Breaking Down Seattle Seahawks' Ferocious Pass Rush vs. Packers
Going into Monday night's game, few in the national media gave the Seattle Seahawks a real shot at taking down the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football. Yet anyone who has followed the NFC West over the past couple of seasons knows their secondary is one of the best in the NFL and their defensive line is quite possibly the most unknown unit in all of football.
Unknown because they don't possess a big-name player like Julius Peppers or Jared Allen. However, defensive end Chris Clemons is equally as good or better than both players, and it's time people start to get familiar with his high-level play.
The funny thing is that his impressive play has been going on for years. It started in 2010 when Pete Carroll brought him in to play right defensive end. Prior to joining Carroll in Seattle, he had bounced around from team to team. He had made stops in Washington, Cleveland, Oakland and Philadelphia.
From the beginning of the 2010 season until now he has 30 sacks, 22 quarterback hits and 119 quarterback hurries. Compare those 30 sacks to the 20 he had in the six years prior to joining the Seahawks. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley knows talent when he sees it considering he worked closely with Monte Kiffin for a number of years in Tampa Bay.
After Monday night's beatdown in Seattle, the Hawks have a league-high 68 total quarterback pressures (sacks, hits and hurries). Even though Clemons is the heart and soul of this defensive line, it truly was a team effort in stopping Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' fast-paced offense.
All hands were on deck for the domination, so let's break down the Seahawks' pressure packages and the methods they used to smother Rodgers.
Bandit Package, 3-2-6
This was the first third down of the game for Green Bay. They were in 11 personnel with three wide receivers, one tight end and one running back. Seattle was in their bandit package, which is a special look they will bring on either third down or in a long-yardage situation.
Their bandit package is very effective and it gives defensive coordinator Bradley the opportunity to throw some different looks at the opposing quarterback. In this instance, the Seahawks have two defensive ends out very wide and defensive tackle Jason Jones is standing up over center Jeff Saturday.
I also made a point to circle that in their Bandit package they deploy a third safety. Jeron Johnson plays the position of rover on this play; he mans the middle of the field. That's not always the scenario, because Bradley sometimes likes to play him close to the line as an extra blitzer.
As the play starts to break down you can see that Green Bay has sent five players out on routes, and not one of them is open as No. 12 is getting sacked by Irvin. Seattle only rushed three players, yet Irvin's initial push on right tackle Bryan Bulaga was so great he single-handedly collapsed the pocket.
If the opposition allows the Seahawks to have eight men in coverage, I guarantee it will be a long day for whoever is playing quarterback.
Base 4-3, Zone Blitz
On this play, Green Bay was lined up in I formation 20 personnel, a package that you don't often see deployed from many teams. It consists of three wide receivers and two running backs. The Hawks are in a 4-3 look that deploys a total of five rushers.
Free safety Earl Thomas is going to creep his way into the box and blitz the B-gap. Right outside linebacker K.J. Wright will also be blitzing, but his main target appears to be the A-gap. An overload blitz to one side is supposed to confuse offensive linemen by messing up their blocking assignment.
To help balance out the overload, defensive end Clemons drops off into a short zone. His responsibility will be to man the short, left area of the field as Leroy Hill was out in coverage on the slot right wide receiver.
Again at the time of Brandon Mebane's sack, there is not one wide receiver who has gotten open. Even the slot right wide receiver failed to get open on Hill. The overload blitz pushed back left guard T.J. Lang, which forced Rodgers to trip on Lang's leg. He never attempted to get back up, so Mebane just jumped on him for the loss. It turned 2nd-and-short into 3rd-and-long; a win for the defense.
Blitzing Rodgers isn't always recommended; however, the Seahawks weren't scared as they blitzed him 14 times.
4-2-5, Four-Man Rush
Green Bay's offense is in a shotgun, 11 personnel, just like they were in play No. 1. The only difference is that the tight end is lined up on the left side of the line instead of the right. The Seahawks are rushing four out of their attacking 4-2-5 defense. It's 2nd-and-20, so they are just going to just try to get after the quarterback with the defensive line and drop seven into coverage.
Marcus Trufant is manning the slot left cornerback position, as the outside cornerbacks are playing man press coverage. Both Thomas and Kam Chancellor are playing a deep two-man blanket, which will prevent anything from getting behind them.
For the second time in the first quarter, Irvin again makes Bulaga his whipping boy. Coming into Monday night's game, the rookie had only posted a half of a sack, so there was no better time to have a coming-out party.
On this play, Rodgers' internal clock needs to be quicker. He just needs to throw the ball away, because for the third time in as many plays there wasn't a single wideout who was open. Maybe something along the sideline or in the middle of the field would have developed if he would have had time to step up, but No. 51 made sure that never became a reality.
This sack was their third of the first quarter.
4-3 Over, Middle Linebacker Blitz
The Packers are in another personnel grouping—22 personnel. They only have one wide receiver split out and the play calls for play-action. Bradley's defense is in a 4-3 overlook and they are rushing five. Four defensive linemen will try to get upfield, and the middle linebacker will blitz the A-gap.
Green Bay only sent three players out on routes, meaning Seattle has six in coverage. The seven blockers don't prove to be enough, as Chris Clemons beats Marshall Newhouse like a drum with an incredible effort sack.
Rodgers' movement in the pocket on the play-action pass was incredible, except he had nowhere to throw it yet again. If he would have had the chance to set his feet, he could have maybe hit the pass-catcher along the sideline. However, that's quite a risky throw considering it would have been tight and an interception would have resulted in a pick-six.
The nine-man box seemed to confuse No. 12. He might of thought their defense was bringing the house, yet most of them dropped off, so no one got behind the defense. At this point it didn't matter how many blockers the Packers held in, the Hawks' pass rush was suffocating.
4-3, Delayed Outside Linebacker Blitz
Here, Green Bay tries another play-action pass, but this time it is out of a tight spread that features four wide receivers and just one running back. The Seahawks deploy their 4-3 with linebackers who are spread out. The spread look allows the two outside backers to cover the inside slot receivers.
Left outside linebacker Hill is going to act as if he will be in coverage, but as he reads the play he recognizes that it's a play-action pass. Hill then comes off the edge on a delayed blitz, which forces Rodgers to step up in the pocket. Chancellor is playing in the box to protect against the run. With him in the box, it only leaves one safety deep. Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner are playing off coverage at cornerback.
As the blitz is coming off the corner, Rodgers' eyes are downfield, so you know he sees the deep developing route. And as he steps up to unload the throw deep, Mebane sheds his block and works his way to No. 12 to meet him with a sack for a significant loss. Of the five plays I broke down, this proved to be the only one where a wide receiver had slipped out the backdoor deep.
The biggest problem with of all the plays on these sacks was the fact that all the routes took forever to develop. McCarthy finally adjusted his play calls at halftime, and the Packers came out with a quick, uptempo passing attack.
The only problem was the damage was already done. Green Bay had squandered a whole half of trying to beat Seattle's man coverage with the deep passing game. Quick-strike passing attacks proves to be the only thing that throws the Seahawks defense off.
Three other sacks were tallied by game's end, yet they didn't come out of a different defensive personnel grouping, so I omitted them for redundancy's sake.
Regardless, Seattle's pressure on Rodgers was one of the most impressive displays I've ever seen. For me it tops the Giants' onslaught of Jay Cutler in 2010. Look for their pass rush to have another big week as they take on a struggling St. Louis Rams offensive line.
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