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The Seahawks need to rediscover the blitz

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

By my count, the Seattle Seahawks blitzed eight times against the Arizona Cardinals. That does not include the two times they sent an additional pass rusher from the second level but dropped a lineman into coverage. Those pressure packages were particularly ineffective resulting in a 13 yard reception and a 21 yard reception. Of course they did. Why do teams drop defensive linemen into coverage—especially defensive tackles?

On one of the blitzes, Wright aborted his pass rush and turned into a spy. That resulted in an incomplete pass which was nearly picked off by Quandre Diggs. Blitzing was pretty effective on the whole. Arizona only averaged 3.6 yard per attempt against Seattle’s blitz. Apart from the near pick by Diggs, two Ryan Neal blitzes produced a turnover on downs and a five yard loss which pushed Zane Gonzalez to the left hashmark. He hooked the kick left saving the game. Briefly.

Seattle mostly blitzed early in the game. After a couple scrambles by Murray of eight and nine yards the Seahawks got a little shy. That feels awfully hard to justify in retrospect. Murray still scrambled very effectively, Seattle didn’t land a single hit, and even with all those coverage defenders swarming underneath, Chase Edmonds totaled 61 receiving DYAR. Like I said, the Seahawks defense was reactive, on their heels, and achieved the worst of both worlds, neither containing Murray nor slowing him as a passer.

Mostly Seattle blitzed its defensive backs and the defensive back Seattle most blitzed was Neal. That’s a little queer to me, as if because Neal is playing strong safety Neal is Jamal Adams. Neal wasn’t an ineffective blitzer, but why not Bobby Wagner? Why not Jordyn Brooks? Wagner very nearly turned his one blitz into a sack. And Brooks has shown potential as a pass rusher. Neal blitzed four times. The nickelback blitzed twice.

On one of the half bright four man rushes which sent a second level defender, Quinton Dunbar rushed and Jarran Reed retreated into coverage. Definitely good when your highest paid pass rusher is sent into a short zone for the sake of surprise. The other switcheroo involved Bobby rushing and Benson Mayowa in coverage. Which is much less odious, and which nevertheless asks Seattle’s best pass rusher to play short coverage and Seattle’s best short coverage player to pass rush. Mr. McGreg knows all about that kind of surprise.

After blitzing a fair amount early in the season, the Seahawks are now down to 21st in percentage of plays in which they blitz. It may seem like blitzing wasn’t working. Certainly the pass defense was struggling, but it hasn’t improved. The Seahawks were likely to blow one of these close games eventually. The game they blew coincidentally or not corresponded to the Seahawks blitzing on only 9.5% of all defensive snaps. That’s far below the lowest percentages in football, and the Colts and Chargers are stacked with pass rushing defensive linemen. The Seahawks are not.

For his career, Murray has not performed particularly well against the blitz.

Blitz vs Normal rush

Completion %:

Blitz: 60.1

Normal: 66.7%

TD/INT

Blitz: 5/7

Normal: 28/12

Sacks

Blitz: 20 in 183 attempts (10.9%(!))

Normal: 37 in 612 attempts (6.0%)

And the real back breaker here

Rushing

Blitz: 10 attempts, 77 yards, 1 first down, 1 touchdown

Normal: 148 attempts, 904 yards, 10 TDs, 51 first downs

He runs much more often and nearly as effectively against normal pass rush as he does against the blitz. That’s … grrr.

I hope Seattle rediscovers the blitz before next Sunday. Jimmy Garoppolo’s passing efficiency drops and his sack totals skyrocket against the blitz. Josh Allen gets sacked like Carthage against the blitz, and he completes only about half of his passes. In fact, of all the quarterbacks Seattle is likely to face for the rest of the season, only Kyle Allen is modestly better against the blitz than regular pass rush. And he’s Kyle Allen and he’s only modestly better.

Seattle can’t stick its head in the sand about who comprises its pass rush. This defense needs help, it doesn’t have much draft capital to move, and there aren’t a ton of truly difference making pass rushers available. I like this bunch of dudes. They’re scrappy. But few are even average pass rushers, and a few, including some of the starters, basically can’t pass rush at all. There’s no dangerous sub-package that can be made out of Seattle’s collection of defensive linemen. Relying on a four man rush is essentially embracing delusion or giving up. Sometimes, probably a lot more than has been the case recently, Seattle needs to send five or more.