A lot of people are saying after Seattle's 34-7 win over the Saints on Monday night that the Seahawks whipped them physically. I thought it was far more of a tactical domination by Seattle than a physical show of force.
The Saints are a shot play team. Coach Sean Payton designs plays and concepts to get the Saints those deep shots in so many ways. They're hard to defend because they're so many variations to prepare for. But I thought the Seahawks had an exceptional understanding of the Saints' shot play concepts. The Saints tried their shot plays, and many times Drew Brees didn't throw it because the Seahawks completely took it away.
Seattle had a great feel for what the route combinations would be. There were back-to-back plays early in the second quarter, two Saints staples that the Seahawks took away, that tell you exactly what I mean:
• The Saints had "sluggo seam" (a slant-and-go by Kenny Stills and a seam route by Jimmy Graham) called, and I guarantee based on their "12" personnel (one back, two tight ends) that they expected single-high safety. That's Seattle's base defense.
But the Seahawks played out of a two-deep shell, like they anticipated the Saints' shot play.
With safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas both deep, that takes away the seam route. So Brees checked it down for a 7-yard gain to Robert Meachem.
• The Saints went right back to a shot play the next down, out of "22" personnel with Meachem as the only receiver. There's max protection, Meachem has a minus split so he can run a deep over route and get on a safety. This is a play we've seen 1,000 times.
You could tell as soon as the play started that Thomas knew exactly what it was. He was waiting for Meachem.
The Seahawks also took away the secondary route to Ben Watson, and Brees checked it down for 1 yard.
Those two plays were representative of the game.
Even the Michael Bennett 22-yard fumble return for a touchdown that gave the Seahawks a 10-0 lead was the result of the Seahawks taking away a shot play downfield. The Saints had a wheel route to Stills called, and got him on linebacker K.J. Wright. But cornerback Richard Sherman played the midpoint between Graham and Stills so well, it wasn't clearly defined for Brees that Stills was open and he had to hold the ball, allowing Cliff Avril to sack him and knock the ball loose.
This type of strategic battle is why I love football. This is what football is.
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NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Throughout the season, Cosell will join Shutdown Corner to share his observations on the teams, schemes and personnel from around the league.