For the last few years, Marshawn Lynch has been seen by fans and the media as the personification of Seahawk football. Marshawn is a fearless runner that intimidates players with his violent play style. When you think of the Pete Carroll Seahawks, you probably think of at least a couple Marshawn Lynch runs.
Or this hit on Demaryius Thomas...
Or this pick six...
Kam has been every bit as representative of the modern Seahawks and their style of play as Marshawn has.
Last week, Lynch was a last minute scratch as the Seahawks prepared for their fifth postseason in the Marshawn era, missing his eighth straight game this season with an abdominal injury. Kam, on the other hand, returned after missing three straight weeks for the first game in what is also the fifth postseason of the Chancellor era.
Kam was able to add another highlight to his list, stripping Adrian Peterson early in the fourth quarter. The Seahawk offense would drive 12 yards for what would wind up being the game winning field goal. It’s the kind of play that we’ve come to expect from Kam and has sent him to four pro bowls.
It was not, however, a play that was representative of Kam’s overall game. Before and after his game changing strip, Kam had several concerning plays. Late in the first quarter, Kam had Jerrick McKinnon dead to rights on a short pass.
The Seahawk defense is predicated on forcing short dump offs and limiting the yards after reception. Kam is unable to do so here, and McKinnon breaks one of the three tackles that Minnesota broke the entire game.
McKinnon would beat Kam again later, this time in coverage.
Seattle is playing cover 3 and Kam is the flat defender on the defensive right. McKinnon releases into his route and begins to float out towards the flat. Kam takes a hard step towards the sideline in anticipation of the route and, as he does this, McKinnon cuts quickly down field past Kam. Kam is left lunging towards McKinnon in a desperate attempt to slow the receiver down.
Without knowing his exact responsibilities on this play it’s tough to say how much criticism Kam deserves for this play. If he is responsible for carrying McKinnon down the field, then you can fairly say he was torched on this play. If he is not, and the linebacker is supposed to carry the route once it breaks down field, then you might credit Kam with recognizing how McKinnon is exploiting the seam and for trying to disrupt the play call. At the least, Kam is lucky to have avoided either an illegal contact or pass interference call.
Unfortunately there were several other plays where Kam’s struggles in coverage were obvious.
Kam is line up on the line of scrimmage at the bottom of the screen, matched up across MyCole Pruitt. Kam tries to knock the TE off his route but Pruitt is able to fight through the contact, separate, and outrun Kam for an 18 yard gain.
As tight ends go, MyCole Pruitt is fairly athletic. Pruitt ran a 4.58 forty and put together a SPARQ of 123, which is at the 66th percentile for the position, so he's capable of stretching the field for Minnesota. What’s concerning here is that he was able to out-physical Kam and win the route through the press. While Kam successfully slows Pruitt with his press, he's not able to redirect the tight end. Kam is left staggered as Pruitt beats the press and does not have the ability to recover in time to break up the pass.
Most noticeably, Kam had two major breakdowns at the end of the game. The first came when Kam was called for pass interference.
Kam is lined up across from Rudolph, giving the tight end about 8 yards of cushion. Rudolph starts his route getting vertical, before opening his shoulders to the sideline and faking an out. Kam bites on the fake as Rudolph cuts back up the seam and, as he tries to recover, collides and nearly tackles Rudolph in the middle of his route. The pass interference call gains the Vikings 19 yards.
On the very next play, Rudolph and Kam face off again.
Again, Kam is lined up about 8 yards off of Rudolph who runs a simple out route. Kam tries to break on the ball but is late, and the pass is completed. It’s possible that the cold was a factor, everyone looks like they were moving in molasses, or maybe he hesitated after biting on a fake the play before. Ultimately, Collingsworth was right when he said that if you’re going to go in front of the receiver you better get the ball. Kam doesn’t, and Rudolph sprints down the sideline for 24 yards.
All in all, Kam allowed 68 yards in coverage on a day when Minnesota only gained 183 total yards. 43 of those came on the last drive of the game and put the Vikings in a position to kick a field goal to win the game. While there are several mitigating factors, the cold and his return from injury, for Kam’s poor play, the bottom line is that Seattle needs Kam to return to form against Carolina and beyond if they’re able to advance in the playoffs. Especially with Kelcie McCray, who played well in Kam’s absence, as a strong alternative.