The new series SportsRuckus will be working on is called the blueprint. We will breakdown how to beat some of the top teams in the NFL, after watching as many of their games as possible. We will start with the champs.
The Seattle Seahawks went through the NFC playoffs and dismantled a record setting Denver Broncos offense in the Super Bowl. That along with their roster returning pretty much intact the prevailing thought is that this team is close to unbeatable. On their playoff run last season the only game that was ever in any doubt was the game against their division rival the San Francisco 49ers.
So how do we go about beating them? You could pray for rain, but they like the rain in Seattle, so I am going to give you the Blueprint to beating the defending champs. I have watched the all-22 tape for pretty much every game they played last season. I saw some weaknesses and areas that can be attacked and taken advantage of. I preface this all by saying for any team to beat the Seahawks they are going to have to execute, play disciplined, and most importantly play physical. Check that play extremely physical.
So let’s get this party started, the Seahawks are known for their defense, which not only stops offenses but is capable of taking the ball away, putting their offense in good position to score. When they kick it off you probably won’t get too far cause they play a good amount of their starters on special teams but it’s OK, Trust Me! Seattle’s front 7 is smaller and built more for the run so Step 1 is to use your power run game and run the ball right at them. They are a fast aggressive unit who shoot gaps so there will be chances to break big runs on occasion as well. I watched the Bucs as well as the Rams run at them for over 150 yds apiece by consistently pounding them off tackle. With the Hawks team speed you don’t want your back running parallel to the line of scrimmage, that’s a sure way to lose yards.
This brings us to Step 2 – Stay Patient! Take what the defense gives you. Where a lot of teams go wrong is by not sticking with the run or losing yards thus putting themselves in obvious passing situations. This is the area where Seattle’s D thrives, it allows their D-Line rotation to pin their ears back and get after the QB. Also it brings the teams biggest strength into play. The Seahawks secondary, known as the Legion of Boom, they are an aggressive yet disciplined ball hawking group who punishes receivers if they happen to catch the ball. So for your offense, you want to stay ahead of the sticks and don’t hesitate to take a checkdown or throw the ball away if you see nothing open downfield.
Now let’s get to Step 3. At some point you will have to throw the ball against this secondary. They are a great defense but by no means impenetrable. The Seahawks are going to play basically 2 coverages and rush 4. They generate really good pressure with that front 4 which allows the back 7 to play lockdown coverage. The first coverage the Seahawks play is a cover 3 where the CBs line up close and play either press or press- bail from outside leverage funneling everything inside to their all pro safety Earl Thomas sitting in deep centerfield. Thomas has incredible range which really takes this defense to another level. The underneath coverage has 4 players underneath, 1 being the other safety Kam Chancellor who drops down and plays the curl/flat area to one side. Kam is one of the biggest safeties in the NFL, so if you send your receivers on slant routes or crossing routes there is a very high possibility they run into him and it usually doesn’t turn out well for the receiver. On the opposite side of the field their is usually either a LB or a nickel back depending on the situation who have the same responsibility curl/flat. There are also 2 LBs in the middle who split the middle of the field watching the seams and reacting to in breaking routes. This defense is designed mainly not to give up the deep ball, by lining their CBs up close and having them be physical it allows them to throw off the offenses timing. The other defense that the Seahawks mix in is called a Cover 1 Robber which is basically just man to man coverage. Again, the 2 safeties is what makes this defense different/better than everyone else’s. Thomas in deep centerfield and Chancellor playing short middle both reading the QBs eyes and breaking on any in breaking route (Thomas has showed the ability to also make plays on passes to the sideline. In case I didn’t mention left CB Richard Sherman is the best in the game at these coverages. A long smart player who finds a way to get his hands on the ball and force turnovers. This is a really disciplined team so pretty much the only way you are beating them deep is a badly blown coverage (which doesn’t happen often) or a double move. The other way you would go about that is by moving your receivers around and using different formations like trips, bunch, or tight bunch. Doing this will make it harder for the CBs to get their hands on your receivers. The other good thing about those formations is it normally isolates the CB on the backside 1 on 1. You also want to throw complex route combinations at their coverages. Some combos that I like against them are 4 verticals, flood routes, double post, deep cross, curl/flat and mesh. Against the corners, comebacks are always an option, but a skinny post or a deep in route could turn into big plays.
Time out !!!!
Teaching moment here, With Seattle’s CBs playing outside leverage a majority of the time, your receivers job is to take the inside release (which they are giving him) then get directly upfield and start to bend your route towards the sideline keeping the corner pinned to the sideline giving your QB a larger area to throw the football, raising the probability of completing the pass. Your job as the coach is to have the other guys on the field doing something to keep Earl Thomas busy and a look off by your QB may not be a bad idea either.
Now let’s get back to finishing step 3. Attacking those deep guys has to be calculated but where you can really have some success is underneath. Quick passes in the seams and working the flats will keep you moving the ball.
We are now at Step 4, so Between your run game that you established a long time ago if you were listening and working the underneath you have those underneath players on edge. Perfect time for a play action or that double move. Tell your QB to throw the ball where either your guy can catch it or it’s incomplete. Even running or throwing a check down is a plus. I watched The Rams and Bucs dominate the Seahawks with the run, only to mess up drives as well as their chances of pulling the upset by forcing passes and throwing drive killing interceptions in these situations.
This takes us to our 5th and final step, A punt is not a bad thing. The Seahawks feed off of their defense’s ability to force turnovers. Kicking the ball and forcing their offense to drive the length of the field to beat you is not a bad thing, especially after I tell you how to stop them. Which will be in my next article. Yep, So simple a caveman can do it. Well not that easy.
The Seahawks have a great defense led by their big physical corners and aggressive, athletic safeties. 1 is a ballhawk and the other is an enforcer. The defensive line goes 7 or 8 deep with quality pass rushers. The linebackers are overlooked but they are fast and sure tacklers. As with everything, many teams are trying to copy the champs defense by paying whatever it takes to add safeties and also bigger more physical cornerbacks.
The NFL is a copycat league, not only have teams started copying the Seahawks D, but teams are looking all over trying to find out how to beat Seattle’s D. The team that I noticed that had the most success was the Indianapolis Colts. They did a great job of staying patient. Indy, despite not having a huge day on the ground, kept pounding the run at them. The Colts mixed in a variety of underneath passes and connected on a couple of deep shots. One was by using route combinations to confuse the coverage causing a blown assignment, leading to a long td and the other using formation to get the matchup they wanted and running 4 verticals to get another long ball. Teams may not be able to duplicate having Andrew Luck at QB. But they may be able to copy the way he managed the game and led his team to 34 points against the leagues best D. What was most impressive was how he moved around the pocket, got rid of the ball, and limited his mistakes. I learned a ton from that game, I am sure the rest of the league will too. If not they can just come down to SportsRuckus and get the BLUEPRINT.