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Seahawks on tape: Brian Schottenheimer exploits aggressive crosser matching

NFL: AUG 08 Preseason - Broncos at Seahawks Photo by Michael Workman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Brain Schottenheimer is excellent at adapting his passing concepts in games. It’s not “fashionable” to praise the offensive coordinator, the scapegoat of all offensive failures. There’s a “run, run, pass” narrative—he only picked the course of action on three out of 12 drives last Sunday—and constant negativity around Schotty ever since he was hired. Yet, once more, Schottenheimer proved his worth against the Cincinnati Bengals.

With little-to-no tape on what the Bengals were going to do and run on defense, Schottenheimer was left dealing with an offensive line that gave up a pressure on 50% of offensive snaps. That wasn’t just limited to the o-line; it was a statistic impacted by tight ends releasing on passing patterns but also by the Bengals scheming to take away the primary read of staple Seattle concepts.

Take how Cincinnati played the over route on play-action. Lining up in a cover 3 look, they rotated their post safety down to cut the crossing route from the slot—called nailing down by California Grad Assistant Dante Bartee and Lexington High School Head Coach Kyle Cogan.—and replaced the post safety with the nickel corner.

It was a massive reason for Tyler Lockett not receiving as many targets as he would have hoped. The Bengals took away the play-action waggle yankee concept, Russell Wilson looking to the yankee crosser and seeing, to his surprise, the leverage advantage removed by the safety “nailing down” the crosser and the post also closed by the slot corner. By that point Will Dissly had released to the flat and a free rusher was sacking Wilson.

Schotty attempted to adjust with a semi-naked bootleg, moving Wilson out of the pocket but Justin Britt got butchered off the snap. The shortest path to the quarterback was opened. This left Wilson only with time to look at Lockett’s over route. This time the opportunitying came on a play-action flood concept; again the Bengals “nailed down” on the crosser by using their middle of the field safety aggressively. Once more, they achieved the three levels of coverage required to neuter pretty much all play-action passing designs.

(It’s cool how the Seahawks pulled left guard Ethan Pocic in an attempt to sell the play-fake here, something I called for Schotty to steal in the offseason from Lincoln Riley)

Unperturbed, Schotty tried a third time. Wilson was sent out of the dangerous pocket again and Britt managed to hold up in pass pro. It was another semi-naked bootleg, with Nick Vannett securing the EDGE and buying his quarterback time to execute Schotty’s deceptive plan. Vannett had been motioned pre-snap; the linebackers shifting in response confirmed to Wilson that this was zone. This was the coverage he wanted.

On this snap, Cincinnati played an inverted Tampa 2 defense. This style of coverage kept a high hole player who could aggressively cut against the over route they expected. But it also put them in sound positon to play the smash concept—something run numerous times by Seattle in this game.

Post-snap, everything appeared to go well for the Bengals. Their high hole safety cut the crosser of D.K. Metcalf. Their nickel cornerback got the “hitch” element of the supposed smash concept. Their deep half cornerback waited for Lockett’s corner route on the sideline as the slot receiver stemmed that way.

And then Lockett, having totally out-leveraged the cornerback, bent back towards the middle of the field on a post route. This was not a smash concept; this was a corner-post route. The high hole player had been removed and there was nothing but space for the reception.

Wilson knew he was going here as soon as the ball was snapped. Sure, it wasn’t the same coverage, but the principle of occupying an aggressive high hole player and then throwing it in behind to the post remained the same. Lockett hauled in his first target for an excellent touchdown.

Yes, Sunday could have featured some wide receiver screens, more max-protection and a more diverse running game, but overall the OC coped well with a terrifying front 7 and adjusted his called passing concepts, adapted his gameplan and used motion to identify coverage. It’s okay to praise Brian Schottenheimer.