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Super Bowl XLIX: Seattle Seahawks Passing Offense

Every Seahawks pass play from Super Bowl XLIX.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Previously, I diagrammed every pass play the Seahawks ran in the NFC Championship Game against San Francisco and in the Super Bowl against Denver. As we ramp up for preseason games and the 2015 season, I thought it'd be a good time to take the same look at this past Super Bowl.

Between the 2014 NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl XLVIII, we saw the re-addition of Percy Harvin to Seattle's passing attack. While the team still predominately relied on play action passing and sail/flood concepts to push the ball downfield, Harvin's presence increased the number of short passing plays Seattle ran. Between the 2014 Super Bowl and the 2015 Super Bowl, Seattle's offense saw even more significant change. Golden Tate, Percy Harvin, and Zach Miller were all gone and, by many accounts, Russell Wilson had regressed a bit as a passer.

So, how did this change Seattle's passing game?

Before we jump into plays, here's how I've broken this down. Plays are sorted chronologically by down. The legend for the diagram is as follows:

  • Dotted line - Pre-snap motion
  • Yellow route - Not targeted
  • Black route - Incomplete
  • Green route - Complete
  • Blue route - blocking assignment
  • Flat line across a route - Receiver chipped before releasing into his route
  • Russ' red line - Play action

The routes are a mostly accurate representation of where the receiver was on the field and where they made their cuts. The exceptions are a couple of plays where a cut was made further down field than the screen shot shows. Those routes were compacted somewhat.

1st Down Plays

1st and 10, 1:39 in the first quarter

Seattle opens with a fun wrinkle on their classic look. The design is their standard flood concept (flood the zone with more receivers than defenders) off of play action. Jermaine Kearse releases outside and gets deep, TE Cooper Helfet cuts underneath with an intermediate route, and RB Marshawn Lynch gives an underneath option. The fun wrinkle here is that the play action is off of WR Ricardo Lockette's pre-play motion. After the faked hand off, Lockette looks to be running out into the far flat before drifting upfield. Normally we see Lynch running this route, and it's been good for a few big gains (and touchdowns) over the years.

For whatever reason, possibly waiting for Lockette to look for the ball, Wilson delays throwing and ends up being forced to scramble by Ninkovich. He picked up 7, but might have left a lot more on the field.

1st and 10, 0:16 in the first quarter

Seattle runs a hi-lo concept (two routes parallel to each other at different depths) in the middle of the field with two fly routes (go-routes) on the "flood" side. Russ takes too long to come off the deep routes and is too late getting to Doug, who flashes open across the middle before getting covered back up. Russ tries to scramble and is sacked just before the line of scrimmage.

1st and 10, 9:47 in the second quarter

Bevell dials up a shot play (a deep shot down the field), Carpenter dials up a whiff on Chandler Jones, and Russ is sacked before he can escape the pocket.

1st and 10, 0:24 left in the second quarter

Packaged play! Russ keeps on the read and doesn't have much time to read his options downfield due to Jamie Collins scraping and getting pressure. Russ jukes Collins out of his shoes and picks up 17.

1st and 10, 0:17 left in the second quarter

Seattle is looking to stress the deep safety Devin McCourty with this play, running deep routes to either side of him. In the end, McCourty stresses the offense and kills this play. WR Chris Matthews gets caught up in traffic initially, but breaks free and has great separation from the corner. Kearse crosses in front of McCourty, and Russ stares him down trying to get McCourty to commit. Instead, McCourty does a really fantastic job of getting deep enough in his drop to potentially challenge a throw to Matthews, while staying close enough to Kearse to be able to drive down an a pass underneath him.

By the time Russ gets this ball out to Matthews he's too far downfield and the corner has recovered. This wasn't a great play from Russ, and showed some of the indecisiveness that a lot of people criticized him for this season, but I have to believe that Russ' respect for McCourty was a major factor.

1st and 10, 0:06 left in the second quarter

Jump ball.

1st and 10, 13:48 left in the third quarter

Not a lot to this one. As far as shot plays go, I like this one quite a bit more than the crossing deep routes Bevell tends to favor. Really though, I think this was just a heat check for Matthews.

1st and 10, 8:07 left in the third quarter

After hitting New England over the top the whole game, Seattle calls it's first short passing play. It's mostly a disaster, with Baldwin crossing through traffic and Kearse smothered on his comeback. But then Chris Matthews goes and does this...

(content removed) Brandon Browner.

1st and 10, 6:44 left in the third quarter

Another tricked-up flood combo. The receivers are lined up left but cross beneath Willson and fill the right side of the field. Here we see Lynch sneaking out beneath Tukuafu opposite the flood side of the field, just like he normally does and like Lockette did in the first play. Wilson stares down Lynch but Hightower sniffs the play out, and Russ eventually scrambles for 15.

1st and 10, 3:15 left in the third quarter

This is maybe my favorite play of the Super Bowl. It looks a little different, with a tight bunch on the opposite the play side, but this is more of less the same play action flood route combo we've seen Seattle run over and over. In fact, it's basically the exact same play as the one right above but with one big exception: they replaced Tukuafu with Lockette.

Unlike with Tukuafu, the corner has a healthy respect for Lockette's speed, giving him a large cushion and hedging towards the outside thinking Lockette will push the red line. Lockette sells that with an outside release before cutting back to the middle of the field. The corner has taken himself completely out of position to defend the dig route (a route that cuts back across the field) and the safety, having read the flood concept in front of him, flowed to the playside and is in no position to help. Lockette picks up 25 yards.

1st and 10, 7:55 left in the fourth quarter

Pretty standard play action shot play from Seattle here. Matthews drives deep after motioning to the slot, and Lockette runs a deep crossing route underneath. Lockette comes open but is tripped by the New Cheatland Cheatriots and Russ' pass bounces harmlessly off the turf.

1st and 10, 2:02 left in the fourth quarter

Every defense in the league knows that when Seattle goes four verts, you gotta know where Marshawn is and cover him up. If not, he'll do this to you all day long.

1st and 10, 1:55 left in the fourth quarter

Coming down to the finish, Seattle drops the flood concept but still hits a lot of their favorite notes. Kearse driving deep in the slot, a receiver working the red line, and Marhawn slipping out the back side of the play trying to get deep. This play looks good until Butler makes a nice last second play on the ball to break up the pass.

1st and 10, 1:14 left in the fourth quarter

lol (this is that play where Kearse catches the deflected ball from his back).

2nd Down Plays

2nd and 5, 4:19 left in the second

The design here is supposed to free up Baldwin, with Matthews effectively rubbing (holding up) Baldwin's man. Matthews does slow up Baldwin's man somewhat, but mainly he just wins off the line and has Arrington beat deep. McCourty bites on either the play action or Kearse's route, and Russ hits Matthews for a gain of 44.

2nd and 10, 0:11 left in the second

Seattle doesn't use a ton of corner/flat combinations and it's known more for it's use against Cover-2 defense than against single high safeties, but considering the game situation it makes sense. Lockette wins his matchup, despite having his facemask yanked during hit cut, and picks up 23 plus 15 for the penalty.

2nd and 3, 5:00 left in the third quarter

I like this play quite a bit. The Seahawks give Russ options across the entire field, with Doug and Willson running hi-lo crossers, Kearse in the middle of the back of the end zone, and Lynch running a curl off play action at the line of scrimmage. Add Russ' mobility to this, and it gives the defense a lot to think about.. New England can't keep track of it all, and Doug slips out the right side of the play wide open for an easy touchdown.

2nd and 8, 1:54 left in the third quarter

Another simple, short, spacing play from Seattle after three quarters of trying to hit plays over the top. Kearse wins his matchup, picks up 6 yards, and helps keep the defense just a little more honest.

2nd and 10, 1:50 left in the fourth quarter

This is basically the exact same play that Russ missed at the end of the second quarter. This time Russ is looking for Matthews all the way, but Matthews doesn't win his matchup the same way he did previously. He does eventually get on top of the corner, but just like the play in the second quarter, he's too far downfield by the time Russ throws it and the corner is able to break up the pass.

3rd Down Plays

3rd and 9, 14:21 left in the second quarter

Willson is supposed to clear the middle of the field with his route, but Collins is able to press and disrupt the route to the point where Willson only serves to clutter the middle of the field. Kearse wins his matchup but immediately runs into the mess created by Collins and Russ, after extending the play for a while, eventually throws incomplete to Walters.

3rd and 8, 8:24 left in the second quarter

Basic stuff. Hi-lo route in the middle of the field, 9 routes on the outside, Lynch sneaking out into the flats after blocking. Kearse has good position on the red line but the ball is just a touch underthrown, giving the corner the chance to break up the pass.

3rd and 6, 5:36 left in the second quarter

The Seahawks use a levels concept here, with the New England linebackers staying underneath Willson and Baldwin. Kearse wins his matchup on the curl, and picks up just enough for a first down.

3rd and 2, 3:15 left in the third quarter

Seattle uses two rub routes to clear Kearse on the wheel route with Lockette running a post on the other side to hold the safety, and it works perfectly. Kearse comes free and, had he caught the ball, would've picked up 30 yards on the play.

3rd and 7, 13:01 left in the fourth quarter

For as much as Seattle runs the hi-lo, Russ really doesn't like that in route across the middle. Baldwin came open on the same route in the first quarter and Russ decided to eat it instead, and he does the same here.

Russ hesitates on the throw and is sacked before he can get the ball out.

3rd and 5, 7:06 left in the fourth quarter

Pretty standard flood concept here, but this time Marshawn runs to the playside flat. Russ boots his way right as Marshawn comes open, and kind of gets stuck in a in between state with his footwork. Russ gathers himself on the roll out and Marshawn floats upfield. He's still open, but Russ has to fit it in a hole between a safety over the top and the linebacker underneath. It ends up being a very poor throw, and Marshawn has no play on the ball.

3rd and 10, 1:41 left in the fourth quarter

Bevell calls a mirrored smash, which turns out to be a great call. New England defenders cheat deep expecting four verts and Lockette has an easy first on the curl underneath (even with him cutting his route off a little short).


So, that's every pass play Seattle called in Super Bowl XLIX. As you can see

What's that?

That's not every play? I'm missing one?

**double checks**

Nope, that's all of them.

Anyways, you can see that despite all of the changes from 2013 to 2014, the Seahawks passing offense has changed very little. The concepts have remained the same, with some added wrinkles as Russ and the offense gets more experience running Bevell's playbook.

Looking forward, I would think we'll see a whole lot more of Chris Matthews. He fits this offense perfectly, and if he can be half as productive as he was in the Super Bowl he'll be a huge part of this offense next year. I expect we'll see a lot of Tyler Lockett running the hi-lo routes Seattle loves so much, the deep crossing routes, and the curls we see in Seattle's smash and levels routes. Russ will need to get much more comfortable with those crossing routes, or we'll be seeing plenty of stills of a wide open Lockett not getting the ball on twitter this year. And Graham will probably do a little bit of everything.

It's a passing attack that should only get better this coming season, and we don't have to wait much longer to see it.