With the score tied at 10 to begin the fourth quarter, a few key plays in a span of 7:22 enabled Seattle to capture a 20-10 lead. Here are two:
Naked right halfback wheel for 55 yards: The fourth quarter’s first play palpably changed the energy in the stadium. This is one of the most common route combinations in the NFL, and particularly for Seattle recently with its offensive line health issues.
The play calls for Russell Wilson to fake to Marshawn Lynch running wide left and then sprint to his right with a pass-run option. The pattern concept places one receiver in the right flat — in this case tight end Luke Willson — and a second crossing receiver from the backside at a depth of 10-12 yards — in this case Sidney Rice. Additionally, Seattle had Doug Baldwin running a deep-out route as a third option.
Counting Golden Tate’s post route to keep the free safety from jumping Rice’s route, the option to throw to Lynch would be considered fifth in the progression. Tennessee played classic Cover 1 with five men rushing, five covering man-to-man, and a free safety in deep middle. In zone coverage against this route design, middle linebacker Moise Fokou would be coached to “hunt” Rice’s crossing route after diagnosing the naked boot action.
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However, in man coverage Fokou had Lynch — or rather, should have had Lynch. For Fokou, Wilson’s running proved too enticing, and the quarterback somehow had the sense to find that rare fifth option.
Richard Sherman’s interception of “stutter-go:” Many offensive coordinators prefer to target a secondary’s best cornerback on double moves with the assumption that the best cornerbacks are most confident and will bite at the intermediate cut point.
Nate Washington may have been a little shallow in his stutter at seven yards, but we’ve seen Sherman on many occasions gobble these routes in single coverage. His ability to run hip-to-hip, feel the receiver with his outside arm, turn for the ball at the precise moment and then finish the interception is among the best I’ve ever seen.
So, poor game-planning by Tennessee. The room-service interception was also underthrown as Ryan Fitzpatrick actually took an eight-step drop — seven steps is usually considered the deepest in a playbook. That extra step, compounded with Fitzpatrick’s ill-advised double hitch in the pocket, caused Washington to apparently outrun Fitzpatrick’s arm. That the ball was slightly inside is a telltale sign that the former 7th-round draft pick doesn’t have the hose to complete that pass against that defender under those conditions.
Former Huskies and NFL quarterback Hugh Millen is providing analysis after each Seahawks game this season.