Seahawks analysis: Hugh Millen breaks down game-winning drive, Kam Chancellor’s pick
Hugh Millen breaks down three key things that happened in the Seahawks’ victory over+ the Broncos, and awards a game ball.
Special to The Seattle Times
When Steven Hauschka missed a 46-yard field goal attempt late in the third quarter, despite the fact the sputtering Denver Broncos were down 17-3, something about the Denver field-goal-block unit’s conspicuously jubilant response told me the Broncos were here to go 60 minutes. We were treated to a heck of a game as a result. A few thoughts:
• Kam Chancellor’s interception: Seattle is overwhelmingly a single-safety defense, the primary coverage being a three-deep, four-under zone. The principle concern when playing this coverage is “All Go” — four vertical routes from an offense in a single-back formation with two receivers to each side. The Broncos ran a version of All-Go from a trips (three to one side) receiver alignment with a play termed “All Go Special.” This less-common version requires the inside receiver from trips, Emmanuel Sanders, to run a deep-over crossing route to hold the free safety away from the seam route run by the No. 2 receiver (counting from the outside, in this case intended target Wes Welker).
At the play’s onset, as if he had been in the Broncos’ huddle, linebacker Bobby Wagner dropped deep into his inside “hook” zone while eyeballing Sanders — despite Sanders’ alignment on the opposite side of the ball. Meanwhile, Chancellor dropped into the other hook zone opposite Wagner to create a version of cover-three termed “Three Buzz.” “Buzz” designates Chancellor inside and nickel defensive back Marcus Burley outside in their underneath zone assignments, and it positioned the much taller Chancellor to climb high for the spectacular pick.
• Coverage breakdowns on defense’s right side: The big picture for the defense is if you hold Peyton Manning to 18 points, you’re brilliant. But the Seahawks during the bye week will address coverage miscues during Denver’s game-tying final drive. First it was Sanders, aligned in the slot to Seattle’s right, who got loose for 42 yards on a “Go” route with a simple twist — literally. The “scissors” or “switch” release he created with Demaryius Thomas to his outside merely exchanged route lanes with Thomas and was poorly played by Byron Maxwell, who had the deepest zone nearest the Broncos’ sideline but was pulled inward by the release. Four plays later, a similar release again victimized Maxwell and also K.J. Wright, who was too wide and too shallow in his underneath curl/flat zone.
• Overtime drive: Seattle featured the open-field elusiveness of Percy Harvin and Russell Wilson, two athletes as good as any in the league at their respective positions. On the drive, Harvin’s three targets all resulted in first downs, although all three were caught behind or near the line of scrimmage. Moreover, on the three plays in which Harvin faked the wide fly sweep, his influence helped the Seahawks gain 25 yards, mostly up the gut by Marshawn Lynch.
Wilson made amends for two critical errors he committed early in the fourth quarter. First, he held the ball too long, resulting in a sack (after an apparent missed assignment on a wide receiver’s route) and then Wilson misjudged a disguised coverage when Denver first showed a one-high coverage and then rotated to a two-deep zone after Wilson turned to fake in play-action. His pass intended for Harvin was intercepted by Chris Harris Jr. In overtime, in addition to 5 yards on a read-keep, Wilson turned three called passes into scrambles, all gains of 5 yards or more and two of those converted the only two third downs of the drive. On his scrambles, he outran zone coverage once and man-to-man twice. That included his first tuck against just a four-man rush, with linebacker Nate Irving in a “lurk” alignment — which is designed to spy shallow crossing routes and athletic quarterbacks.
•Game ball: Jon Ryan. Wow, just wow.
Hugh Millen is a former Washington Huskies quarterback who played 11 seasons in the NFL. He writes analysis on the Seahawks for The Seattle Times.