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Seahawks Film Review: Four of the worst defensive plays from the Falcons game

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Seahawks defense looked bad Sunday. They allowed 386 total yards against an Atlanta Falcons offense that has some well above average playmakers, but it is not an offense that keeps defensive coordinators up at night. Despite holding the Denver Broncos to only 16 points Week 1, this defense is an area of major concern. They are allowing 4.9 yards per carry, which is tied for the 9th worst mark in the league whilst being tied for the second most rushing yards allowed per game at 157 yards. The pass defense has been equally bad as they have the 7th highest passer rating against at 100.6, in addition to allowing the second most adjusted net passing yards per attempt at 8 yards. Every advanced metric rates the Seahawks at the bottom of the NFL.

Some of these shortcomings come down to correctable mistakes whilst others are simply because this isn’t an overly talented defense. Down below we are going to highlight four of Seattle’s worst defensive plays and look at what went wrong.

The big runs

This play is beyond confusing to me, I have watched it multiple times and I simply cannot figure out what Cody Barton sees. It looks like his eyes were locked onto the Falcons fullback, Keith Smith, rather than playing his assignment which does raise some questions about his eye discipline. It seems as if Barton was tasked with taking the B gap between the right guard and tackle, although once he steps inside it leaves a wide-open hole for Cordarrelle Patterson to run through.

If Barton played his assignment and took the B gap, he would have either been able to take the Falcons running back on one-on-one in the hole or forced him to try and kick it out, which would have resulted in a loss as Darryl Johnson did a great job of sealing the edge. At this level these types of blown assignments are inexcusable and will almost always result in chunk plays for the offense.

Pete Carroll said Barton had several plays he “needs back,” and while he never specified this touchdown it might have been one of those plays.

Cutback runs like this are what happens when a defense loses edge contain. Uchenna Nwosu overplayed this play. Rather than shuffling down the line slightly and setting the edge, to prevent a cutback such as this one, he shot up field to take Mariota on what he seemingly anticipated was a naked bootleg play-action pass. Had Nwosu gotten it right it would have been an easy sack, but instead turned into a massive chunk play for Atlanta.

Now Seattle’s defense cannot be entirely blamed for this play, as Al Woods gained immediate penetration and forced Patterson to cut it back. Although, like the play highlighted above, this big gain is as a result of one missed assignment by a defender. If Nwosu stays at home on the edge Patterson doesn’t get much on this play. He may have tried to kick it out to the defense’s left, but unless someone missed a tackle it likely would have been a minimal gain instead of a 40-yard pickup.

The near-miss passes

This could have easily been a touchdown for Kyle Pitts on the Falcons’ first offensive play, however Seattle escaped when Marcus Mariota slightly overthrew him. The Seahawks were in Cover 3 but played it poorly. Rather than gaining some depth off of the snap, the middle deep third defender Quandre Diggs takes a few steps up and squats down which takes him out of this play entirely, leaving Michael Jackson alone to cover Pitts. The tempo of Pitts’ route really throws off Jackson as he slow plays it off of the line as well as cutting slightly in which causes Jackson to get his hips parallel to the line of scrimmage as well as taking two shuffle steps inside.

Once he does that Pitts accelerates right by him with ease. This is not necessarily a blown assignment play like the two posted above, but the Seahawks did not do a good job of covering this deep shot.

This should have been an 88-yard touchdown, but Mariota underthrew Drake London, so it only resulted in a gain of 30. The Seahawks front 7 do a great job of crowding the Falcons signal caller, forcing him into a difficult throw where he is unable to set his feet. On the flip side though, Mike Jackson gets killed on this play. He gets a bit too lax as he overcommits himself to the inside by flipping his hips in, which gives London an easy lane to the outside where he quickly gains multiple yards of separation. This appears to be another Cover 3 defense meaning Jackson’s eyes should have been on the quarterback, although it looks like they were on London instead. This is likely why he overcommitted to the inside, rather than gaining outside depth early on the play.

It is only Week 4 so there is plenty of time to correct the mistakes highlighted above, but they are still concerning. Had the Broncos not fumbled on the goal line twice — something which hadn’t happened in the NFL since the 1980s — Seattle would have had three straight games to open the season where they allowed 27 points or more. With an offense that is going to have its fair share of struggles this season the Seahawks have to play at the minimum sound defense in order to keep them in as many games as possible. If they cannot do that Seahawks fans might be in for a long season.

(All advanced stats cited provided by Pro Football Reference)