The "Vintage 2006
After the excruciating debacle that was the New Orleans Saints
game, concern about
More concerning was that QB Matt Hasselbeck and the passing offense – incredible to star the season – looked abysmal against
What was the Seahawks' weakness? It depended on who you asked.
Fellow .Net writer Ryan Davis, whose opinion I greatly respect despite his
poor choice in collegiate football programs, blamed the passing woes on opponents
dropping 7-8 defenders into coverage, forcing Matt to take sacks because everyone
was being double and triple teamed. My own theory was almost the utter opposite:
opposing defenses, especially
In order to determine what the real problem was, I charted
the first 30 passes by
The Ryan Davis Theory: We Can't Get Open
The data does not seem to support the "coverage"
It appears possible that if such a tendency is on film, the St. Louis coaching staff just didn't notice it (given the game plans we've seen Linehan roll out against Seattle, coaching stupidity isn't impossible), as Seattle faced a 3 or 4-man rush on only 55% of plays. In comparison,
The Matt Lathrop Theory: We Can't Pick Up the Blitz
While I feel fairly confident in saying that Seattle doesn't
have a big weakness against four-man rushes, I don't have the sample size
to say that Seattle's weakness is or isn't against the blitz. As the mathematically
inclined among you have noted,
The Effectiveness Scores
Since neither team ran a lopsided number of four-man rushes,
five-man rushes, or six-man rushes (though St Louis ran significantly more
five-man rushes than Seattle, they ran significantly less six-and-seven-man
rushes), the idea that opposing coaches were exploiting a weakness doesn't
seem to be supported by the data.
However, that doesn't mean that
Ironically, it would appear that
I'm going to assume if
Against five-man rushes – which I hesitate to consider blitzes but feel that they are significantly different than four-man rushes in terms of pressure created, Seattle faired rather poorly, mounting successful plays on only 33% of five-man rushes faced. Interestingly enough, protection is not mentioned as an issue on any of these incompletions, which leads me to believe that as much of the problem (if sample size isn't fooling us and there is indeed a problem) is inside Hasselbeck's head. It's hard to criticize the protection when Hasselbeck has all day and still manages to overthrow Engram, or when Engram drops an easy pass, or when Hasselbeck throws one way and Engram runs another. Those are flaws, but not the kind that defenses can gameplan for.
Both teams mounted successful plays on 50% of six-and-seven
man rushes. However, this is a case of misleading statistics. Seattle may
have had success on half of their plays, but their biggest gain was for 9
½ yards on 3rd and 10, which I marked as unsuccessful because it
put the offense in a 4th down situation. On the other side of the
What Does This Tell Us?
All this data tells us a couple things. It provides solid support for the belief that coaching staffs are not simply dropping 7-8 defenders and letting their guys blanket our wide-outs. Unlike blitzes, four-man rushes are safe plays if you have faith in your defense to cover, so if Seattle had issues against "rush-four-drop-seven", opposing coordinators would be calling plays to take advantage of that all game long, instead of slightly more often than blitzes.
It tells us that rumors of John Marshall having to perform
for his job might have lit a fire underneath him, for Seattle blitzed far
more often than is typical – against Tampa Bay, at the beginning of the season,
I noted a paltry four blitzes the entire game.
My charting also tells me that the biggest flaw of all in this
offense is the miscommunication between Hasselbeck and his receivers. Hasselbeck
missed three possible first downs to Engram alone due to poor reads, and missed
a couple other completions that would've put Seattle in advantageous 2nd/3rd
down situations as well simply due to overthrowing Engram.
Ironically, most of the miscommunication seems to be between Hasselbeck and the receiver he should be most comfortable with, perhaps because Engram is playing an unfamiliar position and doesn't have the same mind-meld with Hasselbeck from the flanker position that he has from the slot. This, not defensive scheming, has the potential to be the biggest downfall of the passing attack if it is not fixed.
Kyle Rota writes frequently for Seahawks.NET. You can reach him here.