Nothing seemed to work right for the Seahawks Offense on Sunday. Plays designed to break down the defense failed to do so. Russell Wilson misfired regularly. Jermaine Kearse couldn’t get open all day, and when he did get his hands on the ball, it led to two interceptions. Even a fake field goal touchdown pass couldn’t get the offense going. To Seattle’s credit, they kept playing.
The play that really got the offense going was a 26-yard pass from Russell Wilson to Marshawn Lynch on a wheel route with 3 minutes remaining. As shown below, Lynch ran the wheel from out of the backfield. Tight End Luke Willson ran inside with one mission, to create a pick on linebacker Sam Barrington, who was covering Marshawn Lynch.
Barrington made the mistake of going under Willson instead of over the top (especially with a 2-possession lead). This play set up Seattle’s first touchdown. It was a play they tried using in the 3rd quarter but failed to execute properly.
The Seahawks got back to the best aspect of their offense late in the game – the read option. In the 4th quarter and overtime, all 10 called runs were read options. Seattle racked up 93 yards and 2 touchdowns on these runs. The Seahawks always seem to get in trouble on offense when they get away from this phase of their game. They always seem to get on track when they get back to it.
The design of the read-option always puts defenders in conflict, and it gives Seattle a numbers advantage because it successfully leaves defenders unblocked. This is what happened on Marshawn Lynch’s 24-yard go-ahead touchdown run.
As you can see, at the read-option mesh point, the Packers had 3 defenders to the right who were occupied by the threat of Wilson keeping the ball.
This left 3 blockers for 3 defenders on the other side. A.J. Hawk jumped inside instead of staying in the B-gap, which was his responsibility.
Lynch did a good job of drawing Hawk inside before bouncing it through the B-gap and scampering 24 yards for the touchdown.
To Russell Wilson’s credit, he didn’t lose his composure despite an awful first 55 minutes to his day. In overtime, he connected with Doug Baldwin for 35 yards on a fade route from the slot on 3rd down, setting up the game-winning touchdown. This ironically was a route that led to Wilson’s 3rd interception earlier in the day.
On the touchdown, the Seahawks used “22” personnel (2 backs, 2 tight ends). They knew that this would get the Packers into their base 3-4 with 3 safeties and 1 corner (instead of 2 safeties and 2 corners) in order to match up with Seattle’s predominant run-heavy personnel.
Wilson saw the two safeties in the middle of the field playing low. Because the Packers matched up with big personnel and because of the depth of the safeties, Wilson checked the play. He knew that the Packers were playing to stop the run, especially with only one wide receiver on the field. Wilson had the middle of the field wide open. Jermaine Kearse ran inside immediately at the snap, getting him a free release and forcing cornerback Tramon Williams to be on his outside hip.
Wilson placed the ball perfectly, and the rest is history.
Sure, the Seahawks had everything go right at the end of the game. We wouldn’t even be talking about them right now if the Packers had recovered their onside kick. But you have to give Seattle credit for their resilience. Great teams take advantage of their opponents’ miscues, and this is exactly what the Seahawks did in the NFC Championship.