The Seattle Seahawks dominance of the Denver Broncos last night was something I never saw coming, but plenty of the things that led to the Seahawks win were foreseeable. For instance, the ‘Hawks athletic linebackers prevented the Broncos screens from going anywhere, and their inability to test the Seahawks defense deep pretty much ensured that they wouldn’t be able to come back from a quick deficit that only continued to grow. Below are ten in-depth observations from the game, which was historic in a different way than we anticipated.
1. Coming into the game, I’m sure Darrell Bevell and the Seattle Seahawks knew that the Broncos interior run defense was the best in the NFL, whereas their outside run D stunk. However, the Seahawks consistently ran the ball up the middle for Marshawn Lynch for minimal gains, leaving my brother (a Seahawks fan) perplexed. This was actually a very shrewd strategy, because the balance kept the opposition off guard and led to some very successful play-cation passes that completely sucked in linebackers to free the middle of the field. Creating a balance on offense is important to the Seahawks, and they didn’t necessarily care a whole lot if Lynch averaged just 2.6 yards per carry.
2. Even though he never came out and said it, I took a subliminal message out of this quote from Bevell: we have big plans for Percy Harvin and some tricks up our sleeve. Bevell is one of the most creative offensive coordinators in the NFL, and he certainly used that creativity quite a bit. The two runs to Harvin were pitch-perfect, and his first run of 30 yards was just a thing of coaching beauty. The entire defense was already in the wrong passing alignment with nobody directly covering Harvin in the right slot, so they communicated before the snap in order to account for him. When he set in motion, you could see the Broncos defense quickly shift around before the snap, and they were simply unprepared for a run with Harvin and had nobody to stop him on the left side. While Harvin didn’t play a big role in the passing game, he obviously played a huge role in the game as a whole with his two big runs and his scintillating kick-off return TD.
3. I don’t understand why people were criticizing Demaryius Thomas for being unable to fight through press coverage, and I feel like this undersold Thomas’s abilities as a wide receiver. There are those who underrate him, because he isn’t a product of Peyton Manning. If he were, then how could he have done so well with Tim Tebow at QB? Thomas is the master of double-moves, and he was able to notch 13 receptions and 118 yards against easily the league’s best pass defense. Even though he averaged just 9.1 yards per completion, that’s more reflective of Peyton Manning’s adequate downfield throws. I loved Thomas’s touchdown, as it showcased some fabulous route-running to get inside leverage; it’s not easy to beat a guy like Byron Maxwell like that for a TD.
4. Eric Decker had just one reception for six yards on five targets, meaning that he averaged just 1.2 yards per target. He spent most of his time being covered by Richard Sherman, so basically the Broncos allowed their best downfield target to be covered by arguably the best corner in the game. Sherman didn’t have deep safety help most of the time, so it was just him manhandling Decker. He was in the spotlight far too often over the past few weeks, but he hasn’t been praised enough for what he did to Decker. The Broncos didn’t want DT to be taken out of the game, so it was basically Sherman on Decker. Not only did he make Decker almost invisible, but he was never beat by the burner’s speed.
5. Doug Baldwin is easily one of the most efficient wide receivers in the game on a per-target basis, as he came into the game with a whopping 11 yards per target; that was higher than Demaryius Thomas. He finished as the Seahawks leader in receiving yards, and the most impressive thing is the fact that he caught all five of his targets for 66 yards, which amounts to an excellent average of 13.2 yards per attempt. So whenever Russell Wilson threw it to Baldwin, he could count on getting 13 yards. Not bad, huh? Although he goes underrated, Baldwin has good speed, great football IQ, solid route-running, and some of the surest hands in the NFL. People should never forget just how great the Seahawks wide receivers are at holding onto passes.