Now that Monday night's refereeing debacle has finally started to settle, the Seahawks and Packers can focus on their Week 4 opponent. The regular referees are back in action, thanks in large part to the debacle on Monday night, so now games will be called with 100 percent accuracy. Okay, maybe not, but at least games will run on time and fans won't have to endure four-hour marathons.
With that, I promise not to mention the referees one more time in a Seahawks article until they screw up again.
Seattle is taking their 2-1 record on the road for the second time this season as they square off against the St. Louis Rams. This will be the 'Hawks second divisional game of the year and they would like to make it a better outing than their first.
In their Week 1 matchup against Arizona, Darnell Dockett and the Cardinals defense made a mockery of Tom Cable's offensive line. Which in turn, became the deciding factor as Seattle never had the opportunity to establish a consistent offensive attack.
However, in recent weeks the running game has gotten cranked up and returned to its 2011 form. So, look for Marshawn Lynch to run wild all-day long on Sunday.
The Rams run defense has had trouble stopping anyone through the first three weeks of the season. They are allowing 4.5 yards per carry and 120.7 yards by game's end. Lynch decimated St. Louis' defense twice last year to the tune of 203 yards and two touchdowns.
Will the solid rushing attack be enough Sunday, or will they need to open up the passing game more? Let's take a look as we draw up an offensive and defensive game plan for their Week 4 matchup.
When the Seahawks Are on Offense
As I've drawn up game plans for Seattle the last three weeks, I've preached run the ball and take some pressure off of the rookie quarterback. Now, I think it's time to open up the passing game as defenses are zeroing in on No. 24 and the ground attack.
Against Green Bay the offense did a really nice job of running the ball effectively, despite the Packers having the third-best defense in the NFL. Unfortunately, the passing game wasn't as effective. For the third game in a row they were held to under a 150-yards passing. Coincidentally enough, this is the second-year in a row where this has happened.
And it's not like the Seahawks haven't had any successful passing plays to speak of through the first three weeks. Wilson threw a beautiful touchdown pass to Anthony McCoy in Week 2 and another incredible strike to Golden Tate in the first half of Monday night's game. Honestly, the biggest problem is consistency and rhythm.
Every offense has a rhythm that it feeds off of, Seattle just hasn't found theirs yet. In three games they have only managed to string together seven, eight-play-plus drives. Not to mention the fact Darrell Bevell's offense has one of the worst third-down percentages in the league at 29 percent.
Here is an example of a play that demonstrates two things Seattle's offense can do more of, so they are successful in the passing game.
The first thing they need to do is utilize the play-action pass more on first down. Specifically against Green Bay it seemed like Bevell would call two straight runs and then a pass on third down. Running the ball early is good, so your team can establish the run, however an offensive coordinator never wants their play-calling to become too predictable.
Right now a lot of the Seahawks play-action passes are coming on third down. This baffles me because I think to myself, why in the world would a play-action pass work if I've just ineffectively ran the ball two times in a row?
So, in turn, the play-calling needs more variety.
Another thing I picked up from the all-22 film on the Tate touchdown score was the great route combinations. On Tate's double move, he worked his way to the outside and totally faked cornerback Tramon Williams out as he worked his way back to the inside of the field.
In the first screenshot you can see McCoy's go-route up the seam sucked Charles Woodson up in coverage. Sucking Woodson up was crucial because it caused him to be late in his help over the top of Tate. McCoy's perfectly executed route set up the 41-yard pass play.
If Coach Carroll's offensive game plan consists of more precise play-calling in the run game and play-action passing, the Seahawks should have no problem controlling the clock and winning on the road.
When the Seahawks Are on Defense
Defensively, Gus Bradley's unit just needs to continue doing what they've done for the last three weeks. Seattle's defense does such a good job creating pressure with their front four that it allows the secondary to play man-to-man on the back end.
Currently the Seahawks have the fourth-best defense in the NFL based on total yardage. And when you break it down even farther, you find out they have surrendered the least amount of points and forced the most fumbles.
Based on the grading system of Pro Football Focus, the 'Hawks have the No. 1 defense by a long shot. The Philadelphia Eagles are in second place, yet they are still a good 17 points behind. It goes to show just how good their defense really is, especially the defensive line.
With St. Louis' offensive line in shambles, the Seahawks should have a party in the backfield on Sunday. Sam Bradford was sacked six times last week against the Bears and hit three more times, so you know Bradley's pass rush will be in the back of his mind after they ate up Aaron Rodgers on Monday Night.
Here is a play where the defensive line only rushed four and dropped seven into coverage. If you look at the screenshot above, you can see just how well the four-man rush worked against the Packers. By the time the defensive line gets to Rodgers, every one of the receivers have come out of their routes and they are covered. Which leaves Rodgers with no options and he has to take a coverage sack.
It was the story of the game for their defense. No. 12 looked very pedestrian as receivers were rarely open and most of the sacks happened because of the incredible coverage from Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman on the outside.
The same thing happened in Chicago with Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman. At times Bradford held onto the ball too long and in large part because the wide receivers couldn't get separation. Even though Chicago was in their typical cover 2 scheme, they still played press coverage off the line.
This has seemed to be a re-occurring theme for St. Louis the past few years. Annually, they try and find that player who is going to step up as their No. 1 wideout, but it just never seems to happen. If someone doesn't step up Sunday, it's going to be another repeat of Week 3 for the Rams offense.
Seattle's defense has the blueprint to stop Bradford's passing attack, and there's no doubt that they will get the job done come Sunday.