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Why the Seahawks’ playcalling on offense was both concerning and brilliant

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

The Seattle Seahawks won the game by defying its reputation. It passed and passed and passed, and facing fourth and five, Russell Wilson connected with DK Metcalf for a 38-yard score. Seattle’s win probability surged to over 80%. The rest of the game was one long inescapable submission hold.

The Seahawks abandoned any semblance of balance, and in a game where they couldn’t run worth a damn, and the Falcons totaled over 500 yards of offense, probably won because of it. Needless to say, today was a win for Seattle, a win for statistical analysis and a win for those who wanted Wilson to cook. But I’m not sure it’s a model for how the Seahawks should play throughout the season.

Establishing a run-pass balance is an arbitrary goal of mostly speculative importance. It may mean that a team is fundamentally less predictable, but by that logic, a boxer would be less predictable if he bobbed and weaved on even number rounds and dropped his guard on odd number rounds. If passing is truly that much more valuable than rushing, balance is not a goal to strive for. Was Brian Schottenheimer actually reborn an acolyte of the Andy Reid school of offense?

I doubt it. I think the answer to why Seattle passed was made clear by this statement by Seth Walder of ESPN’s analytics.

“Not a single Russell Wilson pass thus far today has been thrown into a tight window (<1 yard of separation) per Next Gen Stats.”

Atlanta’s secondary was awful. The Seahawks took what was given. I don’t think Zaha Hadid could’ve fit more windows into Falcons stadium. Running the ball to maintain balance would very likely have cost Seattle the game. But I do not think Seattle’s run game is dead, or at least I don’t think it should be dead.

In a blowout win, Wilson took quite a bit of abuse. His attempts to limit contact after rushing always look dicey, and his slide after rushing for 28 looked much the same to me.

Wilson had three rush attempts, took three sacks, and was hit while passing a total of 10 times.

The other concern I have is how short many of Wilson’s passes were before he connected with Metcalf for the (essentially) game-winning score. I’d have sworn he was growing out a skeezy mustache because prior to that beautiful deep pass which exploited busted coverage, Wilson was slinging sideways like Gardner Minshew. Going into the half, Wilson had 18 pass attempts for 83 net yards. I am not going to suggest this is particularly important given that Seattle won in dominant fashion, but to me it indicates that with a pass-first imbalance comes less play action and more low-value targets. We’ll see.

Maybe I’m a little backwards but I try to not be reflexively contrarian. Today Seattle chose the right plays because that play calling worked. The offense carried the team and the Seahawks won big. But I don’t think this is a model for consistent success. I do not think future opposing secondaries will be quite so generous in coverage. Conversely, opposing defenses may not sell out to stop the run. I think the run game will be back before we know it, and it better be a lot flippin’ better, because outside of that one scramble by Wilson, Seattle totaled 56 yards rushing. That’s bad, and good in that it didn’t matter.

Overall though I think this was a hugely positive day for Seahawks coaching. Schotty’s earned a reputation for being inflexibly old school. We all remember his assertion that Seattle must run the ball even in unfavorable circumstances. That thinking seemed to die today. His father was notorious for Marty Ball, and for most of his career, Brian’s carried that torch. I doubt he’s lost belief in the fundamentals of that style. But it’s 2020 and what was archaic in 1990 is a fossilized trilobite turd today. I believe in running the ball. Winning, whatever it takes, is ultimately what matters. Winning by transcending your nature, your habits, winning by time and again defying nagging fear which compels you to revert, is frickin awesome.