We’ve looked at one of the Broncos’ staple plays, the receiver screen to Demaryius Thomas. Now it’s time to break down one of the plays Seattle loves to use when it wants to take a shot at a big gain: The play-action bootleg with quarterback Russell Wilson.
A great example came in the Seahawks’ second game against the 49ers this season. They lined up in base personnel, with two tight ends, and everything about the play has the look of a zone run to the left (one of the Seahawks’ base plays). The hard run action to the left impacted three San Francisco defenders: linebackers NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis and safety Eric Reid. The linebackers in particular stood there and stared in the backfield and they didn’t move.
Then Wilson faked the handoff and rolled back to his right. And tight end Luke Willson ran behind all three defenders.
The Seahawks had two personal protectors for Wilson on the bootleg pass: the right tackle, and the tight end who was flexed out left and came across the formation at the snap. Willson is in the clear because of the hesitation of the three defenders on the play fake. In my opinion Doug Baldwin, the receiver who was wide right, shouldn’t have run a stutter-go route, just a simple post or go route to get cornerback Carlos Rogers totally out of the play. Instead, Rogers almost becomes a factor in the play. But in the end it doesn’t matter, as Willson scores.
This is how the Seahawks get to their shot plays. Almost every team will take their shot plays from between the 40s. That one came from the 49ers’ 39, which is close enough. And it came on a second-and-8, which for the Seahawks isn’t that much different than first-and-10, especially with two tight ends on the field. It was a normal down and distance for Seattle.
In my opinion, I think they’ll take some of these shots early in the Super Bowl to see if they can get on the board quick. I think they’ll feel if they can get a couple touchdowns early, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning will get impatient against their defense. That’s just my personal theory. But I do think they’ll try this stuff early in the game to see if they can hit a big play or two.
Broncos linebackers Danny Trevathan and Paris Lenon are very reactive to the run, which might help open up the play-action bootleg. And the Broncos’ starting safeties, Duke Ihenacho and Mike Adams, are susceptible as well.
Then there’s another side to the play-action bootleg, and it’s that Wilson can run off of it.
This play-action bootleg gets the defense stretched horizontally and vertically. Now Wilson has opportunities to run, and that’s big for the Seahawks. They’re not a great passing team and they look for a big Wilson run or two to be a factor. You have to defend that too.
A great example of how the design of the play opened things up for Wilson came on a 23-yard run by him against Tennessee. He faked the handoff, rolled to the right, and Tennessee’s secondary defended the two receivers in the route very well. So Wilson tucked it, got outside the pass rush and took off into the open field. He was able to do that and had a lot of space because the defense was spread out, first by the play-action fake and then by the deep routes.
The Seahawks don’t have great receivers, but with this kind of play you don’t need great receivers because it’s all scheme based. It stretches the defense and also gives Wilson the potential to run. You’re going to see this play a few times in the game. Whether it’s successful or not remains to be seen, but you’ll see these concepts against the Broncos in the Super Bowl. This is what the Seahawks use to create their big-play opportunities.
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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.