Hugh Millen’s analysis of failed ‘deep’ passes
A thought on all nine misfires by Russell Wilson.
Special to The Seattle Times
Entering Sunday, Russell Wilson ranked third among qualifying quarterbacks in yards per pass attempt at 8.6 (last season, he was fourth). On Sunday he averaged exactly 4 yards per attempt, the lowest in any game of his career as Seattle’s inability to generate explosive plays was an obvious key to the loss.
Official statisticians designate every pass attempt as either “deep” or “short”, with the delineation point at 15 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Against the Cardinals, Wilson was 2 for 11 on “deep” throws.
Here’s a thought on all nine misfires, chronologically:
Go route to Jermaine Kearse: This was a clear-out route. Kearse, split wide left in trips, was not the primary. With Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate covered underneath, Wilson then overthrew Kearse, who had not separated from Patrick Peterson.
“Scramble-drill” to Golden Tate: When Wilson was flushed right from the pocket on third-and-five, Tate broke off his underneath route against zone coverage and headed deep. Wilson then made one of his worst decisions as a pro, lofting a pass into triple coverage where it was almost intercepted. Twice.
Corner route to Kearse: Against this Cover-0, meaning all-out blitz with no safety help, out-breaking routes such as corner routes should be easily executable because the defensive back in man coverage is vulnerable to both the post route deep inside, and the go route. However, with short strides before his break point, Kearse diminished his separation before dropping a slightly high pass.
Out to Baldwin: Flushed left on third-and-one, Wilson easily had the first down had he run. Instead, running to his left at nearly full speed, Wilson threw a room-service, numbers-high strike to Baldwin – who deftly tap-danced a would-be 22-yard gain before losing control of the ball upon hitting the ground.
Fade to Kearse: Against a man-coverage blitz, Kearse, aligned in the middle slot of trips left, ran a fade on third-and-eight. With Tate and Baldwin both facing press coverage on either side of Kearse, Arizona’s Jerraud Powers lined up “off” of Kearse, so as not to be picked by an adjacent receiver. At the play’s onset, Kearse did well to run straight at Powers (some receivers run a wide arc around their defender and thus get cut off), but the cornerback knew he had help inside from the safety so he anticipated the fade and made a perfect play on a perfectly thrown ball.
Double-move post to Baldwin: Wilson enjoyed good protection and Seattle got the coverage it wanted: off-coverage man-to-man with no safety help for Powers against Baldwin. Baldwin faked the corner route but gained only a small step on Powers, who recovered well once Baldwin jumped a millisecond early for the ball.
Throwaways on third down: After an entertaining evasive effort, Wilson was forced to throw out of bounds on third-and-eight. Ditto on a third-and-three on the next series.
Corner-route interception to Baldwin: The Seahawks ran the same “flood” concept that the Falcons executed with less than 30 seconds to play to beat Seattle in last season’s playoffs – A “clear-out/corner/flat” combination that plays, respectively, “deep/intermediate/short” and is best against zone coverage. Coincidentally, Sunday the Cardinals played the same zone-blitz, 3-under, 3-deep coverage that Seattle had played against Atlanta. Earlier in the fourth quarter Sunday, Tate had converted this same play for 28 yards but on the interception Wilson fell away from pass-rush pressure that didn’t exist, perhaps contributing to the low throw that didn’t meet Wilson’s high standards for accuracy.
Former Huskies and NFL quarterback Hugh Millen is providing analysis after each Seahawks game this season.