Good overall thoughts, but I think you miss the mark on a few of these comments: A) The coaching staff DID NOT play "non aggressive" football to lose the game. If you rewatch the game you will realize that we blitzed on both plays. The problem is the blitzing safety wasn't able to get Ryan rattled. To make matters worse Trufant didn't play with proper awareness on the first play for ATL. They were in a zone with Trufant having the flat. If he drops back futher and allows the flat to be open -- something a heady vet should do, than it would have taken away the deep comeback and forced Ryan to take the route in the flat. To which Trufant cound have come up and made tackle.
Instead he covers the flat with a shallow drop - allowing a gaping whole behind him, to which the ATL WR took advantage. Play 2 again we blitz and if Wagner drops Gonzo where he catches the ball it would have saved 5 yards, instead Gonzalez breaks the tackle and get's another 5 yards closer for his kicker.
Before that game, there was a lot of angst around here about our lack of pass rush. I confidently and repeatedly proclaimed that we would not do any extra blitzing and that that was fine. We had the #1 scoring defense--without a pass rush to speak of for most of the season--for a reason and blitzing just wasn't necessary and the trade-offs inherent in blitzing would expose weaknesses that could be exploited.
The coaching staff made a liar out of me, and the team paid for it. Ryan torched us on blitzes, including on that last drive. If we'd simply stuck to our bread and butter, we would have won, in my opinion. Ryan likes to get the ball out of his hands, pressure or no pressure. It's ingrained in his head. He's one of the fastest in the NFL at getting rid of the ball. He's one of the best against blitzes *because* of that fact. It's a source of strength for him and it's also muscle memory. He couldn't change it on a whim anymore than any other habit. In our case, with our poor pass rush but all-world defensive backfield, acknowledging that blitzing would be worthless could have been a significant advantage. If we'd simply relied on our regular coverage schemes, we'd have been fine. We saw that throughout the 4th quarter when our DBs came up big. For Seattle, a team with no history on the season of effective blitzing, against one of the top QBs against blitzes, it just made no sense.
On any play, you can find ways to make the failure one of execution, but I don't think that's the best way to look at this. With the right play call, you can make successful execution FAR easier, you can give your personnel much longer levers to get an advantage. It's true we were agressive in some ways on that last drive, with a predictably ineffective blitz, but in other more important ways we were not aggressive at all.
Brock Huard did a Chalk Talk segment on this.
"When you play this position, you know what I didn't like to see? I didn't like to see press man coverage, with tight windows. What I liked to see? Zone coverage with a lot of space. And, unfortunately, unlike the 3rd down earlier where he throws an out route to Roddy White, one of the times when they got off the field, man coverage. So, man coverage in that 4th quarter. They go zone, these two snaps, and they pay."
Just how many times does one have to see a team in zone picked apart in the last minute of a game before they realize that the safe coverage is the risky one? If you want to avoid losing the game on a single play, at any cost, then I guess it's safe. But if you want to minimize your chance of losing period... Forty yards is nothing. Keeping everything in front of you is a great, great philosophy until the expected value for your opponent of two medium completions is a play-off win.
It wasn't just Brock Huard who noticed it. Eric Davis said the same thing after the game and, when Browner was asked what happened on that last drive, he had a curt answer, "Soft zone".