Going into this now very important Sunday Night Football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks, I find myself a little baffled by the headlines leading into the game.
With Seattle fans and media, the story is about the Seahawks rushing attack against the Chiefs poor run defense. Nationally, the story is about the Seahawks rushing attack against the Chiefs poor run defense. Even with Kansas City fans and media, the story is about the Seahawks rushing attack against the Chiefs poor run defense.
It’s getting repetitive and isn’t telling the whole story about the matchup at all.
As much as I want to go on and on about how the Baltimore Ravens rushing attack has been better since Lamar Jackson took over, how it was a tougher matchup for KC based on rushing scheme and how the Chiefs had the most success against them since Jackson took over, I’ll let Craig handle that.
Instead, let’s focus on why no one is talking about the Chiefs passing attack against the Seahawks passing defense like it’s not the same level of a mismatch.
Equally big/bigger matchup:— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) December 22, 2018
Chiefs pass offense
Seahawks pass defense
TDs: 14th https://t.co/TsVATm4lQJ
Somehow, during all this hype over the Chiefs being beatable, nearly everyone has overlooked that the Seahawks defense isn’t that good against the pass. They aren’t the Ravens, or really close, and they aren’t even the Los Angeles Chargers.
It’s not a strength vs. strength matchup, but it’s been brushed under the rug while everyone harps about rushing, in 2018. Yes, the home splits of Seattle’s defense makes it better than when on the road, but that also doesn’t slow down the Chiefs.
The Chiefs’ passing attack outclasses the Seahawks passing defense just as much, if not more than the Seahawks rushing attack does the Chiefs run defense, especially when considering the efficiency and importance of passing compared to rushing,
This is such an underrated key to this game, and the Chiefs gameplan to maximize that advantage will be vital to its outcome.
With the injury to KJ Wright earlier in the year, the Seahawks have been hamstrung at the linebacker position, which has forced them into playing nickel the vast majority of their snaps. The Seahawks unique twist is that Barkevious Mingo is one of their linebacker and in the same mold as Bruce Irvin or Cliff Avril through the years, he’s often rushing on passing downs.
Seattle’s defensive line rotation relies heavily on Frank Clark and Jarran Reed for a pass rush. They dial up blitzes on important downs and distances.
The Seahawks run more Cover-3 coverage than any other team in the NFL, bordering on running it half of the time. When playing man coverage, they often go with Cover-1 Man which plays out very similar vertically, but the underneath coverage changes slightly. They rarely use two deep safeties unless playing a more conservative defense with the lead late in the game with the lead.
The Seahawks run a 4-3 over or under, depending on alignment and personnel package, which means their defensive line either shifts to the strong or weak side of the offensive formation. This helps generate natural gaps in the offense that the defensive linemen can shoot through or that Bobby Wagner can attack as the blockers try to recover.
Run the alley
Due to the Seahawks use of the shifted defensive line and their aggressive one-gap system, there are often gaps that open up to the backside of the run action. The concept of the over/under front is to eliminate gaps and force the run into the help (players or sideline), but the Seahawks are vulnerable to patient running backs with good vision that can exploit the interior rushing lanes.
Seattle will go with light box against 11 personnel different times throughout the game relying on their good tackling secondary to limit big plays. This does open them up for interior runs if the OL climbs quickly. Utilization of traps and counters could help create lanes too. pic.twitter.com/o1wSaopeiC— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) December 21, 2018
The Seahawks have the under shift on this play and off the snap, they are slanting to the weak side of the offense. The strong side EDGE player and Apex defender are holding contain to force any strong-side running back inside where Wagner is playing to take the B-gap away. The Panthers do a great job of trapping the defensive tackle and working up to the second level and the running back does a good job staying patient and waiting for the natural gap to open up behind the slanting defensive lineman.
Another thing that the Chiefs can exploit in the Seahawks run defense it the lighter boxes. Between the two offensive tacklers, there are only five defenders, one of which is a safety playing deep. The jet motion and the tight end are able to take care of the force players aligned outside of the tackle box which leaves five blockers for five players, two of which are smaller players. The Chiefs should spread the Seahawks out in 11 personnel and look to run Inside Zone, Trap and Counter to take advantage of these light boxes and slanting defensive line.
Whether in zone coverage or man coverage, the Seahawks corners are often isolated and left without any help. There is rarely underneath or over-the-top zone help to the corners regardless of their coverage assignment. Stacking onto the lack of help, the Seahawks are often either pressing or press-bailing from the line of scrimmage.
Whether in man or zone, the Seattle CBs are isolated from help most of the time. Offenses can influence that with wider splits outside and tighter splits for the slot WRs/TEs. In both C3 or C1-man, the CBs have to protect deep making hard breaking routes difficult to sit on. pic.twitter.com/XHPltmO35A— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) December 22, 2018
Due the pure vertical nature of this route concept, this is the perfect play to illustrate the isolated play of the cornerbacks for Seattle. This play is Cover-1 man, which plays out just like Cover-3 does for them on the outside. The cornerbacks are on an island on either side of the formation. Both cornerbacks show press at the line of scrimmage but neither go for the jam and instead just work to mirror. Due to having to protect over the top without a lack of help, the hard break on the come back routes creates easy separation.
The Chiefs should take advantage of these tendencies with all types of WRs and routes. Kelvin Benjamin and Chris Conley can use their big bodies and work back-breaking routes while establishing positioning on the corners that have to fight through them while Tyreek Hill and Demarcus Robinson can press deep then make hard breaks into the middle of the field.
Run Cover-3 beaters
Last week, against the Los Angeles Chargers, the Chiefs ran very few Cover-3 beating route concepts. The Chiefs have faced many Cover-3-heavy teams this year, and fared very well, but they have relied more and more on execution of their own concepts rather than specific concepts designed to beat Cover-3. This worked early in the year when the Chiefs had the playmakers at the skill positions to out execute defenders who may have been in an advantageous position. Without Sammy Watkins and Kareem Hunt, the Chiefs need to do a better job of helping their skill positions get open vs Cover 3.
Chiefs backed off the Cover-3 beaters against the Chargers for their second meeting, not exactly sure why, but hopefully they come back vs Seattle. Chiefs seemed content with running their plays banking on execution but it wasn't consistent w/ the missing guys. pic.twitter.com/HMhNVJ219i— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) December 21, 2018
The Cover-3 beating route concepts have been talked about all year, but it has to be hammered again. The Seahawks are relatively predictable in their coverage so pushing the Scissor concept through the mesh of both deep zones opened up a receiver as the cornerback carried the post route to the next zone.
C3 doesn't have to be attacked vertically only. Minn goes with a flood concept running 2 out breaking routes through the Apex's hook zone into the CB's third. The CB is occupied vertically with the hook defender having to defender to players solo. pic.twitter.com/X5q5MtwgCp— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) December 21, 2018
Cover-3 can be attacked underneath as well as over the top but there has to be concentrated effort exploit it. The timing of when the routes cross the zones is equally as important as how many players are there. The Levels type route concept with the delayed second out opens up the tight end for an easy pitch and catch.
It’s imperative that the Chiefs scheme up ways for their players to get open to have consistent success.
The bottom line
Sunday Night is a huge game for the Chiefs but the narrative about how it’s a nightmare matchup for the Chiefs is simply leaving out how big of an advantage the Chiefs have on offense as well.
As long as the Chiefs use their personnel packages to their advantage and exploit the light boxes and slanting fronts of the Seahawks, they should find situational success running the football.
When passing, the Chiefs have the advantage statistically and based upon skill, but they need to ensure they are putting players in the best position possible.
Don’t rely purely on individual talent to get open but use Cover 3 beaters as well as flooding zones both short and deep to create easy completions.