahawks on tape.
This is nice personnel usage. Seattle responding to the 21 by coming out in their base.— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) December 21, 2018
Kittle, the #3, gets double covered because Wagner must match vertically.
Calitro's hook sees him converge, but he shouldn't turn his back to the LOS. He should be the first man to Wilson. pic.twitter.com/xEQVnRAWNY
Props to Poona Ford for pushing the pocket. Mullens didn't step into the throw properly and looked cramped. Pocket nav something to work on.— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) December 21, 2018
Shanny keeping Seattle in base. Seattle would want to play big nickel with Akeem King or McDougald (when healthy) playing the weak hook. pic.twitter.com/NPWXuPHDbk
Shanny ran a smash with a mesh. Mullens had the two nice pre-snap coverage identifiers. Given the man ID, he chose Pettis' wheel against Griffin.— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) December 21, 2018
Mullens delivered a dime of a pass. Thompson couldn't get over after his eyes were halted by Kittle's crosser (part of the mesh). pic.twitter.com/ymLEuCeZQi
Attacking Soft Sky
If you’d like to read more about “Soft Sky”, check out this edition of Seahawks on tape.
Shanahan's play works perfectly.— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) December 21, 2018
Mullens has a nice wide play-fake, almost inverted-veer like, where he can keep his eyes downfield while riding the mesh point.
He can read from dig to seam to flat.
The flat is wide open, as the "soft sky" Delano Hill has run with the seam. pic.twitter.com/WN094pl1ZO
(It's what @babylead got his INT on @ CAR https://t.co/Qz2mAa5cmI)— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) December 21, 2018
Seahawks LB coach John Glenn described it as a 60/40 split for the FS in a 2015 clinic.
It's interesting how aggressively Thompson squeezed crossers in this game, a Seattle adjustment to their effectiveness. pic.twitter.com/YLUTRLRlkp
Targeting the weak links
The defense conceded just 16 points in regulation and adjusted, so it’s important not to overreact to this encounter. But this game highlighted, above everything else, the two weak points in the Seattle defense: Tedric Thompson and Austin Calitro. Shanahan had little issue working them.
Calitro had been improving but then got benched for a returning Mychal Kendricks. Did this cause his confidence to decline and his progress to regress? His lack of lateral agility was shown up in the run game too.
To finish:— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) December 21, 2018
We've seen how Thompson's range was limited in this game. His tackling was also bad. Sure: the dreadful playing surface didn't help.
We've also watched the doubt that Calitro played with. This was epitomized by this play, where he didn't trust his keys and played PA. pic.twitter.com/P1Ibe0fS3J
Thompson was limited by an abomination of a playing surface, but his tackling is bad in the open field and his range is only adequate for Seattle’s overall scheme. He’s a low-level starter at a position where Seattle has been blessed with hall of fame talent. More quarters-type coverages would help.
The game against the powerfully passing Kansas City is going to be tougher given Thompson has been ruled out and Bradley McDougald is hurt. It’s time to campaign for Akeem King at deep safety given the promise Delano Hill showed playing in the press-man, box assignments that he thrived on in college.
Seattle’s defensive scheme is the type which will improve as players mature and their chemistry grows. Indeed, we’ve witnessed that this season with their merging and plastering in zone shells improving throughout. Once players get fully natural with Carroll’s relatively simple rules, they then can refine their technique to a masterful level.
However, the defense without K.J. Wright is always going to lack a coverage awareness—even if McDougald manages to return. The plan clearly was for Shaquem Griffin to fill the void at weakside linebacker, but his early playing time showed him to be nowhere near ready for the professional game.
In the offseason, Seattle will have to revaluate that position. They may need to spend serious draft capital there if Griffin still is a special teamer only. More speed on the front seven overall is essential. The issue right now is they don’t have much power in the 2019 draft, and EDGE rusher is an even larger need.