Today, we enjoy a little bit of schadenfreude. This shouldn’t be too difficult for 49ers fans; it’s not like they ever really sympathize with any franchise located outside of San Francisco. But when the team whose failures you’re examining is the Seattle Seahawks, it’s just that much easier. It should be fun, but remember there’s a cost: you’ll have to acknowledge just how good the Falcons’ offense is.
Seattle was the NFL’s top scoring defense, allowing only 15 points per game, and yet it couldn’t figure out how to keep Atlanta out of the end zone on Sunday. The Falcons put up 30 on them, the highest total Seattle allowed all season. Some could credit their taxing road playoff schedule for the failures, but at some point talent must be acknowledged. How did the Falcons do it?
For starters, Roddy White and Julio Jones went to work on Seattle’s secondary, combining for 11 catches, 135 yards and a touchdown. This is a pretty good place for 49ers fans to start with the schadenfreude, especially considering the Seahawks’ cornerback duo of Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman were touted as the best in the league (despite b0th getting caught up in an Adderall scandal one would usually find in their local high school). My favorite play was this one:
…but the corners weren’t the only ones getting burned by the Falcons. Here’s a look at Matt Ryan hitting Roddy White for a 3rd and 14 conversion.
White and Harry Douglas are lined up on top of each other and split off when the ball is snapped. Jones is lined up on the other side of the line, and he runs straight for the end zone when the ball is snapped. Once Ryan recognizes the Seahawks are playing zone, all he has to do is find White open in between two zones and hit him past the sticks. Winston Guy made this very easy for him.
Guy doesn’t seem to trust Sherman staying with Jones so he abandons his zone momentarily. In the above shot you see Guy running with his back to White as the receiver makes his cut for the first down.
Just the quarter turn from Guy has him a split-second behind defending Ryan’s pass to White. Even if he was square, however, this would be a very difficult pass to defense because of it’s placement, right on the outer-border of Guy’s zone. The Falcons scored a touchdown two plays later. It will be important for the 49ers’ defensive backs to stay disciplined in their assignments and trust their teammates if they want to avoid getting beaten.
Okay, so I’m willing to acknowledge how unimpressive the Falcons’ run game has been this season: the tandem of Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers had 1162 yards on 316 carries (3.67 avg) and only two rushing touchdowns. It was a different story on Sunday however. The two combined for 162 yards on a defense that allowed an average of 103.1 in 2012.
One run responsible for bolstering those numbers was a 45-yard scamper by Rodgers to close the first quarter.
The primary blocks were a cut by right tackle Tyson Clabo and Peter Konz sliding out to handle linebacker Bobby Wagner. The handoff initially looks like a stretch run, but Rodgers goes against the grain and slips through a small hole to get to the next level.
Two things happen once Rodgers is out in the open. This:
I don’t expect either Rodgers or Turner to do anything like this to the 49ers’ defense, but it’s a lesson on the importance of tackling. As East Bay Sports Guy pointed out, the 49ers only missed four tackles against the Packers last weekend. The Seahawks halved that total on this play alone.
Finally, we’ll have a look at Tony Gonzalez. Should the Falcons get into the red zone, Ryan will be looking to exploit Gonzalez being matched up with one of the 49ers’ linebackers or safeties. Here’s Gonzalez’s first quarter touchdown.
Ryan play fakes to Turner and immediately turns to find Gonzalez well covered in the back of the end zone. He throws the pass nevertheless, and Gonzalez takes it on his back shoulder for a phenomenal tiptoe catch right on the edge of the white.
There was really nothing Kam Chancellor could have done to stop this play. His only flaw was over-pursuing and letting Gonzalez get behind him.
While I’m sure you all enjoyed watching the Seahawks get burned as much as I did, some of these plays can only be explained by talent. Ultimately, the 49ers will need to play disciplined, fundamental defense if they want to stop the Falcons.