Running back Thomas Rawls was epic, with 255 yards from scrimmage. Many of his big plays were schematically different than the Seahawks’ customary zone blocking.
The Seahawks amassed 500 or more yards offense for just the third time in the Pete Carroll era during a 29-13 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
Credit the Seahawks: Evidently they have bludgeoned the 49ers with such regularity that defensively San Francisco was an emotional no-show. Missed tackles, loafs, failure to shed blocks, the 49ers showed it all in abundance.
Running back Thomas Rawls was epic, with 255 yards from scrimmage. Many of his big plays were schematically different than the Seahawks’ customary zone blocking. Here’s a breakdown of four notable plays:
• Power for 20 yards: Because starting running back Marshawn Lynch and quarterback Russell Wilson are threats to run, and because the offense is not a prodigious passing attack, the Seahawks usually face single-safety defenses with the extra safety low, in run support. Early in the second quarter, however, the 49ers played a two-high-safety look. So the numbers were favorable to run on second-and-12. In the NFL, big runs seldom play out exactly as schemed, but in this case the run was exactly as diagrammed: Left guard Justin Britt pulled to kick out the defensive end in this version of the play termed “Power.” Right tackle Gary Gilliam and right guard J.R. Sweezy “deuced,” meaning they double-teamed the defensive tackle. Then Gilliam climbed to block the back-side linebacker in this 4-2 front. Tight end Jimmy Graham handled the play-side linebacker as receiver Doug Baldwin blocked the nickel defensive back at the point of attack. Britt’s block against end Ahmad Brooks was noteworthy: when the Seahawks’ defense faced similar schemes Sunday from the 49ers’ offense, defensive ends would aggressively attack the pulling blocker and “wrong-arm” the block. Wrong-arming, despite the name, actually is desired, as the defensive end or linebacker takes on the block with the outside shoulder, which puts more of his body in the hole, disruptively changing running angles by the offense. On Sunday Brooks did not “wrong-arm;” instead he tepidly absorbed the kick-out block and provided little resistance.
Most Read Sports Stories
- 'It's hard to feel overly optimistic': National media react to the Kraken's picks in the NHL expansion draft
- Kraken makes Michigan center Matty Beniers the first NHL entry draft pick in franchise history
- Guardians chosen as new name for Cleveland's baseball team
- Reactions mixed to WSU Cougars football coach Nick Rolovich decision to decline COVID-19 vaccine
- Check out the Kraken's inaugural NHL schedule, including when it opens at Climate Pledge Arena
• Counter for 30 yards: This wasn’t a traditional counter. A traditional counter pulls at least one lineman from the strong side to the weak side, often with another back, tight end or lineman also pulling. Midway through the third quarter Wilson and Rawls first faked a run to the right, then both executed the handoff mesh with Rawls heading left. This backfield action constitutes “counter.” But the offensive line blocked inside zone to the right, and this particular combination of backfield action and line blocking momentarily froze inside linebackers NaVorro Bowman and Michael Wilhoite. When Rawls then cut back to the right, favorable blocking leverage was obtained by Luke Willson and Britt on Bowman and Wilhoite, respectively. Why did Rawls cut right? The 49ers blitzed safety Jaquiski Tartt to the Seahawks’ strong side — the left, where Graham motioned to join Willson. How the Seahawks responded to this blitz was pivotal: they ignored the blitz and instead “climbed” to the linebacker level. Risky, as that left Rawls to break the tackle of Tartt at the line. But once he did, Rawls played off those good blocks at the linebacker level and both safeties were out of position due to the blitz.
• Counter for 18 yards: This was traditional counter. From a Pistol alignment behind Wilson, Rawls took two steps to the right before receiving the handoff while aiming off tackle to his left. In theory left tackle Russell Okung would “deuce” with Britt, but 49ers defensive tackle Quinton Dial was so feeble that Okung went straight to the back-side linebacker. Brooks again was the target of the kickout block, this time by Sweezy. Brooks made a nifty move up the field, forcing Sweezy to whiff on the block, but in the process Brooks was left so far up the field that he ran himself out of the play. Rawls cut up inside the now-unblocked Brooks and followed Willson’s good block on the near inside linebacker. Receiver Jermaine Kearse hustled from his wide alignment to barely reach the late-dropping safety from depth, and it was another gash blocked exactly as drawn in the playbook.
• Swing-route touchdown pass for 31 yards: Up 10 points early in the fourth quarter the Seahawks doubled up their misdirection by first faking to Rawls on a wide zone-blocking stretch play to their left. Wilson then faked the naked bootleg to his right, which always would feature an intermediate-depth crossing route from the left side moving in Wilson’s direction, left to right. These “naked” schemes also would call for a back or tight end in the right flat, but the back who receives the initial fake, in this case Rawls, is an afterthought as a fourth option in the left flat. If the halfback, Rawls, is to be targeted, it is because the defense has usually ignored that halfback on such plays in this game or in previous games. On this play the Seahawks targeted Rawls and when San Francisco delay-blitzed six defenders, linebacker Wilhoite was in straight man-to-man coverage. Against typical naked schemes, it’s very impulsive for inside linebackers to be more concerned about the intermediate crossing route behind them than the halfback in the flat opposite the quarterback’s direction. For a second, that impulse impaired Wilhoite. That second was enough for a completion.