Last week, we saw Russell Wilson dominate the Seahawks’ division opponent, the San Francisco 49ers, throwing for 260 yards and three touchdowns. Many claimed it was due to the 49ers’ 31st defense by DVOA rankings. Well, this week, Wilson faced the Steelers’ 16th ranked defense by DVOA rankings, and Wilson did even better statistically. In this game, Wilson threw for 345 yards and five touchdowns. In this breakdown, we will take a look at how Wilson performed and then discuss the general themes of the game for the Seahawks under offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.
Russell Wilson – 21/30, 345 yards, 11.5 ypa, 5 TDs, 4 rushes for 14 yards, 2 sacks for 9 yards
The first two drives started slowly for Wilson. In four attempts, Wilson had one completion for 11 yards to Tyler Lockett on a quick hitch route. It wasn’t until the third drive, where the Seahawks started clicking and put a six play drive for a touchdown together. This was after the Jeremy Lane interception on Landry Jones. It was a seam route by Doug Baldwin that split the Cover 3 defense for the 26 yard touchdown.
Situation: 3rd and Goal at PIT 16
Description: (12:18 – 2nd) Doug Baldwin Pass From Russell Wilson for 16 Yrds S.Hauschka extra point is GOOD, Center-C.Gresham, Holder-J.Ryan.
The Seahawks are in a 3×1 set and send four wide receivers into the endzone. This is a classic use of the vertical stretch concepts that are covered in the Beginner Series where the Seahawks overloaded the deep zones. The Steelers don’t have enough men to cover all the routes and Baldwin is left open.
The Steelers and Seahawks traded punches most of the game in an offensive explosion putting up almost 1,000 total yards (974, to be exact). In the next drive after Baldwin’s first touchdown on the day, Wilson led the Seahawks down the field starting at the 15 yard line with some great throws using tight end (#88) Jimmy Graham, and wide receivers (#15) Jermaine Kearse and (#17) Kevin Smith.
Situation: 3rd and 10 at SEA 15
Description: (7:15 – 2nd) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short right to J.Graham to SEA 33 for 18 yards (R.Cockrell) [C.Heyward]
The Seahawks again are in a 3×1 set out of shotgun. This time they run a drag-concept using Jimmy Graham underneath the three-level crossing routes of the wide receivers from the right side of the field. The Steelers are in Cover 1 Man which means the cornerbacks will follow their wide receivers across the field creating a gap on the right side of the field for an accurate Wilson pass and long 3rd down conversion.
On this same drive, my favorite play of the game happened and it was a 21 yard completion to Kevin Smith.
Situation: 1st and 10 at PIT 33
Description: (2:55 – 2nd) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short right to K.Smith to PIT 12 for 21 yards (A.Blake)
Why is this my favorite? The Steelers are again in a Cover 3 shell just like in Play 1 (above). The Seahawks use a three-level concept on the right sideline to stretch the zones on the sideline creating a hole between the deep and shallow zone.
The above image is right before Wilson releases the football. He recognizes the coverage, finds his open receiver, and then places it to him. Kevin Smith does a very underrated job of finding his zone. He slows down to make sure he has space between the defenders and holds the distance. That’s why this play was successful.
The very next play was Wilson’s touchdown to Kearse in the endzone.
Situation: 1st and 10 at PIT 12
Description: (2:10 – 2nd) Jermaine Kearse Pass From Russell Wilson for 12 Yrds S.Hauschka extra point is GOOD, Center-C.Gresham, Holder-J.Ryan.
The Seahawks run a quick-concept passing concept similar to what the Redskins run. This play stretches the outside defenders near the sideline. A perfect play call against the Steelers’ Cover 3 defense as the defender has to choose the slant-route or the underneath screen pass. This leaves Kearse open for the touchdown.
Kearse’s second touchdown (Wilson’s third) was even more impressive.
Situation: 2nd and 7 at PIT 9
Description: (12:17 – 4th) Jermaine Kearse Pass From Russell Wilson for 9 Yrds TWO-POINT CONVERSION ATTEMPT. R.Wilson pass to K.Smith is incomplete. ATTEMPT FAILS.
Kearse completely turns the hips of safety #31 Ross Cockrell in coverage on his double-move. Kearse fakes to the outside in the seam, then cuts upfield for the easy touchdown after Cockrell overcommits to the out-route.
Wilson threw his fourth and fifth touchdowns in back-to-back drives in the 4th quarter. A busted coverage on Baldwin’s out-n-up route created the fourth touchdown as his defender is caught looking in the backfield after the out-route. While, the very same play as #2 (above) caused the other touchdown. This time Baldwin’s mid-level crossing route became the long pass as Baldwin breaks clean sprinting up the sideline avoiding two tackles.
Jimmy Graham was lost for the season with a torn patellar tendon. Even though Graham is certainly not as targeted as frequently as he was with the Saints, he still played a valuable role with the Seahawks and helped them move the chains on multiple drives. Here are two examples:
This game was much different than the 49ers’ match in the previous week. How?
Many of Wilson’s throws against the 49ers were the traditional flare-route to Lockett or Baldwin at the line of scrimmage that has become a staple of this offense. Unlike the 49ers’ game though, Wilson was asked to stretch the defense more than he typically has been asked to. This all has to do with how the Steelers started pressing their linebackers outside in order to combat the Seahawks’ bubble screens, while their secondary was able to take on the edge blockers.
Many of these passes went for a minimal gain this game. This made the Seahawks change their game plan and ask Wilson to use the vertical stretch passing game and three level zone beater concepts to attack this superior defense. Wilson, in this game, showed me an ability to read multiple coverage schemes (Cover 1 Man, Cover 3, Cover 6, to name a few) and an ability to get the ball out quickly from inside the pocket. His performance the past two weeks has been incredible. The Vikings are a very underrated match-up for the Seahawks sitting at 8-3. Let’s see how the Vikings attempt to stop the fourth year quarterback.
Follow Samuel Gold on Twitter: @SamuelRGold.