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All that is Gold: Seahawks vs Buccaneers

A closer look at three plays from the Seattle - Tampa Bay game.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither
Deep roots are not touched by the frost
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken:
The crownless again shall be king.

Not very good perhaps, but to the point. If that was worth a journey of a hundred and ten clicks to read, you had best listen to it.

For those of you who don't know me, My name's Travis. Danny asked if I would be willing to write a bit. I'm still not sure if he was serious or just trolling, but I suppose if you guys read this, we'll all know the answer.

The title was mostly just an excuse to make a Lord of the Rings reference, because, well, duh. But I actually will be highlighting a few golden plays that didn't have much in the "glitter" department and probably slipped under the radar of most fans as "just another play".

Lets, start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. The 'Hawks come out in 12 personnel (two tight ends and one back), and the Bucs respond with a 3-4 double under look. From the initial positioning of the secondary they're trying to signal a cover 2 shell. However the strong safety quickly begins creeping up to the line, and ends up nearly as shallow as the CB on that side by the time the ball is snapped. This is a good indicator that the defense is (more likely) playing a cover 3 zone that should be very familiar to Seahawks fans.

If I had to guess the defensive call (and I do) I'd say a cover 3 sky with the weakside rush LB likely having outside containment. Even AFTER watching the play, I'm not sure I got that right. It was definitely a cover 3, but I'm not positive about the short zone responsibilities because the play was a run and the defenders quickly abandoned their coverage duties to get after Lynch!

For you visual people, here's the defensive play art. [Note, if the images are too small to see/read, click them for the full-sized version].


I tried to do the same with the offensive playcall, but the number of lines I had to draw made the picture illegible. Instead, I've highlighted the defender that each player ends up blocking (or trying to). Lynch's first read is of the TE double-team on the D gap. If nothing's there, his second read is the strongside B gap. If nothing's there either, I don't think there's a 3rd read built into this play, but if I'm wrong the weakside A gap is where it would be.


At first glance, the picture below sure doesn't look very promising. At the top of the screen, you can see two defenders in the backfield with a clear path to Lynch. On the bottom, it looks like Daniel Teo-Nesheim (#50) is pretty handily beating LT Paul McQuistan.


It may look bad, but anyone who's ever done a "science" experiment involving lots of tequila and a flight of concrete stairs can tell you that physics is a merciless bitch.

The unblocked OLB up top was never in the play to begin with. Running plays often leave a backside defender completely unblocked on the assumption the RB can hit the hole faster than the defender can crash the line. In the Seahawks case, it's even better. The backside defender has to respect the threat of a Russell Wilson keeper, and is playing contain the entire way.

The second guy in the top should be face down in the turf right now had Michael Bowie done a better job. Bowie did well enough trying to cut from a very poor angle, and robbed the DT of all the momentum he gained by firing off the ball. This forced the defender to re-start from a dead stop. That's an awful lot of mass to accelerate, and plenty of turf between him and Lynch. Even though it looks like he's got a clean path to the ball carrier, the physics just doesn't add up.

As for #50, it's true that he's beaten McQuistan up the field. If this were a passing play, Russell would have to activate scramble mode. But it's not a passing play, it's a run. McQuistan managed a barely adequate job of maintaining inside leverage and control. Ideally, he should be about half a foot to the right (his left) and in position to drive Nesham towards the sideline, giving Lynch his choice of gaps and plenty of room to operate. If he tried that now, it's probably a penalty. Instead he keeps his body between the defender and the ball, denying #50 any opportunity to make the tackle.

Meanwhile, Seattle's two TEs are manhandling poor Jon Casillas (#52) at the point of attack. Any second here the inside TE (Luke Willson) is going to peel off the double team and go get the free safety.

Football knowledge pop quiz! Point to the free safety.

Trick question. He bailed for deep center at a dead sprint when Wilson snapped the ball. Right now, he's somewhere around the 40 yard line.

The circled player is strong safety Mark Barron. By all rights, he *ought* to be out of the play. His coverage responsibility is the weakside flats! Had he been doing his job, he probably would have been out of the play by alignment alone, and definitely would be toast once he got hit by a block. But the Red Baron correctly diagnosed run almost at the snap and came tearing across the field, making a block impossible and putting himself in position to make the tackle.


This play went for 5 yards, but it was so close to going for more. If Barron didn't make a spectacular read and play, Lynch could very well have gone for 80 on the first snap of the game!

The second play we're going to look at comes with the Seahawks trailing 7-0 with 6 minutes left in the second quarter. The Bucs have the ball and it's 3rd and 7. Here's the offensive play art:


While Schiano may be the worst head coach in the NFL, he dialed up a fantastic play here. He correctly anticipated pressure on 3rd and 7, guessed the 'hawks would be in man, and called a play designed to beat man coverage for 8-12 yards. The Seahawks are sending 6 and playing in man-free coverage (4 defenders in man coverage, with Earl Thomas over the top).

The QB's keys on this play are (in order) the strong safety, the free safety, and the Sam LB. If the SS plays inside (the deep hook), the out-route to Timothy Wright should be an easy completion for a 1st down thanks to the rub at the line of scrimmage. But if Kam has Wright in man to man, the second look is the FS Earl Thomas. If Earl isn't in position to help on the go-route, that's the throw. Defensively I'm perfectly fine with Brandon Browner's odds against Vincent Jackson on a go route. But when you draw up plays, you have to assume single coverage on your team's #1 WR (by the other team's #2 corner no less) is something you're going to win often enough to be worth the throw.

The 3rd read (if Kam is playing the out, and the go is double-teamed) is the Sam LB. With both safeties and the CB defending other routes, the SAM is the only guy who can get in the throwing lane of the deep curl. And since pre-snap it really looks like he's blitzing, this is almost a throw-first look second sort of situation. The Mark Sanchez, if you will.

There is no 4th read. If the first 3 aren't open on schedule, the play's dead. Get outside the pocket and throw the ball away.

That's how the play was drawn up. What actually happened?


Glennon turns his helmet to the left to begin reading the play. While I can't see his face, I imagine it's similar to the poopy face I allegedly had as a child. You know, that one where you suddenly realize crapping your pants is probably inevitable, but you should make a mad-dash for the bathroom just in case. To escape all the pressure coming from his left, Glennon rolls right.

This pretty much kills all three routes on the left side of the field. The idiot play-by-play guys on TV aren't wrong about a long throw across your body being a bad idea. The route on the right IS a strong route against man coverage. But what are the odds that Tiquan Underwood beats Richard Sherman on 3rd down?

Underwood barely got any separation. But my god, look at that ball placement. Tiquan's hands were impressive too.

I'm ok with the Bucs converting here. It happens sometimes. More often than not, things aren't going to end well when all 3 of your primary routes are dead 1.7 seconds into a pass play and the only option left is a 3rd sting WR trying to beat a 1st string all-pro man to man. The bucs got the first down and a subsequent touchdown, but the process favors the seahawks even if the results did not.

The final play I would like to look at - and this one only briefly - comes on 2nd and 8 at the end of the 3rd quarter. It's just after that magnificent punt return by Golden Tate that left the 'Hawks sitting just outside the redzone. We're down 24-14 at this point, and really need a score to make things interesting.


The reason I wanted to talk about this play is because I read the comments as much as everyone else does although I probably post less. I've noticed a lot of hand wringing and hair tearing out over the number of unblocked defensive linemen we're seeing in the backfield. I'd specifically like to address that on a play such as this where it happened.

The play is run-action, meaning the linemen zone-block as though the play was wide-zone to the left. As I pointed out in the first play, this includes leaving the backside End Man on the Line of Scrimmage (EMLOS) unblocked, because he can't chase down the run.

The expectation is that he'll probably crash down the line of scrimmage anyways, so that if the RB "dances" in the backfield, he's going down for a loss. However the Bucs defender barely even flinched in the wrong direction before taking an angle to intercept Wilson's naked bootleg. (Another of many football terms you probably shouldn't Google while at work)

Typically when Bevell calls run-action with the backside DE unblocked, he'll have Zach Miller or Golden Tate perform a "crackback" block behind the line (Danny often refers to this as a 'slice'). The idea being to blindside the unblocked defender and buy maybe a second and a half before releasing into the flat.

We didn't crackback in this case because you don't want to have established patterns that lets the defense quickly key into what play you're about to run. Since Wilson is an athletic mismatch against Tampa's DE, this was a fine time to break our own pattern. The quick developing play was in no danger of being disrupted by the unblocked defender, and all future opponents know they can't just key the crackback block. Even our division rivals, where the EMLOS is better able to match DangeRuss athletically.

What I'm getting at here is that sometimes those unblocked D-linemen in the backfield are there by design. It's not always because the offensive line screwed up and the sky is falling.

That's all for my rookie debut. Hope you enjoyed it. Hopefully somebody in the comments can point out all the mistakes I made, because after all, you need someone of intelligence on this sort of a mission, quest.... thing.