A Redzone Look: Seattle Seahawks – L.A. Rams

Coming off a last-second win over the Miami Dolphins, where the Seattle Seahawks floundered in the red zone, Pete Carroll and company were looking to score early against a Rams team that had been shutout the week before by the 49ers. Seattle only made it to the red zone one time in a 9-3 loss to the Rams where the theme of the day was offensive miscues coupled with the defenses inability to get off the field on third down. This week we take a look at what went into those red zones plays.

A Redzone Look: Seattle Seahawks – L.A. Rams

First and Ten, L.A. 24 yard line

Formation: Shotgun – Empty Set

Personnel: One running back, one tight end, three receivers

The first play we’re going to take a look at is from just outside the red zone.  After an unnecessary roughness penalty on L.A. linebacker Alec Ogletree, Seattle was in striking distance. Coming out in an empty set, with five receivers split out including Christine MichaelJimmy GrahamDoug Baldwin, Tyler LockettPaul Richardson and Jermaine Kearse, the Seahawks were looking to throw the ball.

The play call is four verticals, which mean everybody except Lockett is running straight down the field,  with Lockett running a slant route that he sits down in front of his quarterback Russell Wilson.  On four verticals plays like this the idea is to clear out the safeties and cornerbacks giving the underneath route, Lockett’s in this case, open space and favorable matchups with linebackers. Lockett doesn’t get any yards after the catch because L.A. is in a Cover 2 zone defense, with linebacker-safety hybrid Marc Barron there to make a tackle immediately.

On his pre-snap reads, Wilson can see that the Rams have two deep safeties, this signifies they are probably in a Cover 2 or Cover 4 (quarters) defense.  The vertical passing scheme can take advantage of both Cover 2 and Cover 4  because at least one receiver gets single coverage on the outside, and inside receivers can exploit gaps down the seam against zone coverage.

Lockett gets a free release and sits down in front of the linebackers as Wilsons dump off. The offensive line does a decent job protecting Wilson, although left tackle Bradley Sowell gets bull rushed to within inches of his quarterback. The other receivers carry their defenders deep leaving only Barron and Ogletree underneath, Lockett’s route takes him directly in front of them. The Rams are in Cover 2 with the outside corners locked on their respective receivers. Lockets catch nets a seven-yard gain, setting up a second and three for his team.

Second and Three, L.A. 17 

Formation: Pistol

Personnel: One running back, two tight ends, two receivers

The Seattle Seahawks come out in a pistol formation, which puts Wilson four yards behind Justin Britt, instead of the traditional seven in a shotgun formation. The pistol places Michael behind Wilson, the play call was a misdirection run to the right. On a misdirection, or cutback play, the back takes the handoff, presses to one side trying to get the defense flowing with him and then cuts back to opposite side hoping the defense is out of place. Seattle has an unbalanced line, with three extra blockers on the right side to give Michael favorable numbers once he cuts back.

The Rams are in Cover 1 with a single high safety, playing off the fact that Seattle is in a run set on a second and short. In what’s been called the  “big nickel” package, which includes three safeties on the field, the Rams get the coverage skills of a defensive back and the ability to stop the run from an extra strong safety instead of putting an extra cornerback on the field.

Michael does a good job pressing the left side long enough to get the defense flowing to that way, he makes his cut back and gets to the outside of Baldwin, but Rams top corner, Trumaine Johnson does a good job diagnosing the play and making the tackle with the help of T.J. McDonald.

First and Ten, L.A. 14

Formation: Pistol Pro Strong

Personnel: Two running backs, one tight end, two receivers

After Michael gained the first down with his run the Seahawks looked to continue running the ball. Again coming out in the pistol formation, this time Seattle added fullback Will Tukuafu to give Thomas Rawls a lead blocker. It appears the play call is an outside run to the left. The objective of this type of run is to spread the defense out to the edges of the field and allow Rawls to find a crease to make a cut and get upfield.

The Rams show a 4-3 over front with the weakside linebacker Josh Forrest on the line of scrimmage to the open side of the formation. Tight end Luke Willson motions over to the left side covering up Forrest, giving Seattle a favorable matchup on the play side of the field.  Once again with a single high safety on the field, the Rams are in Cover 3 with their base package.

Luke Willson and Will Tukuafu are set to be lead blockers for Rawls, neither accomplishes this task.Willson lightly touches Forrest while Tukuafu attempts to lay a big block on Ogletree but misses completely. These misses cause Rawls to cut back to the inside where Aaron Donald makes the tackle holding Rawls to no gain. These miscues were a problem throughout the day as well as a continuing season long trend.

Second and Ten, L.A. 14

Formation: Shotgun

Personnel: One running back, one tight end, three receivers

After failing to gain a yard on the ground with the previous play, Seattle took to the air utilizing the dagger passing concept. Seattle’s speedy receivers, Richardson and Lockett are split out right with Graham on the end of the offensive line. Lockett runs a shallow in route while Richardson runs a deep dig route at the front of the end zone, while Rawls gets in the flat with a shallow out route.

L.A. is once again in a double-high safety look, playing a Cover 4 zone defense. This defense allows the safeties to read any receivers going deep and assist with their coverage. Grahams go route draws McDonald in, while Lockett flashes open as he is passed off from Johnson to Lamarcus Joyner in coverage.  The veteran quarterback looks to pull the trigger on Lockett but is interrupted by Cam Thomas blowing by Glowinski. Wilson steps up in the pocket and finds Rawls open in the flat, the young back makes the catch and turns up field for an 11 yard gain to set up a first and goal.

First and Goal, L.A. 3

Formation: Shotgun Set – Bunch Formation

Personnel: One running back, one tight end, three receivers

Seattle’s miscues on this play illustrated issues they would face all season long, inefficient blocking and unforced penalties. Seattle utilizes a bunch formation to try and get a receiver open in the end zone, with Lockett and Kearse flanking the formation and Baldwin in the slot while having Graham line up as a Y tight end. Baldwin runs a skinny post while Lockett and Kearse run crossing routes to “rub” the defenders. The design of rub routes is to force one of the defenders to give up separation by putting another receiver in his way. Alexander Maurice, a Rams strong safety, breaks on Kearse’s route and pops the receiver.

Due to Seattle’s inability to get a ground game going the Rams are in their standard nickel package, unthreatened by the Seahawks rushing attack. While playing man coverage, L.A. does a good job keeping the Seattle receivers covered. Even though Seattle has their max protect package in, which includes keeping Graham and Rawls in to block, the Rams get pressure almost immediately. This pressure forces Wilson to make only his first read, Lockett, who is covered, and throw the ball away without moving on to see if Baldwin or Kearse are open.

When Alexander broke on Kearse it appeared to the referees that Kearse was “picking” Alexander on the route, which is a foul for offensive pass interference.  So the Seahawks go from first and goal from the three-yard line to first and goal from the 13. Attempting to lay blame at the feet of the officials is pointless, on a play such as this the right call was illegal contact, but because of the fast nature of football,  it is called the way it is in this scenario.

First and Goal, L.A. 13

Formation: Shotgun – Trips Right

Personnel: One running back, one tight end, three receivers

Wide receiver screens are a staple of the Seattle offense, it’s a quick play with a high completion percentage that acts as a supplement for a struggling rushing attack. Using three receivers bunched just inside the numbers both Baldwin and Richardson act as blockers for Lockett, allowing him to find a gap and exploit it. With the Rams in off coverage, Lockett has room to work inside, make the catch and turn upfield for a short gain.  Trumaine Johnson sheds the block of Baldwin and makes the tackle to hold Lockett to a short gain, during the tackle Johnson pulls Lockett down by the facemask and draws a 15-yard personal foul.

First and Goal, L.A. 4

Formation: Pistol Pro Strong

Personnel: Two running backs, three receivers

Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell comes back to the pistol formation they used earlier in the drive to run out of towards the boundary side of the field. Again they line up Tukuafu to the short side of the field to the right with Michael set up behind Wilson. Michael is set to run off the right edge of the line, Tukuafu’s assignment is to block Rams Josh Forrest. The Rams are in their base defense playing a 4-3 over front with Forrest dropped down on the line of scrimmage, much like they did on the previous run from the pistol formation.

Tukuafu reaches his assignment but doesn’t put in much effort on the block, L.A.’s defensive line gets good penetration, both Forrest and Ethan Westbrooks, get rid of their blocks and make a play on Michael. Linebacker Alec Ogletree also does a great job filling his gap and makes the tackle on Michael for a loss of a yard.

Second and Goal, L.A. 5

Formation: Pistol Pro Strong

Personnel: Two running backs, one tight end, two receivers

Once again the Rams defensive line proves to be too much for the Seattle offensive line to handle, coming out in the pistol formation again, Michael motions out of the backfield and lines up outside of Richardson. Micheals motion shows the Seahawks that the Rams are in a man defense.  Seattle runs a quick route combination utilizing slants on the left and the tosser concept on the right. The main read on this play is Michael, who Seattle hoped would have single coverage on a slant into the end zone, however, Alexander is sitting in the zone where Michael is supposed to get the ball.

The main read on this play is Michael, who Seattle hoped would have single coverage on a slant into the end zone, however, Alexander is sitting in the zone where Michael is supposed to get the ball. Although Barron followed Michael, showing man coverage, the Rams were playing a Cover 2 where the safeties play zone coverage over the top.  Wilson double clutches and pulls the ball down, he senses the pocket closing in on him and escapes outside the right end. Tukuafu isn’t open anymore so Wilson throws the ball away in his direction to avoid a sack and an intentional grounding penalty.

Third and Goal, L.A. 5

Formation: Shotgun – Trips Left

Personnel: One running back, one tight end, three receivers

After exhausting eight other attempts to put the ball in the end zone, Seattle had one play left. The previous week Miami had taken the Seahawks down to the wire in a game where a last second audible from Wilson to Baldwin won them the game with just over thirty seconds left on the clock. Seattle came back to that play call here, with Kearse and Baldwin switching roles. Kearse is supposed to run a corner fade while Baldwin runs a go route and Lockett runs an in route to free up Kearse, this route combination is set up so that Kearse is the main read while Lockett is the secondary read.

The Rams are playing goal line, man defense, knowing that Seattle won’t run the ball from the five, L.A. has their nickel package on the field. The play is executed well on Seattle’s part, the offensive line holds up long enough for Wilson to get the throw off and Lockett’s route helps to free up Kearse. Wilsons throw, however, is a little short, it should be out in front of Kearse allowing him to catch it over his shoulder instead of inside of Kearses shoulder. The poor placement allows Rams corner Trumaine Johnson to make a play on the ball, forcing it incomplete, if Johnson had timed his jump better he could have come down with a pick. Turning over the ball on this drive would have given up the only points Seattle scored all day.

J’Marcus Webb is Bad

While going through this film it became apparent that J’Marcus Webb had some serious technique issues while playing at guard in relief of injured rookie Germain Ifedi. Webb’s history as an offensive tackle made it clear that he either didn’t know how to line up as a guard or had his form from playing tackle so ingrained he couldn’t change.

When a guard lines up the placement of his feet should be shoulder width apart, with the outside toe, level with the heel of the inside foot, his hips need to be the lowest on the line and squared with the line of scrimmage. This is the standard form for any offensive guard through any level of football. These techniques allow players to have a strong platform for pass protection and run blocking and put them in the best position to succeed as an offensive lineman.

On the left side of the line, Glowinski demonstrates all of these standard techniques, while Webb on the right has his outside foot kicked back like a tackle ready to take a drop step preparing for an edge rush, this opens his hips up and allows players to blow by him. His head and hips are higher than either that of Britt or Gilliam, the mantra is “the lowest man wins in football”, by playing so high and bent over Webb is setting himself up for failure on every single play.

In the picture below the red lines demonstrate Webb’s body position relative to Gilliam on the right of him, and the proper form of Glowinski on the left side. The Blue lines indicate the placement of the feet, again the right is Webb and Gilliam with the left being Glowinski and Bradley Sowell

A Disturbing Trend 

Even though Seattle had finished the 2015 campaign as the number one offense in the NFL per Football Outsiders DVOA they were struggling to put points on the board early in 2016. The Seahawks were unable to score one touchdown against the Rams and only managed one field goal.  Throughout the 2016 season, Seattle failed to score a touchdown in three games and only managed one touchdown against Green Bay that came when the game was already out of reach.  Going forward Seattle would need to significantly improve on their red zone execution if they wanted to build on the successes of the previous year.

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