clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Notebook: Seahawks and the value of 'hustle'

New, comments

The little things made all the difference for the 49ers and the Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game last week. The 49ers didn't do them. The Seahawks did, with a whole lot of hustle. Retired NFL defensive end Stephen White explains. SB Nation 2014 NFL Playoff Coverage

Otto Greule Jr

I swear, Russell Wilson drives me crazy. Just look at the first play of the game.

LOOK. AT. IT.

Wilson_run_medium

"Oh hey look, it's a bootleg with nobody open (blue circles) and Aldon Smith jacking up my tight end who is trying to go out on a route. Well, this is embarrassing.

"Maybe I should just take off up the sideline and get as many yards as I can get before I go out of bounds!"

That's the internal monologue I wish Wilson had when he came upon situations like this one.

Instead, it's more like:

Wilson_run2_medium

"I'm going to trust my receivers to get open. I know if I just buy enough time running around behind the line of scrimmage that somebody will ... OH DAMN. OUCH. OOPS."

Dude, seriously?! I take nothing away from Aldon Smith, who is a fantastic athlete, but Wilson can't allow himself to be a sitting duck like that when he has his kind of wheels.

Gotta be honest, it's even more infuriating that he still refuses to run and yet his team continues to win. Football karma hasn't quite touched him yet, but I just cannot believe that his unwillingness to use all of his gifts will go unpunished.

Having said that, let's move on to talk about the game in general.

Most of the 49ers' wounds were self-inflicted, especially on defense. Yes, Colin Kaepernick blew the game with turnovers, but those were forced errors. The Seahawks didn't get any gifts (no, not even the Chancellor interception); they worked their asses off to make those plays.

The 49ers defense just made mistake after mistake after a strong early showing to give up the lead and eventually lose the game. I will give them credit for getting the ball back after Kaepernick fumbled -- that took spines made out of steel. Of course, it came at a high cost with the 49ers losing NaVorro Bowman to a torn ACL as he fought his butt off to force a fumble and recover it, all while going through excruciating pain.

It was almost all for naught as some dumb NFL rule says you can't review a fumble/non-fumble in the middle of the field. Sure, let's not review a play as big as a turnover because it happens where most of the action happens during a game. Does that make a lick of damn sense?

It shouldn't have taken a play like Bowman's to get the NFL to change a rule that had foreseeable issues like this one did. I hope that if they were on the fence before Bowman's injury that they have come to their senses now. I would hate to see another playoff game, or any game for that matter, impacted by such a silly rule.

Anyways, the one thing I realized in watching the coaches' tape is how many times Kaepernick's scrambles were planned runs. A few times they looked like broken plays only because a Seahawks pass rusher got free, but several of them were designed for Kaepernick to get upfield in a hurry.

I picked the 49ers to win this game. I had no idea how sloppy they would be with the little things, however; staying on-side on defense, for instance. Or, when it's your turn to pick a guy in coverage so another wide receiver can get open, you pick them. Sound pass protection. Staying back as a safety when Wilson started to run around.

Those are all things I thought were a given that the 49ers would do. I was wrong.

And yet they still had a chance right down to the end of the game, right up until Kaepernick took a shot in the end zone with a perfectly thrown ball. It was tipped by Richard Sherman back to Malcolm Smith, who was hustling his ass off the whole play and ended up in the right place at the right time for the interception. This game, or rather the second half of this game, was so compelling you almost hate that either team had to lose. In the end, the Seahawks made a play when they needed it in order to move on to the Super Bowl.

No, I am not going to talk about Sherman's interview. I said all I have to say on the matter on Twitter right after he was finished. (@sgw94 if you're interested).

On to the breakdowns. These plays will go in the same order that they occurred during the game (I hope).

The 49ers were determined to get Kaep running with the ball early, so they called this draw for him out of shotgun.

Kaep_draw_medium

This play probably should have been a touchdown. You can see Frank Gore and two other wide receivers to Kaepernick's left are all about to seal off the defenders. If he could just bounce it outside he probably walks in. See that red circle though? That's a Seahawks defender beating 49ers tight end and Hulk-lookalike Vernon Davis to force Kaepernick to try to run up inside. Little things.

After that the 49ers went with a sweep with Kaepernick.

Kaep_sweep_medium

This is how the blocking should go.

Kaep_sweep2_medium

The Seahawks right defensive end Chris Clemons (red circle) had other ideas.

Kaep_sweep3_medium

Clemons closes down on the left tackle Joe Staley and mushes him into the guard so he can't get up to middle linebacker Bobby Wagner (blue circle). That allows Wagner to scrape to his right untouched.

Kaep_sweep4_medium

Thankful for a clear path to Kaepernick, Wagner rewards Clemons with a big-time stop of the elusive quarterback. Again, little things.

Early on, Wilson tries to fit in a pass to his wide receiver, Jermaine Kearse, on a corner route.

Kearse_corner_medium

It would have been a tough throw under any conditions. Wilson ended up overthrowing Kearse (red circle), which is nothing to be ashamed of on that particular pass. The real problem is that he has a deep-in route (yellow circle) that is open and a much easier throw.

For whatever reason, lately Wilson has overlooked easier passes and gone for the harder ones. Maybe that's just how his progressions are set up, but it is surely at least partially to blame for the way the Seahawks have sputtered offensively the last few weeks.

On this play, Wilson is pressured but he is able to hit his wide receiver Doug Baldwin on a late over route.

Baldwin_over_medium

Here is a situation where the clear-out route (yellow line) is actually open deep. Baldwin running the deep-over route (red line) is open too, but why not take the shot down the field when you have it like this?

Baldwin_over2_medium

The safety to the deep route (yellow circle) is looking to come up on Baldwin's over route. To be fair, Wilson (white circle) is again pressured here and has to move out of the pocket a bit before he can throw the ball. But ...

Baldwin_over3_medium

... that draws the 49ers safety up further and opens the deep ball (yellow circle) even more. Would it be an easy throw? Absolutely not. Would it have been worth trying? Absolutely.

Baldwin_over4_medium

Look at how dangerous this pass ended up being. The truth is the 49ers defender is in perfect position on Baldwin (red circle), but he just doesn't tip the ball away. The wide receiver with the yellow circle, on the other hand, is deeper than both the safety and the corner who were covering him. I'm just saying.

Here is the play where 49ers safety Donte Whitner got a personal foul for a high hit on Seahawks tight end Luke Willson on this pass over the middle.

Te_blowd_medium

This penalty should have been on Russell Wilson for two reasons. First of all, for as long as the tight end was open in the middle, Wilson should have already released the ball so his tight end could catch it and then brace for contact. Instead, he led him to contact.

Secondly, there's that yellow circle again. A Seahawks wide receiver is streaking up the field open and the safety to his side is, rightfully, focused on the tight end. Take the shot, man!

Te_blowd2_medium

Well, at least that receiver had a bird's-eye view of his teammate getting his face rearranged.

As for the penalty on Whitner, it was a bang-bang play. It's difficult to make a tackle on a tight end running unmolested up the field full speed, then adjust in a split second when that tight end has his legs taken from under him by another defender.

At the same time, Whitner did make contact with his head and Willson looked like he was slap-out when he hit the ground and bounced off of it. The referee almost has to throw the flag in that situation.

I just blame Russell Wilson more than I blame Whitner.

And look: Wilson made some fantastic plays later on to help his team win the game and advance to the Super Bowl, so of course take all of this with a grain of salt. But at the end of the day, the Seahawks left a lot of points on the field, and Wilson was as big a culprit as anybody on their offense.

On the other hand: I know fans often think that a quarterback is holding the ball too long when he gets sacked. Sometimes the problem is nobody is open, however. On this play, Wilson has to eat the football.

Wilson_sack_medium

The 49ers get pressure (red circle) almost immediately on Wilson on this play. The yellow circles are the Seahawks receivers who are on routes. You tell me, who could he have thrown it to in this situation?

Nobody, that's who. Taking a sack on this play is actually the best you can ask for, all things considered.

The other day someone on Twitter lamented the fact that Bowman had the kind of season people think Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly had. I agree.

That's not a knock on Kuechly. Bowman has just been phenomenal all year, though, and people have been slow to recognize what an amazing level he had been playing at every single game. On this play he bursts through the Seahawks offensive line on a blitz to take Russell Wilson down for a sack.

Bowman_blitz_medium

This is the same sack from the 49ers' perspective. They send two linebackers and the nickel back from over the slot. Bowman is the red line.

Bowman_blitz2_medium

This is the blitz from the end zone shot. The truth is the Seahawks have enough to block it with Robert Turbin crossing to the other side on the snap to pick up the nickel back. So what happened?

Bowman_blitz3_medium

Well, the left guard and left tackle (white circle and question mark) had better things to do than block Bowman. For whatever reason, the tackle helps the guard on his guy. Instead of them both turning back and picking up Bowman, the left guard Paul McQuistan went to go help the center, who didn't actually need any help.

Bowman_blitz4_medium

That meant Russell Okung couldn't come off and pick up Bowman, who slipped in unblocked and accelerated to Wilson before the quarterback could blink.

I know that when the offensive line has slide protections, sometimes their rules tell them they can't go back in the other direction even if they see a blitz coming. If that was the case on this play, it cost the Seahawks a sack.

One thing I came away with after watching film is that even with the 49ers trying to get Kaep going running early, they still left some yards on the field. Just like the draw earlier, Kaep has a chance for big yardage on this read-option play because the blocking is set up to get him into the secondary practically untouched.

Kaep_ro_medium

Maybe this was one of those plays that looks like read option, but in reality the call to give the ball to the running back is made in the huddle. That is the only explanation I could come up with as to why Kaepernick handed it off against this look.

Kaep_ro2_medium

Now, the ball has been handed off already at this point, but just imagine if Kaepernick (red circle) still had the ball. Who exactly is going to tackle him on this play and how many yards down the field would it have happened?

That's anybody's guess.

Marion Barry could see that this next play was a setup. Kaepernick hands the ball off to Frank Gore but he carries out a bootleg fake to see how the Seahawks would respond.

Kaep_boot_setup_medium

This is a handoff to Gore (red circle) and the Seahawks are running a stunt backside where the tackle has contain (blue circle). The defensive tackle doesn't even seem to notice Kaepernick carrying out the bootleg fake.

This is when it pays to have someone good in the booth keeping an eye on stuff like that. You can bet a call was made from the booth to the sideline letting 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh know that the bootleg would be open later. But we will get to that in a little while.

There were a few times in the game where Kaep's scrambling was spontaneous, as in this next play.

Kaep_scramble_medium

This time all the 49ers receivers (blue circles) are covered. Kaepernick (white circle) is also feeling pressure outside from his left (red circle).

Kaep_scramble2_medium

There is Cliff Avril (red circle) applying pressure from his left end spot, and Kaepernick (white circle) taking off up the middle. Smart play by him that has nothing to do with not being able to read coverage, no matter what some folks will tell you.

This play, on the other hand, is another called run for Kaepernick. It doesn't look that way at first, however.

Draw_kaep_medium

Here again, all of the 49ers' eligible receivers have blue circles around them. If you look closely this time, you will notice that most of them aren't looking around for the ball -- particularly the two tight ends in the deep middle. There's a reason for that.

Draw_kaep2_medium

Those guys are going to block the safeties, and that is why Kaepernick was able to get more than he normally would on an average, genuine scramble. There's a reason, however, why it wasn't obvious that this was a quarterback draw initially.

Draw_kaep3_medium

Before Kaepernick could take off straight ahead, he had to beat this Seahawks defensive tackle (red circle) who defeated the guard's block and was free to try to get Kaepernick on the ground. It is only because Kaepernick was able to avoid that DT that this well-designed play on a chalkboard was able to actually work as intended.

Next up, this is a play that would have haunted Wilson for a long time had the Seahawks not held on to win at the end.

Miss_wilson_medium

Wilson is under pressure (red circle), but he has his slot receiver (yellow circle) open for a potentially big gain on a slant with no 49ers defenders in the middle.

Miss_wilson2_medium

Instead, Wilson tried to avoid the rush and then take a shot down the field, but the pass was well off the mark.

The 49ers didn't blitz a lot, but they did pick their spots and seemed to catch Wilson slipping a few times.

Wilson_blitz_medium

San Francisco seemed to favor overload blitzes against the Seahawks and had some really good results with it. This time the 49ers overload to the offense's right side (blue lines).

Wilson_blitz2_medium

Maybe the only guy open here is the wide receiver with the yellow circle. The other guys (blue circles) are all covered with two pass rushers (red circles) bearing down on Wilson from either direction. Another play where the best choice is to avoid the disaster with a sack, and to his credit Wilson did that time and again on Sunday.

Speaking of missed opportunities: Kaepernick dumped this ball off to the short middle (red circle).

Patton_cross_medium

But can anybody tell me who was covering Anquan Boldin up the seam (yellow circle)? The safety to his side is headed to the deep middle and has his attention focused inside.

49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith had himself a heck of a game. A sack-caused fumble on the very first play of the game, and then this sack of Wilson later on.

Aldon_medium

Another passing play, another example of all of the Seahawks' eligible receivers (blue circles) being covered. Hell, some of them are double-covered. Then, here comes Smith (red circle) from the back. This was a coverage sack for sure, but don't discount the work Smith put in to beat Okung around the edge, which is no easy feat.

------

I didn't realize just how much Kaepernick was pressured during the game until I watched the coaches' film. Several times I would see wide receivers breaking open, then look over and notice Kaepernick was already trying to avoid the rush.

On this Michael Crabtree grab, the interesting thing is that had he kept going across the field, he would have been wide open. The problem would have been that Kaepernick wouldn't have been able to get the ball to him because he was drifting away from the rush in the opposite direction.

Crab_over_medium

The 49ers have crossing routes on three different levels on this play. The short crossers did their job and drew up the underneath coverage, opening things up for Crabtree (red line) on his deeper crossing route.

Crab_over2_medium

The problem is Kaep starts feeling pressure from his right here and drifts to his left to avoid it. That is taking him in the opposite direction of Crabtree.

Crab_over3_medium

Gotta give credit to Crabtree for recognizing the situation and throttling down his route. As you can see, if he continues across there is nobody over on the other side to pick him up. Problem is, Kaep probably wouldn't have seen him either. So instead, he stops and moves back toward his quarterback.

Crab_over4_medium

The result is a reception for a first down, but there was a lot more to that play than the throw-and-catch, as you can now see.

-----

I love watching Marshawn Lynch run because he looks for people to run over. He is also more elusive than most people give him credit for. Having said that, this touchdown run by Lynch should be embarrassing for the 49ers. A few in particular:

Lynch_td_medium

That yellow circle is on Aldon Smith. Why? Because first of all, this is supposed to be his play. He is lined up head up on the wing tight end with the extra tackle lined up as the stud tight end inside of him. He has to stay inside of that wing tight end because that is his gap now.

Lynch_td2_medium

But the wing TE ends up getting inside position on Smith.

Lynch_td3_medium

After Smith misses the tackle, Eric Reid comes up fast to fill the alley ...

Lynch_td4_medium

... too quickly, it turns out. So Lynch makes it up the sideline, and corner Tramaine Brock catches up to him, but decides he would rather swipe at the ball than try to tackle Beast Mode. I have no idea know why he didn't sell out at the end of this run, but I do know I was disappointed as a former player to see him still upright at the end of the play.

You're playing to go to the Super Bowl, you gotta leave it all on the field, literally even.

Lynch_td_block_medium

Here is how the Seahawks blocked this play.

Lynch_td5_medium

If Lynch had kept it front side, you see Patrick Willis (red circle) has a chance to light him up like a Christmas tree because he is unblocked. This is where Lynch's underrated elusiveness came into play. While you might expect him to just try to run over a linebacker, Lynch used his superior vision to see the cutback lane created when Aldon Smith was cut off by the wing tight end.

Lynch_td6_medium

Reid (yellow circle) looks to be in good position to take Lynch (blue circle) down here, but perhaps much like Colts safety against Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount a week ago, Reid was gathering himself to take on Lynch trying to run him over. I don't think it occurred to him in that moment that Lynch would do anything other than keep running in a straight line.

Lynch_td7_medium

He gonna learn today.

Lynch_td9_medium

Brock can't feel good about himself after watching Lynch continue on into the end zone. And I do mean watching.

You knew that the naked bootleg was coming after the 49ers set it up earlier in the game. It worked to perfection. I'm not sure that the right defensive end ever noticed that Kaepernick kept the football, even days later.

Kaep_boot_medium

I talked about Michael Bennett last week, but I swear he turned it up to even another notch against the 49ers. He was one of those guys getting constant pressure on Kaepernick who I didn't notice until watching the film. On this play he not only got the sack, but also got Kaepernick to fumble.

Bennett_cf_medium

Notice that Bennett came from left defensive end on the rush. He was killing guys all over the line, inside and out. His accountant is gonna need an accountant when he hits free agency later this spring.

Speaking honestly, Kaepernick is definitely still rough around the edges when it comes to being an NFL passer. He doesn't see guys open down the field at times. He is inaccurate when passing to open guys at times. But you gladly take all of those diminishing flaws for plays like his touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin.

Boldin_td_medium

Right now all of the 49ers receivers (yellow circles) are pretty much covered. To make matters worse, once again Kaepernick is under fierce pressure (red circle) from the Seahawks' defensive line.

Boldin_td2_medium

Instead of panicking, Kaepernick avoids the rush to his right and unleashed a laser shot to Boldin in the end zone. Not only was Seahawks All-Pro safety Earl Thomas in perfect position, he even got his hand on the ball! It didn't matter because that was a fastball on a rope and Thomas didn't even alter the ball's trajectory.

Did I mention that Kaepernick threw this pass basically off one foot? Unfriggin' real, man.

-----

In my other breakdown talking about the Broncos, I mentioned how the Broncos did all of the little things well in their win over the Patriots. In particular, their receivers all picked well for each other to help open up the offense. Everybody has pick plays in their game plan, but the problem comes in when one of the guys doesn't do his job so well.

Vd_blowd_medium

This route combination is meant to open things up for Vernon Davis on a crossing route. The tight end on the other side and Gore are supposed to clear out everything to that side so Davis has room to run when he catches the ball.

Vd_blowd2_medium

Now Kam Chancellor (blue circle) had his own ideas about Davis being able to turn up the sideline after the catch. Kaepernick (white circle) is already in the process of throwing the ball, so Gore could probably block Chancellor here and get away with offensive pass interference. I'm sure in hindsight, Davis wishes that Gore had taken that chance.

Vd_blowd3_medium

Instead Gore just ran right past Chancellor, allowing him to break up on the pass and lay the wood to Davis. Little things.

-----

It's getting down to crunch time and you know who is going Super Saiyan again? That's right, Mr. Michael Bennett.

Bennett_press_medium

The 49ers' eligible receivers are barely into their routes and Bennett (red circle) is already on Kaepernick's ass. He didn't get him on the ground, but he basically ruined the play from the get-go.

Bennett_press2_medium

Probably should have mentioned it was third-and-10, by the way. Big-time players make big-time plays at crunch time.

-----

As I said in the beginning of this piece, after a strong start the 49ers defense really started to crumble. The touchdown to Kearse after Aldon Smith jumped offside is a prime example. It is also another play that the 49ers -- in particular rookie safety Eric Reid -- should be embarrassed by.

Kearse_td_medium

This is the exact point on the play where it appears 49ers safety Reid looked back, saw the flags and shut it down. He was in decent position at first, but he started running about half speed right at this point. I don't know if he thought he heard a whistle or what, but every football player knows you keep playing until you know that you have heard the whistle blow.

Why does it matter that he stopped running when it wasn't his man who caught the touchdown? I'm glad you asked.

Kearse_td2_medium

The yellow circle is around Reid again here, but look at where the receiver that he was supposed to be covering is in relationship to where the receiver who caught the touchdown (Jermaine Kearse) is in this picture. Pretty much side by side, right?

Kearse_td3_medium

This is how close Reid (yellow circle) was to that receiver's back pocket before he slowed down.

Kearse_td4_medium

What you have to realize is that Reid's man, Baldwin, ends up right beside Kearse and almost tries to catch the ball because he isn't sure who the pass is intended for. It's not crazy to believe had Reid kept running, he would have been right there with Baldwin and in position to try to make a play on the ball. Good things come to those who hustle.

Kearse_td_dl_medium

Oh, and I saved the worst for last. It's bad enough that Aldon Smith jumped offsides on this play for no apparent reason, but then he and two of his linemates just kind of stood there after the ball was snapped instead of pass rushing. That is what allowed Wilson the time to get that pass off in the first place.

That one should sting for a long time. As a reminder, the 49ers were leading 17-13 before that play and the game had basically just crossed over into the fourth quarter. Then they lose by six ...

-----

Just like the 49ers defense, their quarterback Colin Kaepernick also seemed to implode late in the game. The implosion was helped along by the Seahawks defense, however.

Kaep_fumble_medium

Before we get to the pass rush, let me show you the route combination the 49ers had on that play. Notice that yellow line? Yeah ...

Kaep_fumble2_medium

That yellow circle is actually Vernon Davis, who you will recall can run faster than most defensive backs. Where's the safety to his side? Yeah ...

Meanwhile, Bennett is already wreaking havoc again, this time from inside. He and Avril have already beaten the guy they were lined up on and most of the 49ers receivers are still within 5-6 yards of the line of scrimmage.

I feel like I need to take the time to point out that the 49ers' offensive line got whupped on pass rush in general, but right tackle Anthony Davis REALLY got his butt handed to him. Did he successfully block anybody all game one-on-one?

Kaep_fumble3_medium

With both Bennett and Avril (red circle) hot on his trail, I feel like it's understandable that Kaepernick (white circle) didn't see Davis initially. He was too busy trying to not get knocked out. Just look at this though, man. The safety is gone all the way over near the numbers on the other side of the field.

It actually reminded me, at this point, of a play Kaepernick and Davis had against the Buccaneers near the end of the season where Kaep avoided the rush and then launched a missile that Davis caught in stride in the end zone for like 50 yards and a touchdown.

Kaep_fumble4_medium

Almost.

Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, though.

Kaepernick finally sees Davis and is ready to launch another bomb when Avril picks his pocket and causes him to fumble. Bennett -- who ended up beating two blockers on the play -- then scooped up the fumble and advanced it toward the Seahawks goal line. Super Saiyan indeed.

Kaep_fumble5_medium

From the end zone you can see that Kaepernick's first read is evidently on the opposite side from Davis. With Avril and Bennett coming for him, it's doubtful he had time to scan anywhere else before he took off to his left.

Kaep_fumble6_medium

Victory or defeat is sometimes measured in inches when it comes to football. Kaepernick finally sees Davis here and is about to wind up and unleash. Unfortunately for him, Avril was just close enough to reach out and knock the ball out of his hand before he could complete his throwing motion.

These are the battles that you don't get to see from just the TV angle. I had no idea how close the 49ers were to making a big play here, which is why I'm sharing a lot of this stuff with you as well. Now we can all play the "what if" game.

-----

I know that when it happened during the game, former Cowboys quarterback and Hall of Famer Troy Aikman said Kaepernick's interception to Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor was just a bad decision and seemed to intimate that there was no reason for Kaepernick to throw that pass. I agree that it was a bad decision, but I also feel like Aikman didn't do a good enough job breaking down the play to show why the interception happened. It's a bit more complicated than just being a bad decision.

Kaep_int_medium

The most important thing to remember about this play is that it came off of play action under center. As you can see, Chancellor (blue circle), the guy who ended up catching the interception, starts the play lined up on the line of scrimmage.

Kaep_int2_medium

Here is why the fact that it's play action from under center is so important. It is because Kaepernick (white circle) turns his back to the coverage to make the run fake. While he is doing that, Chancellor is dropping curl to flat like a cover-3 drop. It's actually more like he is buzzing the flat, but with much better depth than you would usually expect.

Kaep_int3_medium

By the time Kaepernick turns around to set up to throw, I honestly think he lost sight of Chancellor.

Kaep_int4_medium

For the sake of comparison, the Seahawks linebacker in the yellow circle is also supposed to drop from curl to flat on the opposite side of Chancellor. Notice how he has settled his feet at the 30-yard line? Well, even though he is obviously looking at a different route combination on his side, normally that's about where you expect that defender to be in coverage unless something takes them deeper.

Nothing actually takes Chancellor deeper, he just seems to sense that Boldin is running a deep comeback route and so he keeps getting depth. It's a smart move, just not the norm.

Kaep_int6_medium

That's how you get a guy who lined up on the line of scrimmage just outside the tackle box at the 26 catching an interception somewhere around the 38 near the sideline.

It's still a bad decision by Kaepernick, especially when he had other options, like that guy running up the seam with the yellow circle around him. Chancellor helped turn that into a bad decision with his drop.

-----

Back to not doing the little things. Here we have another case of a guy who is supposed to run interference not running interference. This time Chancellor almost gets Crabtree just like he got Vernon Davis, but Crabtree ain't nobody's fool.

Crab_screen_medium

Pretty simple concept here. The inside receivers to the trips side clear things out inside by running at the guys covering them so those defenders can't break up on the ball. Crabtree is outside and runs what amounts to a slant off the line. If everyone does his job, Crabtree should have a free run until he gets to the safety in the middle.

Everyone did not do his job.

Crab_screen2_medium

You already know Boldin is going to pick his guy -- he is the yellow circle running right at his man. Rookie wide receiver Quinton Patton is another story.

He does appear to be running at Chancellor at first ...

Crab_screen3_medium

... then suddenly he avoids Chancellor and takes off up the field. I don't know if Patton thought he could get the Seahawks with a fake screen or if his heart just pumps Kool-Aid. What I do know is that he just about got Crabtree laid out.

I ain't even mad at Crabtree for employing the alligator arm method of self defense here. Patton straight sold him out.

-----

And now we come to the biggest play of the game, the interception by Malcolm Smith to win it for the Seahawks. It was a simple play for the 49ers and Kaepernick, fade route to Crabtree up the right sideline.

Game_over_medium

I had a problem with this play when it happened live because the interception happened on first down. In hindsight, I'm not sure I, nor anybody else, should have a problem with Kaepernick taking a shot here.

The only real controllable problem with it is that Kaepernick tried to beat Sherman on the play. I don't care how you feel about Sherman as a person, seriously I don't. However, if you are real with yourself, you have to admit he is the best cover corner in the game right now. So maybe with the game on the line, it wasn't the time for Kaep to try his luck against Sherman. That said, he threw about the best pass possible on the play.

Game_over2_medium

When you get past blaming somebody for the interception, you can get to what really makes it such a phenomenal play: Hustle.

See that guy with the blue circle around him? That's Seahawks backup linebacker Malcolm Smith. When Smith saw Kaepernick throw the fade, he didn't just stand there to see if Sherman would make a play. Nah, Smith hauled tail to make sure he was in position should Sherman make a play on the ball. Go back and look at the first picture and see where Smith came from. Then, remember that he didn't have a route to cover that brought him over by Crabtree and Sherman, he did it just because.

Game_over3_medium

If Smith isn't right there at the end zone, who exactly is going to catch Sherman's tip?

Nobody, that's who!

Game_over4_medium

Look at the football (yellow circle), then notice that Sherman is reaching back to make the play. It appears that Crabtree pushed off a bit, which is why Sherman was floating away from the ball. I kind of think that Crabtree might have had a better shot at catching it had he tried to jump and high-point it, but I'm about positive that he didn't think for one second that Sherman was going to be able to make that play with his left hand. It was a helluva play, plain and simple. And if Sherman doesn't make it, then we would have been talking about the 49ers going to the Super Bowl right now because I don't think there is any way on earth Crabtree wouldn't have caught that pass otherwise. He probably was already planning his celebration.

Once again though, erase Smith from this picture and you know what you have? A great PBU and the 49ers with at least three more downs to score and win the game. It is important that we recognize that his effort is a huge part of why that play happened.

Repeating myself from earlier, good things come to those who hustle. In this case, the good thing for the Seahawks is a Super Bowl berth. Not bad at all!

More from SB Nation NFL

SB Nation's complete coverage of Super Bowl XLVIII

Stephen White: The Seahawks and the value of hustle | Denver's lessons

Richard Sherman on his controversial interview, being called a "thug"

Super Bowl picks from SB Nation's experts | Uffsides: A totally unbiased preview

The sordid end of David Meggett: From All-Pro to prison

Senior Bowl 2014 | Measurements released | Game preview