The Panthers’ defense pitched a shutout in the first half against the Seahawks in the NFC Divisional round. Kawann Short contributed a large portion to the defense’s pressure. In this breakdown, we will take a look at how Short consistently got into the backfield lining up as a 3-tech defensive tackle and as a 0/1-tech nose tackle taking on double-teams.
Before we begin, check out my my previous breakdown on Russell Wilson to read how the pressure specifically affected his performance. Let’s start with his sack in the first quarter:
Situation: 2nd and 9 at CAR 47
Description: (9:35 – 1st) R.Wilson sacked at SEA 43 for -10 yards (K.Short)
The Seahawks line up with 12-personnel (1 running back, two tight ends) on the field and run a sprint right play-action fake to #24 Marshawn Lynch in the backfield. Their intention is to set up the backside screen to tight end #82 Luke Willson. Watch as LG#68 Justin Britt loops off of the line to block for Willson. Reading that it’s a screen pass #69 Allen lets up on his rush to cover the tight end, while #27 Robert McClain avoids the block by Justin Britt.
Russell Wilson sees Jared Allen in his throwing lane, so he looks to his right to scramble outside. Unfortunately, DT#98 Star Lotulelei is there in his path even though he doesn’t know it himself. DT#99 Kawann Short meanwhile, from the 3-tech, is able to use his full extension to hold off Russell Okung and chase down Wilson for the 10 yard sack. As you can see from my description, this was not a one-man effort by Short to get the sack.
From a coverage perspective downfield, the Panthers show two deep defenders pre-snap, but #20 Kurt Coleman sprints up to the line of scrimmage on the snap to play in an underneath zone while #24 Josh Norman drops into his deep half zone responsibility forming a more unique Cover 2 shell.
Situation: 3rd and 9 at CAR 42
Description: (1:59 – 4th) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short right to D.Baldwin to CAR 29 for 13 yards (C.Finnegan) [K.Short]
The Panthers are in a wide-9 alignment with Kawann Short in 3-tech hovering over LG#68 Justin Britt’s outside shoulder. Immediately after the snap, Short club-swim moves Britt through the weakside A-gap between him and the center.
Short accelerates through the pocket and hits Wilson right after he releases the ball to Baldwin on the hitch-route. Baldwin was Wilson’s first read on the play, which is why he was able to release the ball within 2.2 seconds of the snap (self-timed) before he got hit. If the Panthers’ Cover 4 did not allow Doug Baldwin to get open that quickly, this easily would have been a sack by Short. Extremely impressive.
Situation: 2nd and 10 at SEA 37
Description: (10:14 – 3rd) (No Huddle, Shotgun) R.Wilson pass incomplete short left to C.Michael (R.McClain)
The last play was not unique. Kawwan Short did it again this time on a swipe and rip move through the weakside B-gap. From snap to pass attempt I timed Wilson’s pass attempt to #32 Michael at somewhere around 1.6 seconds. Clearly Wilson wanted to get rid of the ball quickly to his first read.
The Panthers are in a Cover 2 defense, and #27 Robert McClain attacks Michael’s hitch-route breaking up the pass. Just like before, Short would have been there to collect the sack if it weren’t for Wilson’s quick decision-making. The good news is that the play was a positive for the defense as they got an important incompletion to set up a long 3rd down in the 3rd quarter.
Situation: 3rd and 10 at CAR 33
Description: (7:40 – 3rd) Tyler Lockett Pass From Russell Wilson for 33 Yrds S.Hauschka extra point is GOOD, Center-C.Gresham, Holder-J.Ryan.
Now this next play I broke down in my Russell Wilson breakdown as it resulted in a touchdown to #16 Tyler Lockett. Click here if you want to read the full details of the play.
I’m going to show it again here on this breakdown, because of how quickly Short is able to penetrate into the backfield. He does it in just about 2.5 seconds. Again, just like the previous two plays, this was Wilson’s first read after checking the position of the deep safety on his three-step drop.
Situation: 1st and 10 at CAR 43
Description: (2:20 – 3rd) (No Huddle, Shotgun) R.Wilson sacked at CAR 43 for 0 yards (C.Johnson)
In play 5, Short lines up as the 0-tech nose tackle and immediately attacks #65 Patrick Lewis pushing him backwards. Wilson feels the pressure by #41 Roman Harper blitzing around the right edge (offensive perspective), so he scrambles outside. Short disengages from the center, and chases Wilson outside.
Obviously, Wilson is much faster than Short so Wilson can allude the sack. The bonus, though, is that this keeps Wilson from reading the field as he scrambles. #95 Charles Johnson is able to finish Wilson by pushing him out-of-bounds for a 0 yard sack (official NFL box score statistic).
Situation: 1st and 10 at CAR 33
Description: (9:09 – 3rd) (No Huddle, Shotgun) R.Wilson sacked at CAR 42 for -9 yards (D.Edwards)
The Seahawks attempted to combat Short’s dominating presence by double-teaming him as LG#68 Justin Britt clearly needed assistance. While it’s very difficult to beat two NFL offensive lineman, this allows a one-on-one match-up with your other defensive lineman. In the 3rd quarter, the Seahawks decide to double-team Short and #92 Edwards makes the most of it by swimming over RG#64 Sweezy’s head to sack Wilson for a nine yard loss. Unlike in some of the previous plays I’ve shown, the Panthers’ defense is able to cover Wilson’s first read allowing their defensive front to pressure and sack him.
When Short was in the 3-tech position lining up over Justin Britt he consistently won the battle and was able to pressure Wilson. His immediate ability to get through the Seahawks’ offensive line was incredible, and even if he didn’t collect the sack in the second quarter it still would have been a productive day.
ProFootballFocus recorded seven pass disruptions and that’s not including the immediate throws Wilson made on his first read. Frankly, I’m quite surprised that with this quick pressure we didn’t see the Panthers playing more press-man at the line of scrimmage with their cornerbacks. This would have stopped Wilson from making the immediate read and throw. technique with their cornerbacks which would stop Wilson from throwing the immediate read.
Short has clearly developed into an all-around great defensive lineman in this Panthers’ defense and will continue to make an impact as the Panthers face the #2 seeded Cardinals this upcoming weekend in the NFC Conference championship game.
Follow Samuel Gold on Twitter: @SamuelRGold.