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Seahawks on tape: Kyle Shanahan’s plan to beat Seattle

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

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.

Smart screen

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.

Beating “Bandit”

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.

Working Mable and Skate

If you’d like to read more about Mable and Skate, check out this edition of Seahawks on tape.



Man variation:

Attacking Soft Sky

If you’d like to read more about “Soft Sky”, check out this edition of Seahawks on tape.

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.

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.