On offense, the Seahawks are a Super Bowl-caliber team. On the the defensive side of the ball, Seattle has been downright bad this season. They rank 30th in the NFL in points allowed per game. They’ve allowed the 2nd-most 20+ yard plays through the air. And they are dead last against the pass. Sure, injuries in the secondary have been a factor. But that doesn’t completely explain away their performance on the field.
Against the Bills in Week 9, the bad play started early. Seattle busted their coverage 3 snaps into the game for a touchdown, as you can see below. Here, the Seahawks were playing cover-3, meaning the safety and two outside cornerbacks were responsible for the 3 deep vertical zones of the field.
The Bills were in a 3×1 formation. Focus on Tre Flowers, the deep-third defender to the opposite side of the 3-receiver set. At the snap, he paid the 3-receiver side no attention, instead focusing on the curl route in front of him.
The Bills had the number-3 inside receiver to the opposite side run an over route across the field and into Flowers’ deep third zone.
With Flowers locked on to the shallow route to his side and thinking there was no other vertical threat, there was no one in his deep third zone to be able to play the over route. The result was an easy touchdown.
You can even see the deep-middle safety (Quandre Diggs) looking back in disbelief after the play. Clearly a mistake was made.
In the 2nd quarter, you could start to see the problems Seattle had handling Stefon Diggs in man coverage. Focus on Diggs in the slot below, with cornerback D.J. Reed (#29) over him. Diggs gave a little stutter move before running away from Reed on a crossing route.
On the very next play, Diggs was aligned at the top of the screen with Quinton Dunbar aligned over him. Look at all that cushion Dunbar gave him.
If you’re going to give that much cushion to take away the big play, you better be able to rally up quickly and tackle. The result here was a 21-yard reception.
Dunbar had a rough day, with much of his poor performance brought on by an injured knee. That said, it didn’t really matter who was on Diggs. They all had trouble. Above, you saw Reed get beat for a big play while trying to get his hands on Diggs at the line. You also saw Dunbar get beat for a big play while giving Diggs significant cushion. Below, All-Pro safety Jamal Adams took his turn and tried aggressively jamming Diggs at the line. It didn’t go well.
That’s a great route by Diggs, not only to avoid Adams’ jam off the line, but also to sell the crosser before breaking back to the outside. Diggs finished with 9 receptions for 118 yards.
But again, this wasn’t just a good day for a very good receiver. The Seahawks Defense was non-competitive on too many plays. The below 3rd-and-16 came with the Bills leading 27-20 in the 4th quarter. The Seahawks would end up bringing a 0-Blitz. Quinton Dunbar (bottom of the screen) played with so much cushion, though.
The Bills were able to throw a quick WR screen for an easy 33 yards. I like the decision to be aggressive and bring a 0 blitz here. I don’t like having your cornerback play with 15 yards of cushion, especially on the edge of field goal range on 3rd-and-16, where the offense would be more than happy to take an easy 8-yard gain and kick a field goal to go up by two scores. The cushion invited that throw and left the injured Dunbar on an island. The Bills were in the end zone 2 plays later.
Bad coverage. Bad tackling. Blown coverages. Bad decision-making. The Seahawks had a problem on defense in Buffalo. And quite frankly, they’ve had one all season. This is to take nothing away from how well Josh Allen and the Bills played. But let’s be honest. Buffalo’s passing game had been struggling over their previous 4 games before Seattle’s defense helped right the ship.
Russell Wilson has been outstanding this season. But the Seahawks are going to have trouble navigating the NFC playoffs with this defense against quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Kyler Murray. They need to figure out something fast, because the excuse of too many injuries won’t help them in January.
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