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This Week in Defense: 49ers at Seahawks, Week 15

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Narrative Of The Game:

This game was all about the state of the Seahawks, as well as the possibilities in front of them, as they surge to the Playoffs. On the other side, the media was focused on the Niners' controversies, with much of that conversation relating to the future of their head coach Jim Harbaugh. Nonetheless, fans of the Seahawks had some pent-up tension about this game and that was unveiled with the early flashes by Carlos Hyde in the first half.

Winning streaks are fleeting in the NFL, as the Packers found out in Buffalo, so let's take a good look at how the Seahawks battled through adversity to again step on the neck of their biggest rival.

The plays:

[1st Quarter 13:35 3rd and 5 -- Run by Carlos Hyde for 38 yards. KJ Wright runs him out of bounds]

This is just a simple delayed draw, which catches Seattle in its unique pass rush formation and puts blockers in space for Hyde, who, by the way, has some scary acceleration. Both safeties are playing back here for the Seahawks, so they really have no chance to impact against this play. Fans on twitter were saying the game was a trap and several on my timeline were declaring the 49ers the winners of the game already at this point. I'll admit, it definitely wasn't pretty, but the defense the Seahawks had on here was perfect for the Niners' call.

[1st Quarter 12:37 -- Kaepernick sacked by KJ wright for a loss of 3 yards]

It's clear to me by these first two third downs that San Francisco wanted to specifically attack Seattle's 3rd down approach. This looks like the formation that got beat on the draw, at first, at least up front. However, Seattle blitzes right up the middle, and in looking at the play, it sort of looks like the Niners wanted to run a QB draw against it but, once the blitz comes, Kaepernick has no where to go.

I say the play's design was to have Colin Kaepernick run, because as soon as he gets the ball he's moving his feet around instead of looking to throw. The sack by KJ is okay, but I'd like to see a better finish here.

[1st Quarter 7:43 2nd and 8 -- Frank Gore run for -1 yard tackled by Kevin Williams]

This is Kevin Williams at nose tackle. I had no confidence in him when he took over the role when Mebane went out, but he's flashed several times, redirecting runs mostly. This time he gets a rare tackle, and an even rarer tackle for a loss. This guy has saved the defensive line in run defense this year, and for what the Seahawks are paying him, wow, what a deal.

[2nd Quarter 13:27 4th and 1 -- Run left by Frank Gore for a 10-yard Touchdown.]

This play is all about matchup with the formation. There are no big guys on this overload edge left, so it's linebackersand safeties against tight ends, fullbacks and the elusive Frank Gore.

Earl is really the only one who can stop the touchdown here, but he attacked toward the middle of the field and so eventually lost enough position to make a play. Seattle was just in a bad defense for this play, which is a simple Power-O scheme. That was a clean edge all day for Gore. The key miss is actually by Cliff Avril when he gets kicked outside -- this creates the crease Gore uses to score.

The drive by the Niners really consisted of power runs wedging the guards or smashing down the middle with kick out blocks from the tackles. They pulled people one time. It was Seattle's line vs the Niners and for most all that drive they lost at the point of attack.

[2nd Quarter 7:54 1st and 10 -- Run by Frank Gore for a gain of 2. Tackled by Bobby Wagner.]

I bet you thought I would miss him again this week. I'll be honest, I've been looking for contextual plays of his the last couple of weeks but I just didn't want to slap plays in there just to do it. Bobby Wagner is a guy who has made the next level leap in diagnosing plays, but also, he's attacking and understanding gaps and pursuit at even higher level than at any time the past three seasons. This play is a great example.

This play is so quick you'll miss it at first glance. Not the end result -- but where Bobby comes from to make this stop. It took me shutter-pausing to track this fully myself but Bobby who is aligned far right against this look. He shoots under the guard and center, in fact, it looked like he ducked an arm, to shoot in for the most confusing stop on defense I have ever seen.

[2nd Quarter 2:30 3rd and 13 -- Colin Kaepernick sacked by Jordan Hill for a loss of 10 yards.]

This is a two-fold play because Bruce Irvin is the guy who gets the initial pressure to force Kaep to attempt to reset. The pressure is instant so he had no real time to see the field. Kaep does elude that pressure, but Jordan Hill who, now sees a huge lane thanks to the rush of Irvin pulling to tackle right off the guard, sheds his man and makes a line straight for the sack. This is best illustrated by a GIF.

[3rd Quarter 8:48 3rd and 9 Kaepernick sacked by Bobby Wagner for a loss of 5 yards.]

Bobby gets a sack by being relentless here. He comes on a double a-gap blitz with KJ, but Bruce MIller is there to greet him. Wagner has all the momentum though here, and Bruce Miller winds up looking like a tackling dummy as he has no momentum vs a full speed Wagner. This turtles Kaepernick again -- a theme against blitz looks in this game. There's not much more to say, speed and relentless pursuit always pays off.

What you'll notice in a little wrinkle by Seattle is Wagner times his blitz to come slightly after KJ -- probably to force the blocking to declare and give Bobby a smooth path to the QB.

[3rd Quarter 2:15 1st and 10 -- Run by Carlos Hyde for no gain. Tackled by Bobby Wagner.]

This play tragically ends in the injury of Hyde, but I wanted to point it out for a reason key to why Seattle stopped a lot of San Francisco's run game. This features an offset McDaniel against the center. They wanted to use Williams in the first half but there were a lot more looks where Tony got the call under center, and once his surge here stops the center, the rest of the blocking kinda crumbles as Williams shoots up field. This causes a slight delay in Hyde's crease choice, and allows Wagner to close down and make another fantastic stop.

[3rd Quarter 1:41 3rd and 10 --Colin Kaepernick sacked by Jordan Hill for a loss of 8 yards.]

This sack comes from phenomenal effort as Jordan splits a double-team. Not much to note schematically, as Bobby resets Hill before the snap and then comes on a delay blitz. Bennett and Avril do their thing on a twist -- Avril smashes in and Bennett loops behind that move.

The sack splitting the double team is the coolest pass rush there is. I almost confused Hill with one of my old time favorite Seahawk players, Rocky Bernard.

[4th Quarter 5:41 4th and 1 -- Run by Bruce Miller for a half yard tackled by O'Brien Schofield -- turnover on downs.]

They tried a dive play to Bruce Miller again this time over left guard after having him surge up behind center on the previous fourth down play. This is just a great play by O'Brien Schofield here: he reads it and dips under the block of the TE, and wraps up Miller -- stopping all forward momentum. Chancellor pops in for the cleanup to make sure there's no surge by Miller or a chance to obscure the spot where the ball should go by an extended arm.

This was the Niners' only good drive of the second half and in the end it resulted in nothing.This means the Niners had a total of three drives that resulted in any kind of  consistency on the field. Hard to argue with results like this.

Overall View Of The Game:

Pete Carroll continues to be a master of second-half adjustments despite, I think, an overreaction by fans to a few plays that were just well-done from the Niners. It was hardly a threatening game, and outside the touchdown drive, they did nothing well. Kaepernick continues to turtle against the blitz as his offensive line continues to struggle as much as he does. This is what bad teams do sometimes though, they put together a couple good drives, but a lot of the time they just can't keep the momentum. When you have Pete and Dan calling the shots, you'll rarely see their well-coached team out of sorts.

Game Ball

Bobby Wagner finally gets here. I am so happy to write this. I love Bobby a lot, but his quiet demeanor and lack of pizazz leads him to be overshadowed sometimes by Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett, Richard Sherman or others, But, this guy is breaking through as the best in the game right now. His trigger is twitch, his assignments are crisp, and his leadership in the middle was noticeably missed as we've seen more plays for loss against the run since he's been back. I'll be working on a solo piece soon talking about his game because he's not the kind to do it himself.

Needs work:

The scramble coverage needs some help, and although the Seahawks won't face phenomenal athletes in its final two games, the motion stuff/scramble plays will be in everyone's film rooms for the rest of the season.

**Jennifer Chen did a little extra with 6 plays! I hope you appreciate the ones I picked for her to make into GIFs.