Thoughts on the Seahawks overtime victory over Denver

The Seattle Seahawks (2-1) struggled during an overtime victory over the Denver Broncos (2-1) on Sunday in Seattle, Wash. Seattle’s defense struggled in the fourth quarter, and future hall of fame quarterback Peyton Manning marched the Broncos’ 80-yards down the field in 41 seconds for the game tying touchdown and two point conversion.

Seattle had a 17-3 lead heading into the fourth quarter, and had really dominated the ball game. The Broncos ended up outscoring the Seahawks 17-3 in the fourth quarter to tie the game and send it to overtime.

Honestly, the game shouldn’t have gone to overtime because the Seahawks dominated the first half, and immediately forced a Broncos’ punt to open up the second half. But the offense responded with its own three and out, thanks to some interesting play calls by offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. It wasn’t only the play calls that were interesting — really mystifying is a more appropriate term — in the second half, Bevell’s use of players, and formation management, were also questionable.

Not having running back Marshawn Lynch, or wide receivers Percy Harvin and/or Doug Baldwin in on a crucial third and long situation should be a fire-able offense. Fortunately for Bevell, Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson put the offense on his back and led the team on the game winning drive, on its first (and only) possession in overtime.

Seattle’s offense wasn’t the only unit to struggle in the second half, as the defense collapsed in the fourth quarter and allowed Manning to tie the game. On Denver’s game tying drive, Manning picked on Seahawks corner back Byron Maxwell repeatedly; it was a strategy that worked. Maxwell was unable to execute the zone coverage schemes, leaving massive wholes for Manning and his wide receivers to exploit.

While Maxwell struggled, the defensive schemes left a lot to be desired on the Broncos’ last drive of the game. Defensive coordinator Brady Quinn had his unit playing prevent defense with zone coverage. The prevent defense didn’t get any pressure on Manning, and allowed him to find the gigantic holes in coverage generated by Maxwell.

It’s interesting to note that this isn’t the first time the Seattle defense has allowed its opponent to drive late in the game — the Hawks in the lead — while playing prevent defense. In the NFC Divisional Round in 2013, the Seahawks defense (led by Gus Bradley) allowed Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan to drive the field and put his team in position to kick the game winning field goal. After that loss, I had this to say (excuse the terribad writing);

“It shouldn’t have been a surprise to see Ryan pick apart the Seahawks secondary when they were sitting back in zone coverage.”

Combining zone coverage and prevent defense is not something that the Seahawks defense has been good at under head coach Pete Carroll. The defensive failure at the end of the playoff game against the Falcons showed that, and Manning’s drive in the final minute of regulation on Sunday confirmed it.

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