To get to 10-1, you have to do a lot of things really well. You might have to get lucky a few times, sure, but while parity is still alive and well in the NFL, games can often be swung one way or another because you have a few better players than the opposing team and your better players are making better plays. On offense, it often comes down to who is playing quarterback, but obviously, invariably, that QB is going to need some help from his receivers and backs.
After re-watching the Seahawks-Vikings games on the All-22 tape, two offensive plays stood out to me as particularly impressive, and they both came down to 1) Russell Wilson making big-time throws and 2) his receivers coming down with big-time catches.
The game didn't end up turning into a blowout until the second half (the fourth quarter, really), but for much of the first two frames ("much" being the key word), things were pretty close. Christian Ponder and Russell Wilson's stat lines were nearly identical as the teams found themselves tied mid-way through the 2nd quarter, but a few big-time plays from Seattle's best players changed the momentum of the game and turned it from a question-raising nail-biter to a statement game.
3-10-SEA 44 (9:17 2nd QUARTER) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short left to P.Harvin to MIN 39 for 17 yards (A.Sendejo) [J.Sanford].
Seattle with a third and long from their own 44. Minnesota had just re-captured some of the momentum after Christian Ponder and Jarius Wright had beaten Richard Sherman deep to tie the game, and now they'd forced Seattle into a low-probability situation.
That's when Russell Wilson did something great, and Percy Harvin did something greater.
The GIF kind of says it all, but to sum up:
What's impressive to me about this play is, first, Wilson's subtle movement in the pocket to find himself a place to make the throw. A perhaps normal reaction - or at least a reaction that we saw a lot of in his first season and for a good part of this season, would be to step up, duck his head, try to back out and run, usually followed by a wild, awesome scramble or maybe a sack. Instead, here, he steps up, keeps his eyes downfield with the read he needed to make, then throws a beauty of a pass just out of the reach of 6'2, 212 pound cornerback Chris Cook.
This isn't a catch that Percy Harvin or any of the Seahawks' receivers are going to make most of the time, but for Wilson's part, he puts it in the only conceivable location that could result in a completion here.
Then Percy makes his first catch as a Seahawk. Not a bad start.
Seattle would continue their drive, go down the field, and score a touchdown. Big time play by big time players.
Later in the first half....
2-10-MIN 19 (:16 2nd QUARTER) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass deep right to D.Baldwin for 19 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
After Percy Harvin had made his second big-time play of the game by returning his first kickoff as a Seahawk 58 yards, Seattle found themselves within striking distance in the redzone. Of course, there were only 19 seconds on the clock and Seattle had zero time outs. Pretty much anyone watching could have told you that Seattle was going to take at least one shot at the endzone before settling for a field goal.
The defense knows this. It doesn't matter.
The Vikings play what looks like a Tampa-2 style cover-2 - the Mike runs down the middle of the field with TE Zach Miller, leaving the two deep safeties more able to cover the deep flats. Darrell Bevell runs Percy Harvin straight up the numbers, which, predictably, holds safety Andrew Sandejo long enough to fit a pass into the corner.
With Percy bracketed up the seam, that leaves Doug Baldwin one-on-one on the outside, and he makes a hell of a play. As excellent as his catch was, though, the throw was better.
It's worth pointing out that this was another example of Wilson re-setting his feet behind the line, getting himself to a better place to throw the football. This is what he studies Drew Brees for.
Trust. Wilson consistently makes this throw - to the place where only his receiver can get it - and trusts that his guys will go up and get it. Kearse, Baldwin, Tate and Rice have shown this in the pass, now you add Percy into the equation. Importantly, as this case shows, Percy will tilt coverage his way, which increases the probability that someone is going to be matched up in one-on-one. This is Russell's wheelhouse.
It's a different route and is thrown from a different angle, but this play reminded me of another from last season. These encapsulate the idea of 'catch radius'.
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