I knew better.
Last week, I became the kind of football "analyst" that I generally loathe. You know what I mean: the kind of analyst who denies all pertinent hard data staring him in his face, and instead goes with his "gut" feeling when he makes a prediction on the outcome of a game. To be sure, a prediction is just that, and plenty of people were wrong, but this was different for me.
As I was studying the Seattle Seahawks' defense going back the last nine weeks or so, it was readily apparent to me that the Denver Broncos were going to have a very hard time scoring on them. In fact, I couldn't see a way that the Broncos' offensive line would be able to handle Seattle's defensive line in that game.
On the flip side, I was relatively sure that the Seahawks would be able to run the ball with running back Marshawn Lynch and/or quarterback Russell Wilson against the Broncos' defense. That, in turn, would lead to opportunities for big plays. I also did not believe that the Broncos could contain Wilson in the pocket, which would also lead to opportunities for big plays.
The truth is this: before the game, I could come up with more ways for the Seahawks to score on the Broncos than I could come up with ways for the Broncos to score against the Seahawks. That should have led me to pick the Seahawks to win the Super Bowl in a tight game.
Instead, I picked the Broncos to win in blowout fashion.
I got caught up in the hype just like some of my peers. Normally when I am doing my analysis, I will tell the reader exactly how I think a team will score on offense. Last week, after describing how I thought the Broncos' offensive line was in for a looooong day against the Seahawks' defensive line, I justified still picking the Broncos by basically saying Peyton Manning would miracle their ass to having more points than Seattle by the end of the game. It just "had" to happen because, Peyton. And legacy. And will to win.
Honestly, I was also hating a little on Russell Wilson, because in my opinion, he wasn't putting enough pressure on opposing defenses by running the ball when the pocket broke down or everybody was covered. For whatever reason, watching Wilson not take advantage of those situations the last few weeks really pissed me off. I just knew eventually not running when he should would catch up to him and his team.
That combination of getting caught up in the hype and hating on Wilson led me to write this paragraph near the end of my column last week:
While I do believe the Seahawks can slow Manning and the Broncos down with their pressure up front and their tight coverage underneath, I don't think they will be able to shut the Broncos down. Because of the style of offense the Seahawks run, they generally need time to move the ball down the field and score. The Broncos, however, can score in the blink of an eye. Even when you have throttled them all game, all it takes is one play where Manning gets enough time to see down the field. For that reason, I have to go with the Broncos.
That, ladies and gentlemen, was and is a steaming pile of horseshit.
There isn't an ounce of substantive analysis in that whole paragraph, which is ironic because the preceding paragraphs were chock full of analysis. Instead, I turned to some mumbo jumbo about the Broncos being able to score fast. What in hell does that have to do with anything?
You know why I resorted to magical thinking? Because I didn't actually have a substantive argument to make in favor of the Broncos scoring a lot of points against that Seahawks' defense, quickly or otherwise. I was talking out of my arse because I just wanted it to be true.
For weeks, I said that the NFC appeared to be a lot better than the AFC this year, and that it wouldn't matter who made it to the Super Bowl because the NFC would win. All of a sudden the Super Bowl rolls around, and I get sucked into the narratives and counter-narratives and somehow started singing a whole new tune.
I would have never suspected that the Seahawks would blow the Broncos out the way they actually did; I'm not sure anybody really believed that would happen. After rewatching film last week, however, I was pretty sure they would win based on my analysis, and I should have said so.
You guys deserved better, and from now on I will endeavor to make sure you actually get better every time you read my stuff.
Now that we got that out of the way, on to the breakdown!
One of the biggest reasons I don't like to hear people use "wins" as a statistic for quarterbacks is because there is no way to account for when other people on his team screw up. As much as Manning admittedly didn't play great on Sunday, his offensive line was overwhelmed the majority of the game. There's not a lot that any true "pocket passer" can do when the pass rush is getting to him before his receivers even come out of their breaks.
This wasn't anything new, by the way. The Seahawks' defensive line has been dominant all playoffs and most of the regular season, particularly on passing downs. Defensive ends Cliff Avril and Chris Clemons took it to another level, however, in the Super Bowl. Their pressure, along with some small wrinkles in the secondary and outstanding play from safety Kam Chancellor, are the major reasons the Broncos went home losers. The whole Seahawks defense balled out, as is evidenced by Malcolm Smith -- the guy who caught the interception to seal the NFC Championship Game win over the San Francisco 49ers -- being named the MVP of the game. That honor could have easily gone to Chancellor or Avril and nobody would have complained.
That tells you that their whole defense played at a very high level, which was bad news for Peyton and Co.
Let's be clear, this was less a chess match and more just an old-fashioned ass-kicking by the Seahawks' defense. The Seahawks, for the most part, played basic fundamental defense, and tried to molly-whop whoever ended up with the ball.
On offense, the Seahawks started kinda slow, all things considered. They had to settle for field goals on their first two drives, despite the defense helping to provide them with pretty good field position on the first drive.
They weren't spectacular, but they did just enough and didn't turn the ball over, so eventually after the Broncos couldn't get anything going offensively, the dam burst and Seattle rained points down on them.
I actually give props to Denver's defense. It tried like hell to keep the game close by limiting the Seahawks to those field goals early on. Truth be told, the defense did an admirable job of holding Lynch in check most of the game as well. It just didn't have any help at all from the offense.
Ok, enough of the talking. Let's get to these visual breakdowns!
That the Seahawks were going to feature their big free agent acquisition wide receiver Percy Harvin was evident early on, as they got the ball in his hands with this speed sweep on their second offensive play.
Harvin is in the red circle, and two key defenders have blue circles around them. Had the Broncos been in man, then Champ Bailey, who is in the blue circle at the top, would have probably continued on with him. That he didn't tells us that this is probably some kind of zone coverage.
Turns out that Bailey stayed to the defensive left so he could blitz. Generally when a defense zone blitzes from one side, the end on the other side has a zone drop, most likely in the "flat" zone of the field (wide and about 10 yards deep). That's going to put Robert Ayers in a mighty bad spot.
As you can see, Ayers (blue circle at the bottom) is into his drop as Harvin comes around. Instead of getting wide, Ayers hesitates as he sees zone action. The problem for him is that the Seahawks love to run zone and have Lynch cut it back inside the tight end's block. That means Ayers has to be wary of getting wide fast and opening up that C gap inside of the tight end across from him.
Which, of course, gives the tight end ample opportunity to get a good block on him for Harvin so that he can turn the corner.
With Ayers blocked and the corner to that side dropping with the wide receiver, the only person with a shot to limit Harvin to a small gain is the safety. Unfortunately for the Broncos, he was not in position to tackle a guy as fast as Harvin. Thirty yards later, and now the Broncos have been put on notice that Harvin is going to be a factor in the game. This was a simple, smart strategy because when you don't know if a guy will even make it to the second half given his recent injury woes, there is no reason to be saving those bullets.*
*metaphorical bullets of course, not real bullets.
As I said earlier, the Seahawks didn't exactly come out firing on all cylinders on offense, either. This is that pass to the flat that Wilson missed with a bad throw on first-and-15 in the first quarter. Of course, the better option to throw to on this play was the wide receiver dragging across the middle of the field (yellow circle), anyway.
From the end zone shot, you can see that the wide receiver is definitely open, so if Wilson goes to the flat route instead he has to make that throw.
I LOVED that the Seahawks also ran some read option early as well. I thought they had one hell of a script for their first few drives. They were attacking the perimeter and putting a lot of stress on the defensive ends. That can make a defensive lineman play more cautious, which helps on play-action pass.
On the pic above, you see that Wilson (blue circle) is reading off Ayers whether to hand the ball off to Lynch or pull it and try to get around the corner.
With Ayers still so wide, that kind of looked like a read where Wilson should hand the ball off to Lynch. He instead pulled it and just beat Ayers around the corner one-on-one.
Once he took off, Ayers had no shot to make the play. I promise you as a former defensive end that Ayers was looking for that play the rest of the game, looking to make up for losing contain this time. Just by running this one time, Wilson made the rest of the game easier on himself and his team.
This play shows an opportunity for a touchdown that the Seahawks missed out on. The wide receiver with the yellow circle is about to come wide open on a slant route, probably for a touchdown. The problem is that a defensive tackle (red circle) has pushed the pocket back into Wilson's face. Wilson, feeling the pressure, reverses out of the pocket.
By the time Wilson resets to throw, the receiver is no longer open. Again, the Broncos' defense did not just roll over. I applaud them for that.
Now about that big hit from Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor on Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas ...
The Broncos were hard-headed on offense. They were convinced that their crossing routes with the picks would work against the Seahawks. They tried to do it early on with Thomas (red line) on this play. The Seahawks were obviously very prepared for those crossing routes, as they used Chancellor (red circle on defense) as a robber to drop down to the middle of the field, usually a shade opposite whichever side Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker lined up on. Just look at the crossing routes coming from either side.
So while the Broncos tight end (blue circle) was indeed successful at rubbing off the cornerback who was initially covering Thomas, Chancellor was already in position to break up on that route from the direction that Thomas was headed in.
You can see that indeed Chancellor (red circle) is already breaking up before the ball is even thrown.
There are reports out now that Thomas played most of the Super Bowl with a separated shoulder. I don't know if this hit was the one that injured him, but I do know he wasn't the same player the rest of the game. On a day when he broke the Super Bowl record for catches in a game with 13, that's saying something.
From the end zone, so you can get the full effect of that hit.
Did I say hard-headed? Here is another attempt at getting a crossing route open with a rub from the Broncos. Once again, the Seahawks have one of their safeties (blue circle on defense) drop down to the middle to "rob" the crossing routes.
That is tight end Julius Thomas at the bottom with the red line as one of the crossing routes.
The reason that is important is because Julius Thomas appeared to believe he was the one who was supposed to be doing the rub to get Wes Welker free underneath.
Welker (blue circle on offense) certainly appears to need the help, as he is bracketed by two Seahawks defenders initially.
Thomas gets Welker free, but the robber safety is still there waiting for Welker. Peyton has to take the lesser of two evils and hit Thomas for a short gain, even though Thomas isn't really looking for the ball. Even though Thomas made the catch, he fell short of the first-down yardage.
Did I mention this was a third-and-5 play?
You would think the Broncos would go away from those crossing/rub routes and try something else.
You will note that Peyton had plenty of time on this play. That's because the Seahawks dropped a defensive lineman into coverage and only rushed three. That was almost the only time Manning wasn't pressured in the first half when the Seahawks didn't rush four.
This is an early third-and-4 play for the Seahawks' offense. The Broncos decided to blitz their linebackers (blue lines), which left the secondary basically in man-to-man or some kind of matchup zone.
Everybody on Earth knows that the Seahawks like to run slant routes on third-and-medium. On this play, they took advantage of Champ Bailey a little bit by employing a wide receiver stack to his side.
When a wide receiver lines up directly behind another wide receiver, that is called a stack. It allows the wide receiver in the back to have a chance at a free release as the wide receiver in the front clears out the cover guy or guys in front of him by fighting to get off the line of scrimmage.
You can see in the above pic that the wide receiver in the front (yellow line) is going to try to run right through the middle of Bailey. The receiver in the back (red line) sneaks behind him and cuts in after about 5 yards. That isn't technically a slant route, but it's the same principle, more or less.
The real problem here in my mind is that Bailey and whomever that is behind him are both lined up to the outside of the stack rather than one of them being inside and one being outside. Chances are both of those receivers will not be running in the same directions. One guy takes the in-breaking route, and the other takes the out-breaking route, simple.
Instead, they continue to be stacked as the receiver in the front runs right at Bailey, which opens up the inside of the field underneath him. The Seahawks only need 5 yards, so I can't understand why they would try to play the route combination this way.
Doug Baldwin is about to break inside and Bailey is being shielded off to the outside at the same damn time. It's already over for Bailey.
I give Champ a ton of credit for reacting so well to the route when he saw it, that he was still able to make the tackle after Baldwin made the catch for a first down. It never should have happened, though.
Note that the previous route combination wasn't anything special. Effective, but pretty common. That is the one thing that I kept noticing all game. Sure, the Seahawks used a little window dressing on offense at times, but mostly both the offense and defense had a simple game plan. They didn't do a whole lot of "new" stuff and instead just ran basic, fundamental plays really well. The scissors route to Baldwin I drew up directly above is yet another example of this.
The Broncos decided to go man-to-man out wide. The outside receiver (yellow line) runs a simple slant route to rub off the slot corner, in this case Bailey again. I will say that this play is part of the reason why I loved the early script from the Seahawks.
Remember that on the previous route on third down Bailey was playing outside, and Baldwin caught the ball inside of him for a first down. This time, it appears that Bailey is determined not to get beat inside for one of those Seahawks slants for a first down. Because he sat down so hard inside Baldwin, the slot receiver is able to get open right now when he breaks outside of the slant route and up the sideline.
You can see here Bailey (across from red circle on defense) is standing flat-footed with his eyes inside looking at the quarterback, ready to jump the slant route. He doesn't see the slant route outside of him (yellow circle) coming at all at this point.
Bailey (yellow circle) is pinned inside while Baldwin is running free up the numbers.
I like that Wilson made sure that he hit Baldwin on this pass and didn't overthrow him. It would have been a damn shame to waste such a well-executed route combination. Instead, Baldwin gained 37 yards and got the Seahawks inside the red zone.
On Peyton's first interception, they were trying to run crossing routes from opposite sides again. The difference being Julius Thomas (red circle) got deeper and wasn't looking for rub route. Welker (yellow circle) again ran a shallow crosser. The pressure from Seahawks left end Cliff Avril was a problem, but as I will show you in a minute, so was Peyton's decision on where to go with the ball.
The Seahawks, who rarely blitz, blitzed. That meant they were manned up in the secondary with one safety deep in the middle. This actually would have been a good time to try the rub routes. Since they didn't, it was up to the receivers to get open on their own.
Welker (yellow circle) clearly has his man in a trail position. With no safety robber this time, if he catches the ball on this route, he will have smooth sailing up the field for a bit. Julius Thomas (red circle), on the other hand, has a linebacker in trail position, but he also has a safety over the top of him.
A chain reaction up front is what leads to this interception. Michael Bennett (blue circle) has been a pass-rushing Jessie from inside since the playoffs started. The Broncos were determined not to let him get going, so they had the offensive tackle on his side help the guard out at the snap, then bail out of their stance to block the end to that side.
That might have worked on some defensive ends, but it wasn't bound to work on a guy as quick off the ball and as fast around the corner as Avril (black circle).
The right tackle Orlando Franklin sits a little too hard on Bennett, which allows Avril to turn the corner immediately.
Peyton is only spared a sack because Avril (black circle) slips to the ground while turning the corner. Manning feels that pressure coming though and drifts to his left to avoid it. That little movement to avoid Avril keeps Peyton from continuing to scan the field, where he would have seen Welker (yellow circle) coming open. Instead he tries to rush a throw to Thomas to avoid the sack, and well ...
This is later on in the game, after Harvin has already run on another speed option for a decent gain. This time they fake the speed option, which puts pressure on the defensive end to finally contain it. Instead of handing the ball to Harvin, Wilson fakes it to him, and hands it off to Lynch on a zone running play to their left.
The Broncos counter by having the safety (blue circle at the bottom) in position to make the tackle on Harvin this time, but one of the linebackers (blue circle) evidently didn't get the memo. It was only a 6-yard gain, but I just dig offensive coordinators that set up the opposing defense with good lookalike plays.
This is the third-down play where the Broncos get called for pass interference in the end zone. Putting aside the question of whether the refs should have just let 'em play in the Super Bowl on a play like that, and the fact that the Seahawks ran a sort of wide receiver screen to the other side of the field that probably would have been a much better option, take a look at the pass rush game from the Broncos and see if you can tell what the problem was.
WHY IN THEEEEEE HELL WOULD YOU SEND THE END TO WILSON'S THROWING HAND INSIDE ON THIRD-AND-GOAL FROM THE 5?!?!?!?!?!
Maybe, just maybe, if the Broncos hadn't lost contain on this play, the pass interference never happens and they force the Seahawks to kick another field goal.
I am sure that if you watched the game, you probably remember the deep ball to Demaryius Thomas that Peyton overthrew. Troy Aikman, who was calling the game, seemed to want really bad to call Peyton out for missing on that opportunity, but couldn't figure out how to say it in a way that wouldn't sound like he was slamming him. Instead we got kind of the softball callout.
Look, in this kind of game with everything going the way it was going, the Broncos desperately needed Peyton to make this throw.
Oh and by the way, Julius Thomas (yellow circle) was also open on the play as well.
Julius Thomas (yellow circle) is running a deep crossing route. The single high safety in the middle is squatting on his route. Demaryius Thomas is running straight up the field and has Seahawks all-world cornerback Richard Sherman on his back. If Peyton leads Demaryius Thomas up the field and inside on this pass, then it might be a touchdown. If he throws it to J. Thomas on the crossing route, then J. Thomas will likely have smooth sailing up the sideline.
Point being, you have to hit one of the two on this play. Have to.
This is the end zone shot. You can see that all Peyton has to do is get the pass over the linebacker's head to Julius Thomas, and it's going to be a big play. He is pressured a little by Tony McDaniel, but this was not a play where they could afford to come away with nothing.
This next play is the perfect illustration of why Peyton and the Broncos needed to hit on that deep ball to Demaryius Thomas. Even when they converted on third down, it took soooo much effort. It was obvious that they weren't going to march up and down the field on the Seahawks, so they sorely needed a big play ... or 10.
This play works almost by happenstance. The Seahawks blitz again, which again leaves their secondary in man-to-man with a free safety in the middle. Julius Thomas initially sat back to pass block Seahawks right end Chris Clemons. Chancellor, who had Julius Thomas, just stayed in the middle watching him block. In the meanwhile, Welker (red line) ran a crossing route.
With Julius Thomas blocking, Chancellor was just about to be able to double-team Welker on that crossing route.
This is third-and-9 by the way, which means it's going to take a little while for the other routes to get open.
Fortunately for Peyton, when J. Thomas finally decides to go out on a route, he pulls Chancellor with him outside, allowing Welker to win on his crossing route.
Because Clemons had beaten Julius Thomas around the edge and was running a 5-yard sprint to the spot right between the one and the eight on the back of Peyton's jersey.
Peyton still gets clobbered by Clemons right after he releases the ball, but imagine if Chancellor was still bracketing Welker, and Manning didn't have anywhere to go with the ball on this play. Might've been ugly, is all I'm saying.
Here is another missed opportunity by the Broncos. I'm not sure what to label this route as, but Welker (yellow circle) starts on the right side of the formation then runs a very deep crossing route, almost like he is running in a straight line to the pylon in the back of the end zone on the other side. If Peyton can put it deep and over his upfield shoulder, it might be a big play with no safety help over there to speak of.
The problem on this play is that Peyton (blue circle) is running the opposite direction to get away from the pass rush. No way in hell he can get this ball to Welker from there.
So who was it this time causing havoc? Clemons? Avril? Bennett?
It was Mr. Old Reliable Red Bryant (red circle, no relation) himself beating the left guard and forcing him into a tripping penalty.
That ended up being a huge penalty as it happened on first down, and after two subsequent plays forced a third-and-13, or as I like to call it, The Cliff Avril Show.
Let's start off by acknowledging that Peyton had Welker (yellow circle) coming wiiiiiiide open up the seam on the left. That is the thing about playing a lot of zone -- there are always holes in them. The question becomes if the opposing quarterback has enough time to find them.
There's Avril (red circle) again rushing from his left. Avril is known a lot more for his speed than he is for his power, but he has very good technique in transferring his speed to power. Even though Broncos right tackle Orlando Franklin makes contact with Avril early, he is still able to push him back.
And back ...
And back until Franklin is right in Manning's lap. Some guys would be content with that, but Avril gets off the block at that point and hits Peyton's elbow as he tries to throw. That leads to a pick-six by eventual MVP linebacker Malcolm Smith, but, once again, it was the chain reaction up front for the Seahawks that got everything started.
Lookit, I'm a HUGE Varsity Blues fan, so whenever I see a team employ the "oopty oop" formation I just have to shout them out. This was the formation the Broncos used when Peyton hit Demaryius Thomas on a back-shoulder fade for 19 yards on third-and-5.
And you know what? In hindsight, I kinda wonder why they didn't use this formation more often to take shots with Demaryius Thomas.
Of course, I do have to point out that defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (blue circle) juuuust about got to Peyton before he could get that fade pass off. Considering how quick that pass is usually thrown, giving up a pressure on it is pretty damn ridiculous.
At this point of the game, remember that the score is 22-0. The Broncos had a couple of chances to score right at the end of halftime, which would have made it 15-point game and the Broncos would be the team riding momentum to start the second half.
This was a first-and-10 play from Seattle's 27-yard line. Manning tries to hit Julius Thomas (red circle) on a deep crossing route; Welker (yellow circle) is open on a hook route up the seam.
I'm not sure who is supposed to be covering Welker in this zone coverage, but there is nobody close to him aside from the guy near the numbers. Julius Thomas looks open, but only because he is about to run into coverage from the safety on the other side.
Peyton is again enjoying one of those rare occasions where he isn't being pressured. He had plenty of time to scan the field on this one; I have no excuse for him this time.
If you are giving Peyton the benefit of the doubt on whether Welker is open or not, don't. As you can see from this end zone shot, he is damn sure wide open. Again, no excuses.
Know what's funny? After a false start on third-and-2 by a Broncos offensive lineman *cough* Louis Vasquez *cough* the Broncos ran a somewhat similar route combination, and whaddya know, Welker (yellow circle) is open again!
This time, however, Manning (blue circle) is rushed (red circles) and has to do his best Cam Newton impersonation and roll to his right to avoid it. Peyton's rolling right, Welker's open left. That's a recipe for disaster if Peyton tries to make that throw. That's why he dumps it off to Moreno for 7 yards instead to set up fourth-and-2 at the Seattle 19 with a little over a minute left in the first half.
These are the routes for that fourth-and-2 play. As a reminder, a touchdown here makes it a 15-point game and gives the Broncos a ton of momentum heading into halftime.
Gun to my head, I wouldn't have an answer if you asked me what kind of route that is that Demaryius Thomas (red line) ran at the bottom. I felt kinda stupid even trying to diagram it. Were they expecting man-to-man and tried to do a quick double move even though the cornerback dropped back in zone?
Hell if I know.
Which makes it all the more curious that Peyton decided to try to get the ball to him. Especially when his tight end, Julius Thomas (yellow line), was wiiiiiiiide open almost from the snap. I don't get it.
Doesn't Thomas (yellow circle) look wide open to you?
Mind you ...
I didn't realize how close this came to being a pick-six. In fact, had Clemons not tipped this pass, I'm pretty sure that the defensive back (blue circle) was going to have a great shot at taking it back to the house. Clemons did a good job getting his hands up there, but he wasn't close to sacking Peyton on this play and neither was anyone else on their defensive line.
I. Got. Nothing.
I'm going to end with the Broncos' draw play on third-and-10 from the Seahawks' 39 on their first drive of the second half. I'm ending here because let's be real, once they punted the game was pretty much over, 29-0, and it only got worse. I'm also ending here because I know some folks looked at it as if the Broncos were waving the white flag of surrender, but after watching it from the coaches' tape, I can see why Peyton audibled to a run, and also why it didn't work this time.
You might recall that in the AFC Championship Game the Broncos spread out the Patriots' defense, and then ran the ball on them. This was kind of the same scenario. Peyton sees both linebackers up toward the line showing blitz, but I'm sure he was thinking "the Seahawks hardly ever blitz." With that assumption, you figure the linebackers will have to drop out to get to their coverage responsibilities, which would give the offensive line time to block at least one of them and allow the running back to try to make the other miss for a big gain.
One problem ...
I said earlier this wasn't a chess match, and it wasn't. I do want to give Seattle's defensive coordinator Dan Quinn props for calling one hell of a game. First of all, he didn't see the mighty Broncos with Peyton Manning and panic. He didn't throw a whole bunch of stuff at his guys, he just added in a few tweaks, and allowed them to go out there and play fast on every play. Secondly, while the Seahawks didn't blitz much, the times he did send pressure it was generally right on time.
The fact that both linebackers stepped into the line at the snap tells me they were either blitzing or coached well or both, and in any of those scenarios coaching was a big part of the success of this play. I still can't understand punting down 29-0, but that's just me.
Here are some final random thoughts in no particular order.
- It wasn't one guy on the offensive line playing poorly for the Broncos -- each guy seemingly took turns screwing up. I pointed out several of Peyton Manning's mistakes, but make no mistake about it, his offensive line bears the majority of the responsibility for the offense's poor showing.
- In my column last week about the Seahawks' pass rushers, I was remiss in not mentioning Bruce Irvin and O'Brien Schofield. Both of those guys got quality reps in the game, which shows just how much quality depth on the defensive line the Seahawks possessed this year. Amazing!
- I was really expecting the Broncos to attack the deep middle more with four verticals. That puts a lot of pressure on a team trying to play with a single high safety, especially with potentially having Welker in the slot on one side and J. Thomas on the slot in the other. Didn't see it much, though.
- As much as we talk about how fast Harvin is, and deservedly so, I'm not sure anybody on the field was faster than Seahawks safety Earl Thomas. For a guy who rarely plays up near the box, it is crazy how many times he is able to get involved in plays all over the field.
- Putting Champ on the slot wide receiver was a bad choice.
- The Seahawks started the game with their NASCAR unit up front. When the normal starters on the defensive line came in, they used some 3-4 alignments that I thought were a pretty good changeup, especially with Bryant inside. They also used more three-man rush than I noticed during the game.
As a bonus, here are a series of shots of Harvin's kickoff return for a touchdown. I have circled the guy I feel most responsible.
Back in the day, if you lined up on the kickoff team where he did, then you had to be a warrior. L5 or R5, the only thing those guys had in common from team to team is they were all varying degrees of crazy. In general, they were what we used to call "wedge busters" back when you could have more than two guys side by side forming a wedge to block for the returner. Put succinctly, their job was to run down middle of the the field with reckless abandon and blow shit up.
I understand that we are living in a new era of the NFL where big collisions like that are frowned upon, but this was just ridiculous. I don't think the kick was all that great, either, but at some point you can't keep running from contact on the kickoff team. You just can't.
The only comment I will leave in this series of pics is that this is the same guy who ran around those blocks at the other end. The fact that he ran his ass alllllllll the way down to the other end zone trying to catch Harvin from behind (bwahahaha) tells me HE knows he screwed up too!