Seahawks' Offense Sloppy vs. Eagles’ Inverted Tampa 2 and Cover 0

Matty F. Brown

Last Sunday was a sloppy offensive performance from the Seahawks. It was the defense’s consistency, and ability to force multiple turnovers, that kept this game from being close—until the final score that is.

Credit must be given to the Eagles, a team currently placed 10th in pass defense DVOA. Jim Schwartz schemed well for the core concepts of Brian Schottenheimer, taking away what Russell Wilson really likes and forcing adaptation. Schotty did adjust, but Seattle’s attack kept falling back into a slumber. Their execution was akin to the feeling of accidentally swallowing chewing gum. Panicked, careless disappointment.

Most infuriating was the series after Shaquem Griffin’s impressive forced fumble in the third quarter. Handed the ball back, the offense threw the opportunity away. Literally.

· 1st and 10: A false start against tight end Jacob Hollister.

· 1st and 15: A delay of game penalty.

· 1st and 20: 5-yard shallow cross completion from Wilson to DK Metcalf.

· 2nd and 15: Tyler Lockett can’t gain enough separation on deep middle route, pass falls incomplete.

· 3rd and 15: A Joey Hunt tripping penalty negates a nine-yard catch by Hollister.

· 3rd and 25: Wilson throws it up to David Moore, who is bullied tamely off route for interception by Rodney McLeod.

This game, Metcalf was thankfully given a diet better suited to his current rookie skillset: a heavier dosage of posts, slants, and crossing routes perfectly catered to his burning speed. Moreover, these routes don’t treat Metcalf as though he is some dominant possession threat just because he is tall, unlike the frustrating intermediate fades that have proved highly inefficient and less-than-successful. Seattle’s coaching staff appears to have learned this important lesson, even if Metcalf generally struggled to separate.

From a schematic perspective, nothing demonstrated the frustration at shoddiness better than Metcalf’s drop at the end of the first half. Schwartz had answers for Seattle’s Yankee-crosser variations, or an intermediate crossing route combined with a deeper post or go route off play-action.

These were largely based around the middle of field safety nailing down from the deep middle to aggressively cover the intermediate crossing route of the Yankee combination. Whether this was the infamous inverted Tampa 2 or just a nailed-down Cover 3, it worked in stopping Yankee.

The pass rush up front helped Philadelphia. Fletcher Cox was put head up on center Joey Hunt, truly exposing the backup for the first time this season thanks to Cox’s deadly concoction of size, power, and quickness. Ethan Pocic is due to return from Injured Reserve in Week 14 and you have to think he’ll be slotting into the middle of the offensive line at some point.

In addition, Philadelphia's linebackers and Malcolm Jenkins were used to funnel the tailback. If he released to their side, they’d cover him; if the running back went the other way, they’d blitz. This blitzing when their assigned man stayed in (green dog) and five-down (diamond, with linebacker over guard) fronts applied late pressure outside and reduced the time Wilson had in his “new” pocket after the play-fake plus rollout. The underneath coverage was aggressive in pursuit. The deep option routes and scramble improvisation was removed. For Seattle, getting into so many 3rd and long situations was the biggest issue with Philadelphia able to do more creative things up front.

It’s somewhat annoying that, given the man coverage indicator, the hitch route in this combination wasn’t run to the sticks on 3rd and 12. I guess it could have stayed short as a blitz-beating adjustment? Furthermore, the nature of the route itself is as a bait route, but later on, Tyler Lockett adjusted this into a deeper comeback. After Seattle executed a full-slide in pass protection, Wilson had little time against the green dogs and aggressive spy of Philly's Cover 0 pass defense. 

The Eagles' Inverted Tampa 2 also vacated the deep middle of the field, the post. Yet, it too coped fine against play-action, two-downfield route combinations. Watch as the half safety picks up the deeper route of Hollister while the high-hole defender doubles the intermediate option. Wilson knew pre-snap he was getting zone, yet he had little time to squeeze a dangerous throw into his tight end.

On this Seahawks play, it looked like Malik Turner read the coverage wrong. There was no reason for him to run a corner route at the break-point, unless he thought Metcalf outside was running a hitch in a smash-type concept. The space was in the middle of the field for Turner; maybe he thought this was Cover 3 not Tampa 2 Invert.

Then came Metcalf's drop. It was the same coverage as the first video. Philadelphia played Cover 0, vacating the post like they do in their Tampa 2 invert. Wilson had the perfect beater for that, a skinny post to his fastest receiver on the field. Metcalf should have caught this for a touchdown, blustery conditions be damned. 

Wilson himself was by no means perfect. If it’s Lamar Jackson who wins the MVP award, it’s nearly-but-not-quite games like these that Wilson can point to as costing him that trophy. And Jackson is playing to a never-seen-before level. Missing out on being the Madden 21 cover star may not be such a bad thing either, given the 100 percent legitimate curse.

Schottenheimer’s solution to the green dogs of six and seven-man pass protection and scheming away from the deep play-action shots was to go into more quick game concepts such as slants and shallow crossers. The most egregious Wilson error was his miss of a wide open Jacob Hollister in the end zone. Schotty called in the same play that the tight end ended the overtime game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on.

Heck, even when trying to ice the game, the offense couldn’t get it done. The very next play after Chris Carson bizarrely fumbled and recovered, the Seahawks coughed the ball up again and gifted it to the Eagles. Carson thought Wilson was running a naked bootleg, putting the ball in his belly and then pulling it away to run back around the edge.

Somehow, the running back missed Wilson’s change at the line of scrimmage to a hand off to the tailback. This was despite Wilson visibly doing his usual “check of the play” arm-flap pre-snap. Not ready for the ball, it bounced off Carson into the Eagles’ grasp. Naturally, the franchise quarterback took the blame in his post-game presser. That was despite Wilson showing rare frustration on the field in the immediate aftermath of the turnover.

Fortunately, Seattle’s defense found a way to get off the field, stopping Philadelphia on 4th and 2 with Shaquill Griffin swatting Carson Wentz’ mesh pass incomplete. It’s a cliché to say that good teams find a way to win the close ones. The Seahawks are taking that to new levels, sitting at 9-2 with eight one-score wins, two in overtime, and just a single one-score defeat.

It’s wild that this team has yet to play a complete game in all three phases—offense, defense and special teams—and when they do, if they can, we can expect Seattle to blow their opponent out. The addition of Quandre Diggs and the assurance he brings to the back-end at free safety has helped the pass rush in its heating up. In consecutive games, the defense has looked nasty. It’s now time for the offense to start executing again.

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