To even a casual observer,
it was obvious that Seattle's defensive front seven did
a fantastic job against Tampa Bay's
offensive line, notching five sacks and holding Tampa
Bay to 194 total yards passing, with no touchdowns.
But what was the cause of this stalwart defensive performance? Were the defensive
ends, who notched four of Seattle's
five sacks, the heroes of this game? Did the defensive tackles - chosen for
their pass-rush ability - pull their own weight? Did Seattle
use blitzes to keep Tampa's line
off-balance? Or did the defensive line simply look good because the secondary
covered everybody like a glove? This weeks "Spotlight"
attempts to answer those questions.
Ironically, I originally intended this article to be an analysis of Seattle's blitzing tendencies: Had Defensive Coordinator
John Marshall learned to involve linebackers LeRoy Hill and Lofa Tatupu in
the blitz-scheme, or was Julian Peterson the only blitzing threat? Unfortunately
for this question, Seattle blitzed a whopping four times over the
course of the game, making it impossible to draw any conclusions from this
game. For the record, Seattle was fairly effective blitzing, on three of the
four plays Seattle forced an incompletion, but the other play was a big gain
for a first down to Ike Hilliard after Seattle sent all three linebackers.
Interesting note as far as blitzing goes: Perhaps in an excess of chivalry,
Seattle did not blitz once with the lead - including
when inexperienced backup Luke McCown entered the game for the injured Jeff Garcia.
With the blitz being all but abandoned against Tampa Bay, I shifted my focus to the defensive
line, who had a great game against the run and the
pass. Before I start throwing some numbers around, I should explain how I
reached these numbers. Using the miracles of digital video recording, I was
able to go back and analyze almost every pass play (no play-action passes,
since it is nearly impossible to distinguish between a blitzing linebacker
and one who simply fell for the fake) and note things such as who had a "Star
Play" (a play that was noteworthy for its' excellence), who was double
teamed, what the result of the double team was, along with other more minor
Now, as they say, onto the good stuff - the individual performances.
The "Thanks for Winning The Game" Dept.
Patrick Kerney was the newest big-name addition to the Seahawks through free-agency,
and he made Seahawks President Tim Ruskell look like a genius after Sunday's
performance. He made 5 "Star Plays" to go along with his 1.5 sacks.
As a defensive end, he drew only 2 double-teams and had minimal success against
them, although on one pass play he was double-teamed for a three-step drop
and probably couldn't have reached Garcia even if he was completely unblocked.
As a defensive tackle (where
he saw extended time, primarily after Tampa started employing the shotgun formation) he had 1 "Star
Play" (where he caused Garcia to throw the ball away while being tackles)
before drawing consistent double-teams, against which he struggled. His most
important contribution was early in the game when Garcia was flushed from
the pocket several times and Kerney kept containment.
Any time you find yourself with two sacks, you did a pretty good job, so take
a bow, Mr. Peterson. Unlike Kerney, Peterson's impact was relegated primarily
to the two sacks, with only one other "Star Play" as a defensive
end. Some of this is due to the Tampa Bay team: short passes requiring only 3-and-5-step drops (a staple in
the West Coast Offense
Tampa Bay runs) make it
harder for defensive ends to beat their man with pure speed, which is Peterson's
strength. That Peterson lined up against a very athletic (albeit jumpy) tackle
in Luke Petigout did not help Peterson's attempts
to provide an "edge rush".
The other name on this list did almost nothing for his personal statistics
but had a fantastic game. Were it not for the heroics of Lofa Tatupu against
the run, DT Rocky Bernard would have been the runaway choice for the game
ball. Not only did he notch seven "Star Plays" (playing limited
snaps in the 4th quarter, when Tampa
was in pass-mode) but he also beat three of the four double teams he faced,
and caused a lot of problems for Tampa Bay RG Davin
Joseph, an athletic player himself. Against a veteran quarterback with the
ability to scramble, it's even more important to have interior pressure than
normal, and Bernard supplied an abundance of interior pressure.
The "Earning Their Paycheck … and Nothing More"
DT Craig Terrill earned a lot of playing time at the end of the game, and
for somebody who was considered a possible training-camp cut,
he did a very acceptable job. Due to the extended snaps he saw, he drew a
whopping nine double-teams (leading the team) and even managed to beat a couple
of them. In typical Terrill fashion, he earned one of his two "Star Plays"
in unconventional fashion - knocking down a pass in the 4th quarter. Overall
he was fairly boom-or-bust, where he would provide absolutely nothing on several
The "Why'd you Even Suit Up?"
Ah, the invisible men. Not surprisingly, the team’s only "two technique"
tackles - Chuck Darby and Brandon Mebane - both wind up on this list. While
Darby was officially credited with .5 of a sack, the quarterback was already
being tackled by Bernard before Darby arrived to the ball. The rest of his
play was uninspiring, being double teamed five times, with all five resulting
in comments such as "owned by the double team" and "taken completely
out of play". Brandon Mebane saw very few snaps against the pass – again,
not surprisingly - but didn't exactly do much with the snaps he got. He was
shown a decent amount of respect, being double teamed twice, but he applied
zero pressure on the Quarterback over the course of the game.
I hesitate to place either Darryl Tapp or Bryce Fisher in this category, for
they didn't perform poorly at all. Tapp had a couple nice plays, including
a deflections, while Fisher only saw so few snaps against the
pass (which makes sense in retrospect), it doesn't seem fair to place him
in the same category as Chuck Darby, who saw more snaps and was less effective.
But this is the category for guys who were pretty much invisible all game,
and for the most part these guys fit the description. The most interesting
thing Tapp accomplished was causing Tampa
to get hit with a penalty (chop-block, of all things) while facing a double
team. Fisher had one nice play where he flushed Garcia into Kerney for a sack,
but that was about the extent of his contribution to the passing game.
Great Pass Rush, or Great Coverage?
In addition to noting the individual performances of the defensive line, I
also noted whether or not the quarterback had ample time to go through his
reads. To do this, I focused only on plays where the Quarterback eventually
felt pressure - eliminating a lot of statistically useless three step drops.
Unfortunately, this provides no winner or loser - of the 16 pass plays where
I deemed the QB felt pressure, 8 were attributed to the pass-rush (7 to the
line, one to Deon Grant) and 8 I attributed to great coverage that forced
the Quarterback to hold onto the ball. It should be noted that the defense
would get credit for "coverage" even if the Quarterback scrambled
and completed the pass, because I am not attempting to grade the coverage
of the defense, just whether the coverage gave the line enough time to pressure
The defensive line played great, especially the ends. One thing that really
stood out was how often Garcia was forced to step up in the pocket before
making a pass. The other thing that stood out was how often Garcia could step
up in the pocket before passing. While Rocky played the game of his life,
the rest of the defensive tackle rotation did almost nothing against the pass,
oftentimes not even moving the linesman backwards. To give props to the secondary,
it would definitely appear that the coverage is much improved over last year,
which is benefiting the defensive line.
Kyle Rota writes for Seahawks.NET, and he can frequently be seen on our message
boards under the handle “Rotak”. Feel free to e-mail