We are very happy to have Alen Dumonjic, an x's and o's football junkie who blogs for The Score, back for another season to give us his insight on the intricacies of the game.
INSIDE THE SEAHAWKS' OFFENSE
When it comes to the Seattle Seahawks offense, what you see is what you get. There are few surprises with it, as they stick to their plan week in and week out. It consists of the power running game and play action with West Coast Offense principles in the passing game.
They are led by rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, who is still learning how to play in the NFL. He has a strong arm that enables him to make throws into tight windows as well as down the field to stretch defenses. He also possesses foot speed to move the pocket and avoid the pass rush. He's an accurate and smart quarterback that perhaps has too much confidence in his arm at times, which can result in questionable throws that give the defense opportunities to force turnovers.
Moreover, the passing game is simply designed for Wilson, allowing him to make quick, short reads that stretch the field horizontally in most cases. The concepts used include Snag, All-Curls, Hitch-Dig as well as screen passes; all of which are designed to get the ball quickly out of Wilson's hands and allow the pass catchers to pick up yards after the catch. They are typically ran from 11 (1 back, 1 tight end) and 12 (1 back, 2 tight ends) personnel.
When Wilson is not slinging the ball, he is handing it off to Marshawn Lynch. Lynch and the Seahawks running game is power based, featuring the base NFL run concepts: Power, Toss, Counter and Lead (weak and strong).
The run concepts are ran from several personnel groupings, including 11 (1 back, 1 tight end), 12 (1 back, 2 tight ends), 21 (2 backs, 1 tight end) and 22 (2 backs, 2 tight ends; usually used in short yardage). The running game is a vital aspect of the Seahawks' offense because it sets up their play action passing game that attacks the field vertically with concepts such as 4-verticals.
INSIDE THE SEAHAWKS' DEFENSE
Defensively, the Seahawks are not anything out of the ordinary; they show you what they're going to do and they simply do it.
They base out of the 4-3 Under scheme, which means the strong-side guard is uncovered and the strong-side linebacker is scrimmage across the tight end (on or off the line of scrimmage). As it is with every other team that bases out of the 4-3, they use the Over front to complement the Under.
The defense has a very dynamic front four that allows them to put pressure on quarterbacks without sending additional rushers and is also stout against the run. Two big reasons for their strong run defense are Brandon Mebane and Red Bryant.
Mebane is an interior defensive lineman that has a history of playing the 1 and 3 techniques but is currently at the position that suits him best: nose tackle.
At strong-side defensive end is Red Bryant, a burly defensive lineman that is naturally a defensive tackle but has shifted over to the closed end spot in Seattle's front and done a remarkable job. He doesn't offer much as a pass rusher but is a strong run defender and is spelled in passing situations by rookie rusher Bruce Irvin, who possesses rare speed off the edge and is primarily used on stunts from the 5-technique when the Seahawks go to their nickel packages (3-3-5, 4-2-5 and 2-man fronts) on long down and distance situations.
Furthermore, the linebackers and defensive backs are very long and can run. They pose problems for all pass catchers because of their size, length and physicality. The linebackers can play the run and run with pass catchers and the same can be said for the defensive backs. The cornerbacks play a lot of press-man alignment, which explains why the Seahawks spend so much time playing Cover 1 (Man-Free).
Along with Cover 1, the Seahawks will use the Cover 1-Robber, (soft) Cover 2 and Cover 3 coverage concepts. These concepts are found in every team's playbook and the Seahawks are no exception.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Patriots disciplined rush lanes - New England has to be disciplined in their pass rush lanes against quarterback Russell Wilson, otherwise he will make plays on them with his feet and arm. Wilson is a shorter quarterback and thrives outside of the pocket, which is why New England must play disciplined. Force him to stay in the pocket and throw over the long, out-stretched arms of the defensive linemen.
Stopping Seattle's run - Defensive coaches always talk about making an offense one dimensional by taking away their strength. For Seattle, their strength is the power running game, which sets up the passing game. The Patriots must stop Seattle's running game if they plan on having success defensively. By stopping them, they force Russell Wilson to put the offense on his shoulders, which is likely to result in forced throws and turnovers. New England has the defensive backs to man up on the outsides against Seattle‘s pass catchers, so I expect a lot of 1-deep safety shells.
No-Huddle - Much has been written about the Patriots no-huddle offense this season and for good reason: it's impressive. They are the league's best at it and have to use it in this game for two reasons: get defensive end Red Bryant off the field and defensive end Bruce Irvin on it. The Patriots will likely look to wear out the Seahawks' front four with the no-huddle, which should result in run stuffing defensive end Red Bryant to come off of the field. When Bryant does, the Patriots need to target rookie Bruce Irvin with the running game. Irvin is a one dimensional player at the moment and does not play the run. He is a C-gap, speed rusher in the truest sense and New England needs to take advantage of this.
Seattle's OL vs. New England's DL - Seattle's offensive line is an interesting group as it hasn't been awful nor quite good. It also doesn't have players that play with great strength, so it will be interesting to see how they play against the Patriots long and heavy defensive line. The offensive tackles, Russell Okung (LT) and Breno Giacomini (RT), have some talent but tend to have inconsistent technique, which leads to them having issues with pass rushers. Omiyale also doesn't have great quickness, so speed can give him some problems. On the interior, center Max Unger is a solid blocker but is not the type that can handle one-on-one matchups with nose tackles, which makes for an interesting matchup with Vince Wilfork.
Horizontal routes vs. Seattle's man coverage - As noted earlier, the Seahawks play a lot of man coverage because of their long athletes. But a significant weakness of man coverage, if not adjusted for, is inside-breaking, horizontal routes. Shallow crosses and square-in's force defensive backs in a trail position, meaning they have to run across the field in coverage and are a step behind. I expect New England to use quite a bit of this.