The Seahawks defeated the Falcons and lead the NFC West with a 4-1 record. The Cardinals (3-3) defeated the Jets. The 49ers (1-5) lost to the Bills. The Rams (3-3) lost to the Lions.
Wilson Is Back Under Center, And Christine Michael Approves
A mere fourteen days of rest would not be enough time to return quarterback Russell Wilson to full health, but he took the field on Sunday a much closer version of himself. Previously, Wilson had been taking almost all snaps out of the shotgun, as playing under center required him to squat for the snap, and then it required him to drop back, either to pass or to swivel on his hips and then extend the ball for a handoff. Still held back by layers of tape around both ankles and a brace on his knee, the signal-caller did not appear much quicker, but his flexibility and range-of-motion were improved.
Wilson took 65 snaps with 24 (37%) of them coming from under center, and it really opened up the playbook for things like…
The flea flicker!!
(Okay, okay, so that wasn’t the most practical example, but hang in there).
Christine Michael benefited from the change. Both of his touchdowns came from Wilson being under center, en route to 18 carries for 64 yards. Formerly a second-round pick who became an NFL journeymen and is now back in Seattle, Micheal has earned himself a place on the Seahawks roster, but offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is struggling to find exactly what it is. During the Hawks first three drives, Michael ran the ball on consecutive plays during an individual set of downs. The result of each set was a punt; however, on the fourth drive, Bevell went to Michael again on consecutive plays, except this time one of the plays was a pass. The result was a touchdown. This is further evidence that Michael is better used as a compliment to the passing game, and leaves the largest question about the Seahawks still unanswered.
Who is going to be the primary back in this system?
Did The Seahawks Steal The Game From The Falcons?
1) The Atlanta Falcons remain the #1 offense in the NFL, averaging 441.5 yards/game (1st), 6.9 yards/play (1st), 199 points (1st) with a 33.2 average/game (1st). And they were dead-on-arrival in Seattle, and it was all the Seattle D’s doing. Four sacks, sack fumble, interception, multiple pass break-ups, holding Freeman and Coleman to fifty yards combined, 3/11 on third downs… Also, if you take away the two plays where Richard Sherman and Kelcie McCray were on different wavelengths, the Falcons blank on two touchdowns. Which brings up an interesting point, the Falcons only had one good quarter! During the third quarter, quarterback Matt Ryan went 14 for 18 for 220 yards and three touchdowns. Wow, that sounds so dominate! And it was…until a few fights on the sidelines, paired with some work being done behind Microsoft Surfaces and dry-erase boards, got the D set straight.
Matt Ryan in the 4th quarter: 3/9 for 32 yards with an INT and a sack taken.
So, I’m impressed. This defense took a big smack on the mouth. A big one. And they hit back just as hard.
2) The Falcons two-minute offense was abysmal. Seriously, Matt Ryan and Co were 1st and 10 from their own 25 with 1:57 left in the game, and what happened? Incomplete. Incomplete. Incomplete. Incomplete. The best offense in the NFL couldn’t pick up one yard on four tries? Also, hey, Matty Ice, while you were busy heaving it downfield into double coverage on 4th and 10, did you perhaps miss Devonta Freeman (24) on Bobby Wagner?
He looks open to me!
3) Here’s what 2016 comes down to for the Falcons and everyone else. Teams will either chip, shadow or double Jimmy Graham or they’re going to lose. And if you think Jimmy’s ripping out hearts now, just wait. Every week Bevell’s usage of Graham gets more complex. He comes out at wide-out and in the slot, but where it really got fun this week was when he lined up as a blocker with Wilson under center. It added a new dimension of deception, as the offense can show a power running formation, even if the play is a pass.
DeShawn Shead, The Corner We’ve Been Missing
To me, there’s a bellwether buried in Richard Sherman’s recent struggles. Sherman’s play is not a sign of regression, it’s a sign of how improved the entire defense is. In 2015, Sherman was rarely tested. To get yards against the Seahawks, quarterbacks threw to the second corner. Well, teams can’t abuse the opposite corner any longer. Shead has emerged as a bonafide #2 and the kid must be respected. His football IQ took a leap this offseason. He plays so loose and so free. His footwork is incredible. His instincts are right on. Teams are testing Sherman, but can you blame them when Shead does things like this?
KJ Wright is also awesome on this play.
Falcon tight end Jacob Tamme comes in motion across the formation (taking KJ Wright with him), lining up behind wide receiver Mohamed Sanu (Shead is covering). At the snap, Sanu takes a quick jump inside before matching Tamme’s move outside. This interplay is meant to draw Shead into taking a hard angle in chase of Sanu. As Shead goes high, Tamme moves inside. (KJ Wright maneuvers this perfectly. He gets inside of Shead without obstructing Shead from his coverage). The result is Matt Ryan abandoning his read on both receivers. Ryan finds no other throwing options and escapes the pocket. He locates Sanu again, attempting to sneak in a pass that Shead deflects.
From snap-to-throw, my iPhone and my thumb determined Ryan had 5.7 seconds.
And Shead is right there for it.
In short, Richard Sherman will get himself right. He takes on the best receiver on every team. He works left, right, and in the slot. To make it even more complex, the defense is spending a shocking amount of time in nickel and dime packages, which requires more communication than perhaps Sherman prefers. But Sherman can expect to see more work coming his way. With the emergence of Shead, opposing offenses have to play the Seahawks D honest.
One More Time…
The Hawks are winning the Super Bowl!!!
Thanks for reading!
In case you missed it…
Week 1, On One Leg | Week 2, The Spread Will Save the Seahawks, Exactly Like It Did Last Year | Week 3, Could Trevone Boykin Be The Future? With Doug Baldwin, He Might. | Week 4, Kam Chancellor’s Modified Role Improves Entire LoB, Takes Defense to New Level | Discombobulated But Still Dangerous, The Cardinals Lie Ahead – Seahawks Bye Week Special