While their offense has more issues than I care to get into, their defense has been one of the Top 10 best defenses through the first quarter of the season and in the Top 5 regarding pass-defense.
The Legion of Boom remains strong. CB Richard Sherman might be the leader of this unit, but he is just one of the many heads on this monster.
Sherman and Company
As stated before, the Seattle pass-defense is strong because they have playmakers at almost every position, starting with Sherman. During the Colts game, Sherman covered WR TY Hilton who didn’t have a single catch when Sherman was on him. In fact, Hilton was targeted once against Sherman.
To see a complete breakdown of Sherman’s performance against the Colts, watch the breakdown by SB Nation’s Samuel Gold.
Sherman is not only physically talented, but he’s incredibly intelligent. During the last month, one play that seems to work quite a bit against Seattle is the Twins-formation where the receivers set up the pick.
But agains the Titans, Sherman recognizes the possibility of the pick immediately and adjusts.
Opposite Sherman is CB Jeremy Lane, who is a game-time decision on Sunday due to a groin injury. Look for CB Shaquill Griffin to fill in the vacancy. Griffin holds his own and like Sherman, holds very tight coverage down the field.
Even on on come-back routes, Griffin keeps the separation to a minimum.
Another guy to be wary of is CB Justin Coleman, who reminds me a lot of CB LaMarus Joyner. Both corners play very tight, strong man-coverage and are able to capitalize on mistakes made by the quarterback.
Anchor in the Middle
ProFootballFocus is in love with LB Bobby Wagner, and with the way he plays, it’s understandable why. He’s one of the most balanced linebackers in the league, and his smaller stature gives the offense no advantage. He keeps tight coverage in man and plays a zone-coverage that is always close to the line-of-scrimmage (LOS) to avoid yards after the easy catch.
Wagner also reads the quarterbacks eyes very well. Like a interior defensive lineman against the run, Wagner does his best to block the lanes against the pass.
Don't sleep on Brian Hoyer and the 49ers passing game. Any given Thursday. pic.twitter.com/dVSLDYNq6A— Tim Godfrey (@MrTimGodfrey) September 20, 2017
While this was aimed at how bad QB Brian Hoyer was, it shouldn’t cloud the fact that Wagner read Hoyer the entire time.
Thomas and Chancellor
This duo complement each other so well. FS Earl Thomas is almost always playing the Cover 1 safety, while SS Cam Chancellor is the physical safety stopping the play near or at the LOS.
On this play, the Seahawks show Cover 2, but Chancellor flies down the field to corral WR Donte Moncrief, who was covered by Sherman. The Colts gained one yard.
When the Colts tried to convert a short third-down, Chancellor played solid man-coverage at the line and stopped the conversion. Chancellor can be used anywhere in the defense, and he is always showing up at the tackle.
According to ProFootballFocus, Chancellor had only allowed on catch for five yards on four targets through the first two weeks of the season. Thomas allowed three yards on three catches.
So, How Do You Beat the Passing Defense?
First and foremost, run the ball. Opposing running backs are gaining 5 yards-per-carry against them and have surrendered around 150 rushing yards in the last three games.
As I pointed out earlier, Sherman is smart enough to read the pick and adapt. However, not everyone is Sherman. Opposing offenses ran Trips or Twins quite a few times, and managed to get solid chunks of yards when they needed it most. On the Colts 12-play drive that ended with a touchdown run, they were able to get a yard from the end-zone thanks to the pick.
Another way to go is to confuse the defense using bunches.
The Green Bay Packers, Titans, and Colts confused the defense quite a bit when they had their receivers bunched up.
Titans QB Marcus Mariota passes to TE Delanie Walker for positive yards, but he had what might have been a bigger gain with WR Eric Decker.
It’s not a guarantee that every bunch will lead to yards, but miscommunication between corners and linebackers has happened often enough that it’s become a noticeable habit.
Play-action pass worked very well for the Titans during their Week 3 win against the Seahawks. One play that stuck out to me was a fake end-around that looked similar to what the Rams run with WR Tavon Austin.
There were two instances in the Colts and Titans games where the Seahawks bit pretty hard on play-action screens. Those plays resulted in big gains of at least 15 yards.
Eight defenders committed to that play-action, creating a mismatch that allowed the Titans to run more than 75 yards down the field for the touchdown.