Friday, November 1, 2013

Anatomy of a Seattle Game-Deciding Bomb

By John Turney
Golden Tate beats Jackrabbit Jenkins for a touchdown, or did he?
In a defensive battle Monday night there was one very notable offensive play, a third-quarter 80-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to Golden Tate that put the Seahawks up 14-6 and they held on for a 14-9 win. The Seahawks withheld a late Rams drive and had an excellent goal-line stand with no time remaining to preserve the win as the Rams tried five plays from the inside the seven yards with less than a minute to play and didn't allow the hometown Rams to get a game-winning touchdown.

Here is the 80-yard play—

ABC's Monday Noght Football colorman Jon Gruden broke the play down this way—
"This is the first time I've seen the Rams in two-deep and you see the slot receiver run right down the seam to control the safety and Golden Tate releases to the outside and the ball is thrown, it should be intercepted by Jenkins but he just misjudged the football"

Well, maybe not Coach Gruden who knows there has to be a counter to a seam route versus Cover-2, whether Tampa-2 or Cover-2 latch (a LBer or slot nickel takes the slot/TE man-to-man). If not teams would throw to the "seam/hole" every time they saw Cover-2.

In this case it was a Tampa-2 call with a defensive lineman dropping into one of the short interior zones to get an extra defender short,  so it's five under, hole and two deep—that's the intention anyway. 

Here is our breakdown—
Rams called a version of Tampa-2, but with perhaps a sixth short defender, a DT taking a short zone with nickel back playing to the inside

Here MLBer James Laurinaitis bit too hard on the play-action fake and abandoned his zone which was the "hole" or middle zone between the two deep safeties
Laurinaitis, knowing he cannot get back to the hole, turns the call, essentially, into a MIKE dog and rushes Wilson. The near 1/2 safety sees there is no hole defender and has a seam runner coming at him so he's left with a decision to make.

The near 1/2 safety takes the seam receiver but that leaves the near corner with no deep help, which he is expecting
Wilson gets the ball off, Laurinaitis gets a hit on the QB and Wilson throws to the single-covers go-route to the near sideline (his far sideline)
Wilson's ball is perfect, the CB plays it well, but Tate makes a great play on the ball and with no deep help a what might have been just a long gainer is turned into a touchdown
Additionally, even with the taking of the seam route, the free safety cannot "get there" to stop the play to give the defense a chance to regroup and hold Seattle to a field goal.

So, what may have looked like single coverage on Tate which Wilson exploited, was a defensive call that had deep help, it just couldn't get there because an over-aggressive play-action read caused a domino effect that led to the safety put in a difficult position—a no-win position as it were.
Tate was flagged 15 yards for taunting on the 80-touchdown
So, clearly Coach Gruden has forgotten more football than we will ever know, but we don't think a simple seam route challenging the safety was the issue, per se, it was no hole defender putting that safety in a pickle.

That's what we think, anyway.