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Waldron-22: Seahawks’ 4th down creativity creates scoring opportunities

New York Giants v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks beat the New York Giants handily on Sunday, but you may recall that the offense took a few drives to get going; both teams punted three consecutive times to start the game before the Seahawks were able to put together a long scoring drive that culminated in a Geno Smith touchdown pass to DK Metcalf. This TD itself was critical, obviously, but I actually want to look at two plays leading up to it; on paper, this drive consisted of 15 plays covering 69 yards and elapsed nearly 6 minutes of game clock. What really stood out to me, though, was that Seattle had not one but two 4th down conversions on this drive, and both of them happened in the Red Zone. Heck yeah.

For almost every year in the Pete Carroll era, the Hawks have ranked at or near the bottom in 4th down attempts (save for 2010-2012, when they actually ranked much higher). This season, the Seahawks are currently closer to middle of the pack in attempts, but they are still in the bottom half, according to ESPN. They have 8 attempt with 4 conversions, which is good but not great. For this reason, I am particularly happy that the team not only attempted this twice during Sunday’s game, but that they actually succeeded both times. Additionally, the design on both of these conversions was phenomenal; with a rookie like Kenneth Walker III having a dominant start to his career, it would have been easy to simply call a run in either of these situations and hope for the best. But as we all know, Shane Waldron had other plans... Cue up that VCR, cause here comes the game tape!

Everything about this first play is pretty incredible to me, from the pre-snap alignment to the execution. You may notice that — even though Walker is on the field — Tyler Lockett was lined up in the backfield. According to Pro Football Focus, Lockett has only lined up in the backfield 3 times this season. This is probably at least partially why Wink Martindale’s defense looks absolutely befuddled pre-snap. Kenneth Walker is aligned in the slot left, with Dee Eskridge just outside of him. Metcalf motions outside of Eskridge into a bunch formation. At this point, you can see Darnay Holmes (#30), Xavier McKinney (#29), Julian Love (#20), and Kayvon Thibodeaux (#5) all talking and gesturing wildly prior to the play; the confusion doesn’t end pre-snap, either. It appears to me that Lockett was Holmes’ assignment, but Darnay gets slowed down in the middle of the field by what looks to be a savvy veteran pick from the second year Eskridge — both he and Walker run quick slants over the middle and create a small but formidable wall out of themselves and their defenders. Without initiating any physical contact, they completely disrupt any chance that Holmes will have of shutting this play down. Dissly chips his man and then crosses the formation, but at this point the ball is already on its way to Lockett, and the Seahawks have an easy conversion. Excellent, excellent stuff.

Shane Waldron was far from exhausting his bag of tricks following that first conversion. As Seattle faced another 4th down — this time inside of the 10-yard line — they once again kept their offense on the field and decided to be aggressive. And it worked like a charm. Much like we have seen in other games, the Hawks sent out all three of their Tight Ends for this one. Yet again, their personnel helped to disguise their intentions; Walker is in the backfield here, and he would be a logical candidate to get a carry on 4th and 2. Instead, the team lines up with Dissly, Parkinson, and Fant in a tight bunch formation to the right, and Marquise Goodwin all by his lonesome wide left. They run some play action, which helps to sell what looks like Gabe Jackson and Will Dissly pulling from the right side to lead block for Walker. Micah McFadden bites on this and tries to maintain containment; this leaves Haynes to take on the linebacker Jaylon Smith — who also bites on the fake before Haynes — who is actually leading for Dissly — shoves him several yards out of the play, leaving Uncle Will to take the shovel pass for an easy conversion. And the rest is history.

Shane Waldron and Pete Carroll are playing like they have nothing to lose, but they are doing so with intelligence, creativity, and poise. In both of the above plays, they could have settled for a vanilla “move the chains” call, but instead they opted to insert some well-designed and difficult to defend passes that set them up for easy first downs. Beating the defense pre-snap is almost always a net victory for the offense, and it certainly proved to be in these moments. With the coaching staff and team both performing at such a high level, I hope that we continue to see this aggressive style of play in coming weeks; the Seahawks have some pretty big divisional games coming up, starting with the Arizona Cardinals this Sunday.