Welcome to the latest article in a series of Super Bowl previews in the lead up to the big game this Sunday. Previously we analysed how Seattle’s defence would fare against Denver’s attempts to run and pass the ball; today we take a closer look at Russell Wilson and the Seahawks’ passing unit, as they match up against Denver’s defence.
Seattle’s focal point on offense is Marshawn Lynch; the four time Pro-Bowler is a true talent and a major asset to the Seahawks’ offense. What makes Lynch unique is that he is quick, elusive and powerful; he has the potential to take control of a match on his day. The threat of Lynch as an offensive weapon allows the Seahawks to take full advantage of the play action passing game, giving Russell Wilson a much easier time on offense.
Play action is designed to fool the defence into believing the offense is running the ball, when in reality they are passing; utilising this effectively causes hesitation in the defence (particularly in the linebacking core), and is designed to help receivers and tight ends gain separation easier. This makes things much easier on the quarterback, who can easily throw to the now open receivers.
As a young quarterback playing in the biggest game of his short career, Pete Carroll’s heavy reliance on play action will greatly benefit Wilson. He will not be asked to make countless big throws in order to win the football game; play action will allow Wilson with sufficient time to make high percentage throws to open receivers, releasing much of the pressure off his shoulders. Making Lynch and running the football the focus is the key to Seattle’s offense having success in this game.
Of course Wilson is also a threat running the ball, in addition to his passing exploits. Wilson ranks third in the NFL for rushing yards as a quarterback (96 attempts, 539 yards and a touchdown); when the play breaks down, or he sees a hole in the defence, Wilson has the ability to make a play with his feet. Giving the Denver defence three things to think about (Lynch, the pass or Wilson scrambling) whenever the Seahawks line up in a running formation is a huge advantage to Seattle, and one I believe will be a factor in Sunday’s game.
Denver needs to remain disciplined on defence against the play action pass. Whilst Denver’s defensive pass ranking (ranked #27 with an average of 272.4 yards per game) has been skewed, due to their opponents regularly being behind in games, their defence was susceptible to giving up big plays in the passing game. Denver gave up 29 touchdowns in the passing game, tied for seventh highest in the league.
The loss of cornerback Chris Harris to an ACL injury in the Divisional Round of the playoffs is an especially telling one, forcing veteran Quentin Jammer into a larger role in the defence. Harris allowed a 65.6 passer rating against him as a starter in 2013, and recorded 3 interceptions (Pro Football Focus). Jammer, a backup for the majority of the season, is a liability on defence, with the ex-Charger last receiving a positive grade from Pro Football Focus back in 2008. In addition to a relatively unheralded linebacking core consisting of Nate Irving, Wesley Woodyard and Danny Trevathen, I foresee Denver’s defence struggling in this game, particularly if Seattle can effectively execute their play action passing game.
What do you think? Will Seattle have as easy a time on offense as I predict? Leave a comment below or vote in the poll, and be sure to check back for the final instalment in the series of previews for Super Bowl 48, as we analyse Marshawn Lynch and Seattle’s run game and how they will fare against the Denver defence.