The Seahawks Defense was sloppy and undisciplined, often blowing coverages and missing tackles through its first 8 games of the season. Their terrible play culminated in Week 9 when the Bills put up 44 points against them. Seattle looked like an absolute pretender. Since then, however, the defense has improved dramatically. Given the Seahawks’ recent offensive struggles, you can make a good argument that the defense has actually saved Seattle’s season.
The Seahawks have gone from allowing more than 30 points per game through the first half of the season to just 15 over their last seven games. After allowing 38 pass plays of 20 yards or more through their first 8 games, they’ve cut those big plays down to just 13 since. Some of the improvement comes from getting healthier. Some of it comes from the low level of offensive competition during that span (Giants, Jets, Eagles, Football Team). Most of the improvement comes from defenders doing a better job of playing to their responsibilities in coverage and reading/reacting well to route combinations. This was on display all afternoon against the Rams in Week 16.
On this 3rd-and-7, the Seahawks were playing man coverage with 2 deep safeties at the snap.
Wide receiver Josh Reynolds ran a shallow crossing route from the top of the screen. To cut him off, safety Jamal Adams jumped his route. The cornerback covering Reynolds, Shaquill Griffin, then fell off Reynolds and dropped deep to replace Adams.
Adams was able to cover the crossing route and Griffin was able to provide help deep. The Rams were forced to settle for a 2-yard completion, setting up 4th down.
It takes good communication and a defense seeing the field the same way to execute a coverage like that.
Seattle is a predominant zone-coverage defense. It’s their effectiveness in these coverages during the second half of the season that has played a significant role in turning the defense around. On this play at the beginning of the 4th quarter, focus on those 3 highlighted underneath defenders:
Watch how they recognized the route combination and passed off L.A.’s receivers. They were able to take away the routes Goff wanted at the top of his drop and give the 5-man pass rush enough time to get home.
You can see something similar on this 3-man rush later in the 4th quarter, resulting in another sack.
Seattle’s ability to get to the quarterback has been a key part of their turnaround. They’ve racked up 24 sacks in their last 7 games as opposed to 19 in their first 8. The return of Jamal Adams after missing 4 games is an important part of that. As is the mid-season addition of defensive end Carlos Dunlap. But Seattle’s effectiveness in coverage has also been a major contributor, as you could see on the above two plays.
We cannot understate the role Jamal Adams has played in the recent success of Seattle’s defense. He’s been all over the field, quickly diagnosing runs and attacking ball carriers. His 2nd-down tackle during the Seahawks’ goal-line stand against the Rams was pivotal to getting the win and wrapping up the NFC West division title.
Game-changing play from a game-changing player.
The Seahawks Defense is not the 85 Bears. But they don’t need to be to make a run to the Super Bowl. They’re much more fundamentally sound now, which means they should be able to keep just about any game within striking distance for Russell Wilson. Now the offense just needs to get back to where they were earlier in the season.
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