The Seahawks turned the Chiefs upside down.
Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson came into Arrowhead and made Kansas City's defense look bad. There's a reason he won the starting job in Seattle. It's because he can make a lot of plays Matt Flynn cannot.
Without a full game plan for Wilson, the Chiefs defense was not equipped to stop him. The defense would have had difficulty with WIlson even with an appropriate game plan because of the predominately man-to-man coverage scheme the Chiefs deploy.
Wilson is able to extend plays with his legs, and against man coverage his receivers eventually got open. Wilson was not afraid to lead his receiver with a pass in one-on-one coverage, and Kansas City's defensive backs were late to react. The result was several receptions and a highly-productive passing game.
Not only did Wilson's legs help him in the passing game, but he also used his legs to pick up large chunks of yards on the ground. Man coverage usually means the cornerbacks will turn their backs on the quarterback, and once Wilson was able to break through the linebackers, there was a lot of running room.
Wilson is already a more dangerous quarterback than Matt Cassel. Cassel takes a lot of heat from fans, but he was mildly productive despite a big deficit and poor protection against the Seahawks. If the Chiefs can run the ball and the defense can keep the game close, Cassel doesn't have to take unnecessary risks and will be able to use play action to aid in his own pass protection.
Let's take a look at a few plays from the game to see where the Chiefs went wrong and where they went right in their 44-14 loss.
Before the game got away from the Chiefs, they were having issues with pass protection against the underrated Seattle defense. This play was on the first Chiefs drive of the game.
Offensive personnel: three WR, one RB, one TE.
The Seahawks only rush four (white numerals), and the Chiefs keep in a tight end to block—meaning they have six blockers (yellow numerals). There is no reason Cassel shouldn't have plenty of time to find an open receiver, and he's going to need that time because there are three more defenders in coverage than he has receivers. Cassel's first read is to Steve Breaston wide right.
Right guard Jon Asomoah can't stay engaged with defensive end Greg Scruggs who lined up inside at defensive tackle on this third down. Bruce Irvin splits Eric Winston and Tony Moeaki at the top of the screen.
The result is a sack, and Cassel only had time to go through one read. Had Cassel been afforded another second or two, he would have had a chance to read the entire field and potentially been able to find a receiver for a first down.
This is a good example of poor pass protection, but also how it impacts Cassel when the running game doesn't produce manageable third downs. Later in the game, when the game wasn't as close, Cassel forced a pass to his first read, and it was intercepted and returned 75 yards for a touchdown by Earl Thomas.
The Chiefs don't show blitz, but Russell Wilson knows it's man coverage because Jalil Brown follows receiver Charly Martin in motion. Eric Berry is lined up in the box. It's 3rd-and-8.
Defensive Personnel: Nickel.
Eric Berry blitzes, but the two key players on this play are Justin Houston and Derrick Johnson.
The blitz is picked up by the running back, which was Johnson's coverage responsibility. Houston gets past the right tackle and puts immediate pressure on Wilson. Johnson notices there is no running back to cover in the flat.
Notice the two holds by Seattle. It happens more than you think. Wilson has to make a decision whether to step up to his left or his right. His height may have played a roll in his ability to see Johnson cheating to one side. If he breaks right, he has a lot of room and a receiver coming across the formation with a step on the defender.
Wilson goes to his left and Johnson explodes in to make the tackle. The play was possible because Johnson didn't have to cover the running back due to a blitz by Berry and because of great pressure from Houston that flushed Wilson to his left instead of his right.
Without pressure from Houston, Wilson would have found a player running open down the left sideline.
Man Coverage vs. Mobile Quarterback
This play is similar to the last play in a few aspects. It's 3rd-and-7 and the Chiefs send five rushers, but instead of Berry they send a linebacker.
Defensive personnel: Dime (2-3-6)
Pressure is going to come from the edge, and Eric Berry's primary responsibility is the running back. On the last play, the running back stayed in to block, and that enabled Johnson a free path to Wilson.
Chiefs get the pressure they want and force Wilson to step up in the pocket. With no pressure up the middle, the running back leaks out into the right flat.
With Wilson still a few yards behind the line of scrimmage, Berry takes a step towards the running back and completely takes himself out of the play when Wilson pulls the ball down and runs to daylight.
Its a 50-50 decision for Berry, and he simply made the wrong one. Given Russell's running abilities, you would expect a more detailed game plan to have Berry force the issue with Wilson, but we don't know how detailed the Chiefs game plan was for this game.
Until the third quarter, Kansas City's run defense had been pretty good against the run, but started to show a few cracks as Seattle started to run with more regularity with a big lead.
Defensive personnel: Base 3-4
Neither Dontari Poe or Amon Gordon were able to tie up two blockers or two gaps, and the offensive lineman easily moved the second level to block Johnson. The left tackle just tried to take Andy Studebaker out wide to open up a big hole for Robert Turbin.
One of Johnson, Studebaker or Gordon need to shed the block to close the running lane.
Turbin is in traffic, but he's between his blockers, and the Chiefs can't get off their blocks to take him down.
Once Turbin accelerated through the hole, Jovan Belcher doesn't have an angle to take him down, and Stanford Routt couldn't disengage from his block on the outside.
Any time a speedy back like Turbin can get into the secondary, there is a good chance for a big play. This is the type of play that the Chiefs will need to clean up before they face the elite running backs of the AFC this season.
From the 9-yard-line, Cassel was able to make a great play and throw for a touchdown despite mediocre pass protection and a receiver that would not have been open if not for his smart thinking.
Offensive personnel: three WR, one TE, one RB
Cassel feels the pressure and has a clear lane to step up into a throw, but the pressure came a little too early and his receivers aren't open. Cassel sees the linebacker in the middle of the field and knows his receiver will be dragging across. Cassel steps up and moves to his right to draw the linebacker and safety to him.
By drawing the linebacker and the safety up, Dexter McCluster is able to find a soft spot behind the coverage, and Cassel simply needs to dump the ball behind the charging linebacker.
Easy touchdown. That's not how the play was drawn, but Cassel knew the defense was playing zone, and by moving to his right, he got the attention of the two defenders that had a chance to contest the pass to McCluster in the end zone.
Cassel is a capable quarterback that can avoid mistakes as long as he isn't asked to force the ball into tight coverage to bring the Chiefs back from a deficit.
The Chiefs certainly have some things to clean up, but with a healthy Anthony Toribio, a full game plan and against more pocket passers, the Chiefs should be fine.