The Seattle Seahawks had an unlikely leading receiver in their 34-7 blowout win over the New Orleans Saints on Monday. After spending most of the season helping Seattle's offensive tackles with pass-blocking duties, tight end Zach Miller was finally unleashed as a receiver.
Miller remains a mostly-untapped resource in Seattle's passing game. The team's pass-blocking struggles have forced Miller to block on almost every passing down this season. With the offensive line now healthy, and the pass-blocking problems a thing of the past, Miller is finally free to make an impact catching the football.
With a new weapon at their disposal, the Seahawks designed some creative ways to get the ball in Miller's hands on Monday.
It's Miller Time!
Ahead 10-0 in the first quarter, Seahawks' offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell dialed up a play to get Miller open behind the defense.
The formation and the pre-snap motion by TE Luke Willson all indicated that this was going to be a run play to the left. At the snap, all the linemen blocked to the left, and the linebackers and safeties followed in that direction.
Rather than a typical fake to the left and a roll-out to the right, the play action goes to the right side where there are no other blockers. Quarterback Russell Wilson then rolls to the right, behind the back.
Miller's initial motion isn't downfield. Before taking off behind the defense, Miller steps up into one of the linebackers to block, further selling the run fake.
When Wilson finally gets outside, Miller has slid off the block and now sits behind the defense.
From the end-zone angle it is easy to see the strong run action to the left, and how much the defenders bit on that initial action.
The end-zone angle also shows why this play went for 60 yards. Miller was already behind the defense before Wilson throws the ball, and there are no defenders moving to cover him.
This play was full of misdirection. Eight of the Seahawks on the field sell the run to the left, and the defenders also appear to be worried that this is a designed run by Wilson once he gets to the outside.
With all that confusion, the defense completely forgets about Miller. The only thing missing on this play was a touchdown. Miller ended up being caught from behind and tackled at the 4-yard line.
Just two Marshawn Lynch running plays later, Bevell again dialed up a scheme to get the ball into Miller's hands. With the ball now at the 2-yard line, the Seahawks lined up in a formation that is usually reserved for four wide receivers.
The Seahawks broke convention here, and placed Miller out near the sideline, while lining up wide receiver Jermaine Kearse in tight near the right tackle.
After the snap, Kearse runs a slant to the inside. Wide receiver Doug Baldwin, who lined up in the right slot, heads outside toward the corner.
The routes by Kearse and Baldwin opened up a huge hole for Miller to slide into for an easy touchdown.
Here is how the play looked at game speed from the broadcast angle:
Putting It All Together
Zach Miller finished the game with five receptions, 86 yards and a touchdown. The yards and receptions were his highest totals in a regular season game in his three years with the Seahawks.
Miller has the potential to be an important weapon in Seattle's passing game, and it was nice to see him finally be given an opportunity to make an impact catching the ball, rather than just as a pass-blocker.
If the Seahawks can continue to get this type of performance out of Miller in the passing game, then this offense will only get harder to stop.