Narrative Of The Game
What a strange week. No one talked at all about Teddy Bridgewater, and pretty much everyone was afraid of a "Frank Gore/Mike Holmgren defense" kind of game. After the Steelers did what they wanted to most of the day the week before, save for some Seahawks picks, there was a major question of confidence throughout the fanbase about whether or not the defense could define a game. Can they? Let's find out!
Due to unforeseen circumstances, Jennifer Chen could not provide GIFs this week. So I have compiled the clips of each play here in this provided video. I hope to have her and her fantastic work back for any future installments. Please beg her to come back in the comments. Errr. I mean, show some love.
[1st Quarter 12:09 left 3rd and 3: Teddy Bridgewater sacked by Frank Clark for -3 yards]
This play is advantage Vikings all the way when you look at down and distance. However, this play is blown up by Michael Bennett forcing Teddy up into the pass rush. Seattle shows pressure here with Bobby Wagner over the center before the snap.
Frank Clark is going to slide over the center at the snap, and Bennett is going to shed the right guard. Once Bridgwater steps up and then tries to settle back in, Clark has used a juke move to pull the center outside of his frame. This will open the space Clark will use to sack #5.
[First Quarter 3:32 1st and 10 Toss sweep to Adrian Petersen for -1 yard tackled by Bruce Irvin.]
Sometimes plays can be about unsung heroes. Two things: The front design says this should be advantage Vikings with Bruce Irvin, Michael Bennett, and DeShawn Shead vs the strong side of the formation. Second, Seattle may have gotten away with a Brandon Mebane neutral zone infraction.
The unsung hero of this play is DeShawn Shead, who is going to attack down and collapse the gap that Adrian Petersen wants to use with the pulling lineman. Add in Irvin's phenomenal leverage versus Kyle Rudolph, and bang you have a dead running play.
[First Quarter 2:09 1st and 10 Pass to Adrian Petersen for 3 yards. Tackled by KJ Wright]
After a tough call on 3rd and 9 for Illegal contact went against him, K.J. Wright shakes the disappointment and makes a great open field play to stop Petersen. One of the big things the Vikings do is clear space and throw to AP to create one on ones for him, so he can break tackles and make huge plays.
Here, in a two tight end set, with Corderrele Patterson on the strong side and Mike Wallace weakside, they hope to get an aggressive defense to hesitate just a bit.
Check this out: They bring Wallace in motion and then re-set him tighter to the formation. On the snap, Wallace breaks to the sideline while Patterson runs up the sideline covered by Richard Sherman. AP leaks out into what he hopes is cleared space, but Wright didn't bite on any window dressing and stays with AP here for a stop on a short gain.
[Second Quarter 11:06 1st and 10 weakside pitch to Petersen for -1 yard. Tackled by Cassius Marsh.]
Your big play weapon is your life blood, and when it's not working -- wow, does it suck.
Cassius Marsh is all over this. He patiently holds his edge instead of crashing, which leaves him right in the path of AP after the pitch. He gets a little help from his friends, ending the threat. AP did wind up with 1-on-1's in several of these plays without being able to break tackles or make moves, because the tackle attempts came before he had any momentum to use to his advantage.
[Second Quarter 1:21 2nd and 4 Pass intended for Diggs intercepted by Earl Thomas]
It's spectacular interceptions for Earl Thomas or no interceptions it seems, as he catches this over throw. Bridgewater has Stefon Diggs on the inside, but he wants to get the ball over the defender. You see here why they don't really run things that require a bit more accuracy down the field. This was woeful for the young QB.
Earl's like. "Please don't fall through my hands, please don't fall through my hands. YES! I GOT IT!"
Overview Of The Game
Not much to say about the second half here. The Vikings had some ideas, but Seattle seemed to be right in step with everything they tried, especially when it came to running the ball. Other than a draw to Jerick McKinnon, no big runs showed up, and the passes to Petersen were locked down in 1-on-1.
Team that with early pressure from both Michael Bennett and Frank Clark, and the Vikings really got little traction in this game. Looks like a great week of prep by everyone, coaches, players, even fans.
He continues to be by far and wide Seattle's best linebacker. He had several 1-on-1 plays to Adrian Petersen and answered the bell better than any of us had right to expect. It's been quite the year as things have gone on. Going forward, I expect him to have more games like this as Seattle will face check down quarterbackss over the next several contests.
Deshawn Shead and Earl Thomas' communication. Even though it resulted in an interception, Earl and Deshawn must get on the same page for those medium developing seam patterns. He had the feel with both Brandon Browner and Byron Maxwell on some of these concepts, but with Cary Williams never fitting in combined with Shead's inexperience at corner, Seattle needs this kid to grow up quick and their all-pro safety has to help.
The Offense Continues To Roll
It's been a good, no great, for the last three weeks for this offense. We haven't seen an output like this since 2012 in terms of touchdowns.
We haven't really seen a change in philosophy as much as a change in structure and play calling. Rather than play run, run, pass, Darrell Bevell's offense has taken the opportunity to attack his own tendencies and put pressure on defenses. He's done this in two ways
1) Attacking through the air on 1st down. The pass we're going to look at to Doug Baldwin comes just before the half and from an empty formation. Normally, an obvious run situation before the last five weeks.
2) Throwing in clear run situations. The biggest plays Seattle has gained over the last several weeks came attacking their own tendencies against down and distance. The throw to Doug Baldwin for the 53-yard score comes on a run down and distance. Though Russ would audible into the successful pass this, is all about tendency again, as Seattle has run for the first down on every previous down with less than two yards to go.
The other main mechanic to the success of the Seahawks' offense is adapting its pass pro for empty formations, usually chipping edges or using motion to declare blitzes. Seattle has gone to a majority three-receiver formation as its base package. (I'm probably exaggerating)
They are playing more mismatch driven formations instead of hoping play-action fakes will open up the big pass down the field.
So let's take a look at the 21-yard touchdown throw to Doug Baldwin and how this all works.
First look at the Formation. The formation is called "empty" for those that don't know, that means that Russell Wilson is going to be the lone man in the pocket. No backs or receivers will be with him. Now, let's look at the beginning of the play -- this is key, because Tyler Lockett is going to go in motion right to left of the formation after starting out next to Jermaine Kearse.
This is a key thing because it's designed to be a tell to the quarterback whether the Vikings are in zone or man to man coverage. Whoever was broadcasting the game from the truck suddenly cuts to the faces of Vikings defenders so I can't really tell what Russell saw, but the All-22 confirms it's a zone look.
This now Leaves Kearse as the lone receiver right, and puts Luke Willson, Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett and Kevin Smith all on the left side of the formation.
At the snap:
Both Willson and Kearse chop down the edges. Kearse is 215 and just bangs down the end with Garry Gilliam.
Willson on the other side is going to block the end and release. This added time for Wilson in the pocket allows the routes to develop. Baldwin is released clean, and you can tell it's zone by how the linebacker releases Baldwin after a certain period. Wilson now knows he has zone, and so does Baldwin who tucks himself into the open space in front of the safety. Wilson throws a dart to him for the touchdown.
As a quick note on the pass pro: watch J.R. Sweezy team with Lewis on this little inside twist. Both the ends are dead because of the great edge blocks by Kearse and Willson -- they have no chance in such a short field to get home after that. The only defensive lineman that could is Sweezy's guy, who gets picked up expertly by Lewis. Pass Pro Mechanics, 101.
That's it for this week. Let me know what you think in the comments. Due to the unique circumstances of a bland second half, I combined these pieces. However, they will be separate in the future. I hope you enjoy the content.