5 Keys to Victory for the Seahawks vs. the Redskins …
[Hank Williams, Jr playing:] “Are you ready for some football?” Yeah Baby, here we are at long last – back in the playoffs! Seattle finished the 2012 regular season 11-5 – just the 3rd time in franchise history that the Seahawks have topped the 11 win mark. But of course … the Hawks have their sights set on a much higher prize – the Lombardi Trophy. The Seahawks enter the playoffs on a hot streak, having won 7 of their last 8 games and outscoring teams 170-43 over their last 4 games. They are a team that no one truly wants to play. Well on Sunday, the Hawks face another team that enters the playoffs equally hot – the Washington Redskins. I said back at the end of November that this Redskin team was one to keep an eye on, and they certainly proved that, winning their last 7 games in a row. For most of this season, most of the national discussion surrounding who will win Offensive Rookie of the Year has centered on the first 2 picks of the 2012 NFL Draft – the Colts Andrew Luck … and the Redskins Robert Griffin III. After the Bear Beat-down in Chicago though, the rest of the country woke up to the fact that there was a 3rd Candidate – one who hadn’t been handed his job from Day 1 … an unheralded too short 3rd Round Pick who actually had to earn his position as the starting quarterback of an NFL Team … and to prove that he belonged week in and week out – Seattle’s Russell Wilson. This Sunday afternoon it’s Griffin and Wilson – mano a mano – each with a chance to pad their resume … and to get one step closer to football’s ultimate prize.
Earlier today, we discussed Key to Victory #1: Containing the Redskins Running Attack. In case you missed that, here is the link to that piece ...
Key #1: Put a Governor on the Twin Engine Race Car …
We turn our attention next to the one element of this game that everyone wants to talk about ...
Key #2: Contain the Clone …
Before we get to our discussions of Robert Griffin and this passing offense, let’s take a look at some of the Redskins Passing Offense numbers and how they compare with those of the Seahawks Pass Defense …
|Redskins Passing Offense vs. Seahawks Pass Defense …|
|Redskins Off. Category||NFL Rank||Seahawks Def. Category||NFL Rank|
|27.3 Pts Scored/Game||4th Most||15.3 Pts Allowed/Game||#1 in the NFL|
|213.9 Yds/game||21st||203.0 Pass Yds/Game Allwd||6th Best|
|53 Passes of 20 Yards+||12th Most||40 Passes of 20 Yards+ Allowed||6th Fewest|
|35.8% 3rd Down Conv Rate||24th||Allw 38.4% of 3rd Down Conv||17th|
|24 Passing TD’s||13th Most||15 Passing TD’s Allwd||2nd Fewest|
|Score TD’s 57.14% in Red Zone (AT HOME)||15th||TD’s Allwd 55.0% in Red Zone (ON ROAD)||16th in NFL|
|33 Sacks Allowed||Tied 12th Fewest w/Seahawks||36 Sacks||tied for 18th|
|102.4 Passer Rating for Robert Griffin III||3rd Best||71.8 QB Passer Rating Against||3rd Best|
As you can see, the Redskins Passing Attack has been fairly dynamic. For Seahawk fans who aren’t highly familiar with the Redskins – the offense will look very familiar. Redskins Head Coach Mike Shanahan incorporated a lot of what made Griffin successful at Baylor in winning the Heisman Trophy last season … and it’s paid off big time at the NFL level. Like the Seahawks, the Redskins run a kind of hybrid West Coast/Spread Option Offense utilizing a lot of the same concepts that Mike Shanahan used when he coached the Broncos. Like the Seahawks, the Redskins will use the Pistol (the truncated shotgun zone read offense developed under Nevada’s Chris Ault and utilized by QB Colin Kaepernick) … and the Zone Read Option (a system honed by pioneers such as Chip Kelly, Urban Meyer, and Bill Snyder). In fact, the reason that Pete Carroll, Darrell Bevel, and the rest of the coaching staff began implementing these packages for Russell Wilson was because of the success of Griffin and other offenses in college football.
Even though the Redskins have only thrown 46% of the time … they make the most of those throws, as they average an amazing 8.4 Yards/Pass (#1 in the league. The Seahawks are #3 by the way with an average of 8.0 Yards/Pass) … and they connect 66.5% of the time (5th Highest completion percentage in the NFL). Now some of the reason for that high completion percentage has been as the result of screen passes and short dump-offs … but not all.
As you can see, the Redskins have had 53 Pass Plays that have covered 20 yards or more this year (that’s the 12th Most in the NFL). And Redskin receivers have been getting deep this season, as they average 12.6 Yards/Reception (4th Most Yards/Completion in the league. Seahawks receivers you ask? They average 12.5 Yards/Reception – 5th Most). So like the Seahawks, these guys can get deep. Who are these guys Griffin has been throwing to? Let’s take a look at RGIII’s targets this season …
|(2012) Redskins Top Receiving Targets|
|Receiver||Size||Catches||Yards||Yards/Catch||TD’s||#Catches of 20 Yds+||% of Passing Off|
|WR Josh Morgan||6’1” 220 Lbs||48||510||10.6||2||4||16.49%|
|WR Pierre Garcon||6’0” 212 Lbs||44||633||14.4||4||10||15.12%|
|WR Santana Moss||5’10” 189 Lbs||41||573||14.0||8||10||14.09%|
|WR Leonard Hankerson||6’2” 211 Lbs||38||543||14.3||3||8||13.06%|
|TE Logan Paulson||6'5” 261 Lbs||25||308||12.3||1||3||8.59%|
|*TE Fred Davis*||6’4” 247 Lbs||24||325||13.5||0||4||8.25%|
|WR Aldrick Robinson||5'10" 181 Lbs||19||237||21.5||3||4||6.53%|
|RB Evan Royster||6'1" 216 Lbs||15||109||7.3||0||1||5.15%|
|RB Alfred Morris||5'9" 218 Lbs||11||77||7.0||0||1||3.78%|
|TE Niles Paul||6'1" 233 Lbs||8||152||19.0||1||5||2.75%|
* Davis was injured in Week 4 and lost for the season with a torn left Achilles tendon
As you can see, Griffin has certainly spread the peace pipe around this season … with (proportionately) very few of his passes going to his running backs (only 26 of the Redskins 291 total receptions). Pierre Garcon, Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson, and Aldrick Robinson, are all 4.4 speed receivers (Moss actually runs a 4.31) who can get deep on you, so the Seahawks defensive backs will have to bring their lunch pails.
Redskins Receiving Corps vs. Seahawks Secondary …
Back to the question that was posed to Pete Carroll -- How do you game plan against your offense (which is the Redskins offense)? Let’s revisit part of that conversation 710 ESPN’s Brock Huard had with former Oregon Offensive Coordinator, Head Coach, and Athletic Director Mike Bellotti. Here is what Bellotti had to say about scheming against the Zone Read Option …
Brock: “… Is there something that a team can do well to really nullify and stop that Zone Read – something that we should watch with Jim Harbaugh, who’s very familiar with this and comes from the college games, played against it, studied it, and everything else? What are some things that we should keep a close eye if San Francisco has success versus those Zone Read Concepts?”
Bellotti: “Well, it’ll be something in the means of getting an 8th Man in the box, playing some form of man with pressure – dropping the Free Safety down as a spy and having him just key the quarterback because athletically, that should be a good matchup or somebody with the athleticism to stay with the quarterback down the field. And then, if you can commit 8 people to the box; if you can play man on the outside – just say that, “we’re just not gonna (I mean we are gonna) cover those receivers – we’re not really worried about them and not gonna double cover them. And that’s the thing at the NFL level. Most of the teams have receivers that you have to double cover. If there’s going to get man coverage and single coverage, they’re eventually going to get beat because the quality -- the accuracy of the quarterbacks and the athleticism of the receivers is just really tough. So, you can’t do it on an every play basis. They’re not gonna run the Zone Read on an every down basis because they don’t want to get the quarterback injured. So, I think occasionally if you see if you know when and you can accurately predict that, you roll the 8th Man down in the box – maybe even the 9th Man – um, and it just depends on, you know, you roll the dice a little bit – you come with pressure. The typical thing has been pressure, penetration, and you know, getting the 8th and 9th Man down in the box especially at the point of attack so that you screw up the Zone Read where the read of the mesh point is.”
Brock and Salk 710 ESPN Interview (12/18/12) w/Mike Bellotti
That’s some good insights by Bellotti there … and even though Carroll himself has been mum on the subject, we can play a bit of armchair coach here and make some educated guesses.
As I mentioned earlier, one approach might be to bring back the “the Amoeba” Defense. A 6 or 7 Defensive Back package would certainly bring a much faster product to the field in order to cut down on those big plays and at the same time bring faster, quicker guys that could be utilized against Morris and RGIII.
The other approach I could also see is the one that Bellotti suggests – stacking the box with 8 guys and making a “spy” out of one of your more athletic defenders. In the case of the Redskins, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bradley and company roll that one out either, with (I’m guessing) Kam Chancellor playing that role. With Brandon Browner back from serving his 4 game suspension, Seattle’s secondary is finally back at full strength for the first time in the month, so that would certainly be an intriguing option. Richard Sherman and Browner would likely be matched up against Garcon and Moss (in essence taking away the edges) … which brings the 3rd Nickel Corner issue front and center once again.
It bears repeating that the numbers showed that when Marcus Trufant was the starting Nickel Corner were downright ugly … as he was getting burned 72.4% of the time (the 2nd worst percentage of any 3rd Nickel Corner in football) and did not have a single Pass Defensed on the season. When he was in there, opposing QB’s were going away from Browner and Sherman … and instead targeting the inside slot receivers, finding far greater success there. Things really appeared to turn around there once Trufant went out with a hamstring pull. But Trufant was back in there last week against the Rams as the 5th DB in the Nickel Package. Carroll was asked this week about whether or not Trufant would be back in there for this game. Here is what he had to say …
"It does change the dynamic a little bit as Brandon is back," Carroll said. "But Tru had a very good game this week, a nice job in his first game back."
YIKES! Personally, I’m hoping that Carroll has his “Always Compete Pete” hat on this week … because I don’t believe that Trufant has the quickness necessary to keep up with younger, quicker slot receivers anymore. Personally, I’d go with Jeremy Lane and Byron Maxwell in there … but Trufant put a fly in the ointment by outperforming each of them last week. Lane and Maxwell each had key miscues in the Rams game. In the 2nd Quarter, Lane was beat for a 37 yard reception to Chris Givens and later in that same drive, it was he that Austin Pettis beat for the touchdown. Lane was later flagged for a Pass Interference Penalty in the 3rd Quarter … and Maxwell for a 25 yard Pass Interference Penalty in the 4th Quarter that could have meant the game. Though inexperience reared its ugly head up in that game, Lane had a very good game against the 49ers and looks like he has the physical tools (size, speed, quickness, and physical style of play) to be able to lock down that spot for the long haul. RGIII is an extremely accurate passer (he’s thrown only 5 interceptions this season) with an absolute cannon for arm. I’ll go out on a limb and say right now that how the Nickel Backs perform will go a long ways toward determining who wins this football game.
But as they say, the best pass defense is a good pass rush. Let’s take a look at how the Seahawks Front 7 matches up with the Redskins Offensive Line …
Though their Offensive Line has done very well opening up holes for the running game, as a unit, Football Outsiders ranks Washington 23rd Overall in terms of their Pass Rush. They have allowed the exact same number of sacks as Seattle (33), so there is certainly opportunity there to get after the quarterback. Let’s take a look at some individual match-ups in this game that bear watching …
RT Tyler Polumbus vs. LDE Bruce Irvin…
On Sunday, the Seahawks face an old buddy, former Seahawk and now starting Right Tackle for the Redskins Tyler Polumbus (6’8” 305 Pounds). Polumbus is a guy who has had a decent season, but it’s not been completely smooth, as he has allowed 5.25 Sacks this year according to Pro Football Weekly. As most of you well know, Polumbus isn’t exactly the most fleet of foot, so can potentially be susceptible to speed rushers. In the Ravens game, LDE Arthur Jones had 1.5 Sacks and 3 QB Hits going up against Polumbus. Bruce Irvin (6’3” 248 Pounds) had 8.0 sacks this season, so certainly will be foaming at the mouth over the possibility of getting after RGIII on Sunday. We’ll see if he can bring the heat.
LT Trent Williams vs. RDE Chris Clemons…
On the other side of the Redskins Offensive Line, Trent Williams (6’5” 325 Pounds), the 4th overall pick in the 2010 draft, has brought a solid (but not elite) level of play to the Left Tackle position. As a converted Right Tackle, Williams does have a lot of athleticism, but the knock on him coming in to the draft was that he had bad habits (especially in pass blocking) that might cause him issues. This season, Williams allowed 5.5 Sacks and was flagged 4 times for false start penalties and twice for holding. Williams will have to bring his A Game this weekend because he’s going up against one of the best in Chris Clemons (6’3” 254 Pounds), who had 11.5 Sacks on the season.
The good news for the Seahawks this weekend is that according to Pete Carroll they are healthier than they have been in awhile, as Marshawn Lynch was the only player who was limited in practice on Wednesday (and that I would surmise is totally precautionary as they just want to give him rest). Though Leroy Hill is healthy though, I would still look for Malcolm Smith (6’0” 226 Pounds) in there at times, because he has looked so much quicker to the ball than Hill and seems to have a real nose for where it’s going to be. He and guys like Greg Scruggs (6’3” 284 Pounds) – another real athletic player -- could be players who could be real unsung heroes in this game.
We’ll turn our attention next to the other side of the football and discuss some keys to the game for the Seahawks Offense.