Passer rating is a common evaluator of a quarterback’s performance, but one of the four components in that formula — yards per pass attempt — has the highest correlation to winning.
In the NFL, I take notice if that number exceeds 8.0 and take exceptional note if it exceeds 10. On Sunday, Russell Wilson exceeded 11, and if he did that for a season, he would break Sid Luckman’s record of 10.9 in 1943. As it was, according to Pro Football Reference, Wilson had the 45th best yards-per-attempt game ever. Some thoughts on a few throws:
First-quarter fade route to Golden Tate for 31 yards: Against press man-to-man Cover 1, Tate’s release made the play. Working against once-great Asante Samuel, Tate chattered his feet while closing the cushion on the retreating Samuel, then used a quick fake outside followed by an inside swim release to confound Samuel.
Samuel was so beaten that Tate, despite his inside release, was able to stay on his “vertical track” — an important facet to the play considering the ball was on the right hash, closest to Tate, and the free safety could potentially converge on the pass. Instead, that free safety could only contribute 15 yards with an illegal hit.
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Second-quarter double pass to Jermaine Kearse: These types of gadget plays aren’t employed just to be tricky, or entertaining. They are used to keep defenses sound in their pursuit obligations. Against all wide run plays, defenses have defenders with “primary force” responsibility and “secondary force”.
Primary-force defenders can pursue to wide runs without regard for “run-pass” threats. Secondary-force defenders cannot pursue the run until assured that their assigned receivers will not be the target of a flea-flicker, halfback pass, or other gadget like the double pass executed by the Seahawks. The Falcons weren’t scorched on the play, but the targeted defender was a free safety, whose ball skills usually don’t match that of a corner.
Second-quarter smoke screen to Golden Tate for 46 yards: Every NFL team has this play, in which the wide receiver takes one step forward and waits for a quick sideways pass as adjacent receivers block laterally. However, few teams consistently throw the smoke screen to such a tight alignment like Seattle.
The advantage is the receiver gets the ball quicker, so there’s less reaction time for the perimeter defenders. The disadvantage is that defenders “in the box”, such as linebackers, are nearer in pursuit, so they must be blocked. Credit Zach Miller for a sustained block on the outside linebacker, and Luke Willson for a kick-out block on the cornerback.