Seattle was one of four teams to achieve a perfect run-pass balance in Week 14. Three of those teams won. I am not claiming that means anything but ... yep. It happened.
Last week was an exhausting week of writing for me. This week: fun. Only fun. Let’s look at an interesting sequence of plays in Seattle’s first scoring drive.
This is not a stacked box.
It’s borderline tactically unsound. It’s too easy to double team both defensive linemen and see what good develops. Which Seattle does. Calling a play in which either Chris Carson or Russell Wilson can run leaves the Jets outnumbered seven to six. Seattle does that too.
Right defensive end/linebacker Tarell Basham is tasked with making the play, and it’s a difficult play because he has to cover two elusive ball carriers. Perhaps echoing the greater culture he does nothing for fear of doing wrong. Do something young man!
I doubt any Seahawks fan needs a refresher on how this play works but why it works is still interesting.
Mike Iupati scores a great second-level block. If we’re picky, it’s not far enough in, allowing Harvey Langi a play on Carson, and he doesn’t exactly plant Langi on his butt or put him on skates, but it’s more than sufficient. The coordination between Ethan Pocic, Damien Lewis and Brandon Shell is pretty much flawless. Po’ deserves special recognition for clearing Folorunso Fatukasi right. Fatukasi is notably big and stout, and the greater portion of Carson’s run lane is provided by Pocic’s ability to clear him right. Carson could have broken this but Neville Hewitt sheds Lewis’s block in record time.
The execution is good because the task is easy. The execution is not great yet you’d be hard pressed to find an easier ten-yard gain. New York, who by multiple measures fielded a top 10 rush defense, got caught selling out to stop the pass. The Jets went small and loose and Seattle attacked them where they were most vulnerable.
Also: Dig Will Dissly running a route into the left flat. Had Wilson kept the ball, safety Marcus Maye (#20) would have been in an awful bind. He could not have simultaneously stopped Wilson and covered Dissly.
Seattle ran three times in a row before running play action. The play fake was very weak and it’s direct impact on the Jets’ defense was accordingly weak. But Quinnen Williams was out. He traversed half the field chasing David Moore on Moore’s sweep, quickly grabbed at his left shin after Moore was tackled, and was out the next three snaps.
New York didn’t get much pass rush. Quinnen’s backup Nathan Shephard was tossed around by Pocic.
Whenever five blockers can create that kind of time for a quarterback, good things are likely to happen. Did running the ball cause a coverage failure? I doubt it. But Wilson sees the coverage failure, the open man, not right away, but eventually. He’s calm and unfuckedwith in a clean capacious pocket. He even has an escape route to his right. Which nullifies the need to find a throwing lane.
Seattle gained ten yards easy through winning tactics. Seattle gained 19 and a touchdown in part through the strategic gains made by running the ball. I’m not fool enough to claim this means anything, exactly. Do defensive linemen have to work harder and longer when defending the run? It is my understanding that they do. It also seems much less likely Williams would chase a receiver well down the field. He would most likely be in the backfield or tied up with a blocker or blockers.
Not everything is easily proven. Football has its logic and the less-than-logic of conventions. I’ve heard some 10,000 times that running the ball slows the pass rush. It is conventional thinking handed down coach to coach at every level. Did Seattle running the ball so frequently slow New York’s pass rush? I can not prove that it did. But did Seattle sideline New York’s best pass rusher by running the ball? Hell yes they did.