The Seattle Seahawks have won their last two games against the dynamic Patriots offense and a struggling but still decent potential Carolina Panthers team. The Seahawks 4-2 start has been built on a solid run game, but more importantly, one of the best defenses in the NFL. The NFC West as a whole has returned to respectability based on strong defenses.
The Seahawks defense is strong across the board with a front seven that controls the run extremely well, and a secondary that provides plenty of back-end relief. I was high on the Seahawks defense coming into the season, particularly the secondary, and they have impressed me thus far.
Greg Roman chatted with the media on Tuesday and had plenty to discuss with regards to the Seahawks defense (transcript below). Roman talked about how the Seahawks play a lot of man coverage on the outside. I took a look back at the Seahawks-Patriots game, and while it is only one game against an offense different from the 49ers, there were a few things of note.
First, the outside corners did run a lot of man coverage, but I saw something interesting in following them throughout the game. The left corner (covering the receiver on Brady's far right side) would play deeper every three or four plays. That far right side of the field often had a sizable cushion. The Patriots tried to take advantage of it at times, but they had some drops over there that cost them some easy gains.
I also noticed that the Patriots seemed to have a decent amount of success running play action to the left and then throwing right. Rob Gronkowski had some easy plays across the middle. In general, it seems like the 49ers best chance of success might be Vernon Davis crossing routes over the middle. The cornerbacks like to get a little more physical on the outside, which will be something to watch for with regards to Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham. They could be in for a dogfight with that secondary.
I did notice the Seahawks would give strong safety Kam Chancellor time against Rob Gronkowski. While Gronk did not have a spectacular day (six catches for 61 yards), I can only hope the Seahawks try to test Vernon Davis with Chancellor.
The cornerback physicality could open up some big plays at times, but it will be interesting to see how many chances Alex Smith and the 49ers offense take after getting burned this past week. The chess match between Greg Roman and Gus Bradley will be one to watch all night long on Thursday.
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman
Press Conference - October 16, 2012
San Francisco 49ers
"Good afternoon. We're back in the division. The Seattle Seahawks defense, I think, they're ranked fourth overall statistically. Pretty high against the run, they play a lot of man coverage outside, their corners are doing a real good job. Their secondary has great length. They're getting a lot of production out of their front seven. They're a team that we know, obviously played them twice last year. On a short week, we've got a lot to get done. Any questions?"
Pretty much the same as you saw last year, as far as personnel wise?
"Yeah, for the most part. They've got a young linebacker in there who's doing a really good job. But pretty much same team and they've continued to get better. They've got a good defense obviously, very productive. The secondary, the two safeties are very good players, corners are doing a great job out there and it's allowing the front seven to fly around. So, personnel is very similar and another year. They appear to be even more cohesive than they were last year."
Why are you playing QB Colin Kaepernick so much? What are you hoping to get from him that you're not getting from QB Alex Smith?
"Colin is doing a nice job in his understudy role. There are times when Colin can bring in a different dynamic to the game and that's week-to-week. I think as a backup quarterback in this league you have to be ready to play at any time. Colin has had some opportunities to come in and contribute the past couple weeks and it's week-to-week. We're always going to do whatever we feel gives us the best chance to win. At the same time, Colin is a guy that's really progressing in his second year. His first year was somewhat of a redshirt year. But he's doing a nice job. He brings in a different dynamic when we bring him in there. We can run some quarterback runs, some play-actions off those types of plays. He's doing a nice job, just got to keep his development coming."
Is there ever a fear that by putting him in the game too much you disrupt the flow of the offense?
"I think that's a concern. I think it's always a concern. I think everything is a concern. But yeah, I think that's something that we've got to be mindful of. Got to really take a look at and try to make the best decision for the team."
Do you think it was disruptive against the Giants on Sunday?
"I don't know that for a fact, but it is possible. We're always going to make those decisions in the best interest of the team and go from there. Evaluate it and go from there, moving forward."
Speaking with some of the players after the game they say it was hard to get into a rhythm. How many plays would you say... inaudible?
"I think we've got a better group of plays this year that we've had enough time on over the past year that we can lean on to kind of settle us down, if need be. In that game, just the different circumstances never allowed us to get into the kind of rhythm we wanted to get into. We've got a pretty good roster of plays that we can get to and hopefully that grows. But I feel real comfortable with that."
"I think the responsibility of the offense falls at my feet and when we don't produce enough, that falls on me. Obviously, we need a better plan, we need to coach the plan better. We need to execute the plan better, but step one is, let's have a better plan. That falls at my feet. I wish last week I would have done a better job of giving the players an opportunity to be successful. That's something we try to do every week and didn't get it done last week. That's really my responsibility."
16 offensive plays came from the shotgun formation in the first quarter and 12 of those plays were passes. Why did you feel during the week that would be an effective way to attack the Giants?
"You know, I really don't want to talk about strategy. But, whether you're in the gun or under, some plays are better in the gun. A lot of times quarterbacks are more comfortable in the shotgun on certain passes, whereas another quarterback might like it from under center. So, it's pretty specific to the player."
What have you seen from their front their first round draft pick Seahawks DE Bruce Irvin, as a pass rusher?
"Good pass rusher, really quick. They run a lot games and line twists with him up front. He's done a nice job, really executing his job and getting penetration in passing situations. The guy can play with a really low center of gravity, dip, rip and trim the fat as they say around the corner. So, he's a pretty dynamic player."
You have a defensive line that has a lot of gains. There's a good chance you may have a re-shuffled offensive line. How do you accommodate for those factors in your gameplan?
"I think you've just got to work, try to be as specific as you can on what they do and work on that with whoever is playing. A team that runs a lot of games, you've got to spend extra time on games. A team that blitzes a lot, you've got to spend more time on blitzing. On a short week, there's got to be a real focus put on those."
In that aspect, G/T Alex Boone is moving from the inside to the outside, especially for the weak side, does that become a factor in the game?
"Everything is a factor and that certainly could be. You can do different things with your protection elections to account for that if you need to. I think every week you look at what their scheme, what their personnel presents and try to put the best plan together in protection, relative to who you're playing with."
What was your assessment of Boone at left tackle and G Leonard Davis at right guard in the quarter and a half that they played?
"I thought those guys graded out pretty well. Thought they did a nice job of adjusting quickly to a situation that we hadn't spent a lot of time practicing on. Alex gets reps at left tackle every week in practice as does Leonard at right guard."
Are you surprised at the success that Seahawks CB Richard Sherman has had at the corner back position? You had him at Stanford.
"No. Richard is doing a really nice job for them up there. Real happy to see a former player that you coached do well. Both of their corners have great length, and they like to get up and bump and use that length to their advantage. Richard has done a really nice job and real proud of him."
These last two weeks, you guys had a record-setting performance against the Bills and everything is great and then a not so good performance against the Giants. How do you sift through all of that and try to figure out where you guys are?
"We just focus on today and the challenge we have here with a division opponent, Seattle, coming in. Every game is different, every week is different, every opponent is different, you match up different. So, we just move forward one day at a time. Take it one day at a time and try to get better each day."
Is Kaepernick being groomed to take over next year as the starting quarterback?
"Kaepernick is the backup quarterback right now. He's really in an understudy role and we need him to make improvement if we need him out there on the field. He needs to be ready at all times to play."
Is he being groomed to take over down the line?
"That remains to be seen. We like Alex Smith as our quarterback. Alex Smith has won a lot of football games the past couple years for us. He's a winner, he's our quarterback and wouldn't have it any other way."
Do they move Irvin around, left side, right side?
"They will. They'll move him around some. They've got a couple different nickel packages. He'll line up primarily in one spot, but he won't end up there after the ball is snapped."
What's the most difficult thing about preparing in a short week, offensively?
"I think there's a lot, it definitely changes a lot of what you do. You can't do too much because you can't practice too much. So, I feel real good about where we are this year on a short week relative to where we were last year on a short week, just based on time on task and what we've been able to build up experience on. We're a lot better off than we were last year, but still there's
a lot of different challenges just from a gameplan specific perspective. How specific can you be this week, because you really don't have a lot of time to work on new things. Time is of the essence."