A couple of weeks ago, I took a look at Christine Michael’s 84 yard performance versus the Browns. Against the Cardinals, Michael broke 100 yards for the first time in his career. In this breakdown, we’ll take a look at his longest run of the day that went for 45 yards against the Cardinals’ 2nd ranked run defense by DVOA as well as a couple of other runs to continue with what we discussed in my previous breakdown.
First things first, let’s take a look at his longest run of the season that went for 45 yards. I included both views (All-22 and Endzone) to show the coverage and why he broke this run into the secondary.
Situation: 2nd and 19 at SEA 31
Description: (8:43 – 1st) (Shotgun) C.Michael right end to ARZ 24 for 45 yards (R.Johnson)
- The Seahawks are in shotgun with twin stacks on both sides of the formation.
- The Cardinals look to be in a Cover 1 shell right before the snap, but safety #26 Johnson walks to the line of scrimmage blitzing the offense’s left side.
- This is a Cover 0 blitz where Johnson would take the flat receiver (Michael) in case it’s a passing play while the cornerbacks are in man-to-man coverage on the outside.
- Since the play is a zone read-option, Wilson watches Johnson as the outside defender since linebacker #96 Martin crashes on the running back. Johnson (circled in red) stays wide, which tells Wilson to hand the ball off to Michael.
- After the handoff, Michael reads the blockers and sees a giant hole open up between the right guard and the right tackle. Great effort by RT#79 Gilliam (boxed in yellow) who opens the hole on linebacker #57 Okafor.
- Michael bursts through the hole breaking a leg tackle by #91 Stinson before hitting the open field.
- The major positive thing I see at the end of this play is how Michael makes sure to guard the football multiple times in open space. A great sign since Michael is known for ball security issues.
The main trend I noticed when watching tape on Michael was (1) the Cardinals’ front seven actually did a pretty good job of penetrating into the backfield, but (2) Michael’s backfield elusiveness and ability to shake immediate tackles was evident. In fact, his skill at it was so impressive there was multiple moments where the play should have been a decent loss, but Michael turned it into a 10 yard gain. Here is an example in Play 2.
Situation: 2nd and 4 at ARI 35
Description: (11:56 – 3rd) (Shotgun) C.Michael up the middle to ARZ 23 for 12 yards (C.Campbell)
- This is an inside zone run to the right, but since #96 Martin crashes Michael is forced to shake him.
- Michael spins and uses his left arm to hold him off.
- Since Martin was the cutback defender, which opens the hole for him to escape through.
- Russell Wilson lead blocks for the running back, which actually helps to stretch safety #36 Swearinger wide enough for Michael to cut up the middle.
- Michael holds off Swearinger’s tackle and then gets taken down from behind by Calais Campbell after a twelve yard gain on the play.
Here is another example that happened in the 4th quarter with 13:36 left in the game. This time it’s a counter run to the left. #26 Johnson can’t wrap up Michael on the edge, which allows him to work his way back in the opposite direction for an eight yard gain.
Just like in the Browns game, Bevell gave Michael a goal line attempt, but he couldn’t convert. This was due to the penetration of linebacker #51 Minter and safety #26 Johnson. Bryce Brown ended up scoring two plays later on 3rd down.
Overall, what impressed me was the balance between the passing game and the running game against this elite defense. The most common move you will see defenses use to stop a running game is to overload the box with eight or more men similar to how the Seahawks stopped Adrian Peterson in Week 13. Since Wilson has been playing so well – see my breakdowns vs 49ers (Week 11), Steelers (Week 12) and Ravens (Week 14) – the Cardinals couldn’t use this tactic as they didn’t want to risk the deep throws that Wilson is capable of making. This caused them to be more conservative when in two of our previous breakdowns – vs Bengals (Week 11) and Packers (Week 16) – this was not the case.
As I said above and in my previous breakdown vs the Browns, Michael is a natural runner that is very “Point A to Point B”, but what separates him from other similarly-styled backs is his ability to shake tackles in the backfield. Hopefully, he will continue to focus on ball security moving forward, which should allow him to earn more snaps in the future as he is certainly a talented runner.
Follow Samuel Gold on Twitter: @SamuelRGold.