If you were sitting in your living room last Sunday evening and watching a replay of the Seahawks' 3rd Quarter touchdown pass and thinking you were having a slight case of deja vu, well, you probably weren't alone.
Here's the play:
And here's the same play from Seattle's 2012 shellacking of the 49ers on Jim Harbaugh's birthday, AkA the source of your deja vu.
I'm sure this play's been run at a few points between then and now, but regardless, Darrell Bevell reached in to his bag of tricks and pulled out an old classic -- a play that's been in his playbook for years and has been effective for him with an assortment of personnel.
In this case, instead of Marshawn Lynch at running back, his best buddy Fred Jackson lines up in the backfield. Instead of Golden Tate on the outside, it's Jermaine Kearse. Instead of Zach Miller (and Anthony McCoy, as I'll explain below), it's Jimmy Graham, and instead of Sidney Rice, it's Tyler Lockett.
This was from 2012 (I actually made this diagram in 2012):
And here's this year's rendition (I made this today, I can't see the future).
This is a classic redzone play -- on one side of the field, it is set up to exploit defensive coverages of the tight end on the outside (that would be the right side of the field) and on the other, the left, it's set up to flood a zone and put more offensive players in one area than the defense is able to account for.
If it's a zone defense, that Fred Jackson route is going to be money. If it's a man-coverage scheme or a matchup-zone (hybrid zone/man scheme), then the Jimmy Graham route looks nice, depending on who is in coverage on him (actually it looks nice regardless).
In the case from Sunday (and from 2012 where Lynch scored), the tight end route got covered up well by the defense and it was clear from the snap that this was the case. Graham's motion shows Russell Wilson that the Packers are in a zone defense here -- the defensive back on Graham initially backs off and drops into a zone as Graham goes in motion past Lockett (if it were man he would follow Graham inside or pass him off to the inside guy and take Lockett). That tells Wilson what's up.
Wilson's first read is obvious, so he looks there then goes to his next. The Jermaine Kearse route takes the play-side deep safety out of the action, and Jackson's route -- first outside then in -- forces the nickelback underneath to first widen in fear of an outside sideline route (protecting against something like this). Jackson just cuts upfield and it's easy as pie.
You can see in both angles how the first two routes in front of Jackson's (Kearse and Baldwin) eat up the coverage.
Here's the nice part about this play though: It can have multiple targets, obviously.
The Seahawks ran another version of the same play back in that 2012 game, and that took advantage of a few things. 1) The Niners were worried about Wilson's legs, so they blitzed/mush-rushed him with a DB to keep him in the pocket, and 2) when Anthony McCoy motioned inside to start out almost in-line with the offensive line, he was switched off to the deep safety in coverage. Watch:
The Rice route acts as a natural screen for McCoy (this would be Lockett in the contemporary version), and makes the over-the-top Cover-2 safety go all the way to the sideline in coverage. This would be a nice little wrinkle for the Seahawks to run with Graham at some point this year.
If Graham is getting picked up by a safety over the top, simple out-routes will work all day at the flag. If they line up closer, this could easily be a back-shoulder or "block-out" route by Graham as well.