The various option schemes (read, spread and pistol) that have castrated the NFL defensively with the likes of RG3, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick racking up historic passing and running numbers was the big scoop in 2012.
QBs played Jedi mind tricks with defenses ill prepared for the philosophy switch needed to curb the indecisiveness and pandemonium “New World Offenses” produce.
It could be likened to alien space invaders emerging from another planet and totally flipping the inhabited planet’s culture upside down.
Some experts said it would take time for teams to adjust personnel and approach to stop the proliferation of spread-option attacks, but the Seattle Seahawks beg to differ.
On Sunday night, the matchup between the San Francisco 49ers attack and Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” secondary was a knock out win for Pete Carroll’s squad, and further proof that the Seahawks are the Bill Russell to the 49er’s (or any other pass-option drunk squad’s) Wilt Chamberlain.
Seattle suffocated Jim Harbaugh’s vaunted O using a heavy rush, glue man coverage and fast linebacker play.
When Colin Kaepernick hit the 400-yard passing mark and Frank Gore gutted holes for a buck plus in a Week 1 win over Green Bay, the football world raised its collective eyebrows and shuttered with fear.
Everybody except Seattle, who made it clear in their 29-3 drubbing of the 49ers on Sunday night, that Jay-Z couldn’t drop a better defensive blue print for knocking the read-option’s hustle. Gore was ghost, managing just 16 yards on nine carries and the rest of the offense followed suit. You can’t say it was just a bad night for the 49ers attack either. Seattle, who has outscored San Fran 71-16 in their last two meetings, ate the 49ers food last year in a 42-13 win at the end of the regular season. Kaepernick had the worst career rating of his young career that night (72.0).
Kaepernick put the loss all on him.
“We’re not going to win games if I play like that,” the tattooed assassin, who completed only 13 of his 28 passes for 127 yards and threw a career-high three interceptions and no touchdowns, told mercurynews.com.
Kaepernick’s accountability is appreciated, but the Seahawks do all of the things that slow down the multiple-read option designs teams are having success with, and it all starts with the best secondary in the game.
The Seahawks believe the keys to stopping the read option and zone-read option are a crop of multi-talented, play-making corners and overall speed on D. Tight man coverage is the key to stopping the passing aspect.
Led by Richard Sherman, the self-proclaimed “best shutdown corner in the game,” the Hawks secondary is second to none. It’s not just the starters either. Pete Carroll and John Schneider have built a deep crop of secondary soldiers behind Brandon Browner, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.
A former track and football star at Stanford, Sherman, burst onto the stage last season with 64 tackles, 24 passes defended and eight interceptions. He was named to every All-Pro squad in existence. Last night he totally shut down Boldin, holding him to just one catch after Quan’s “throwback” decimation of Green Bay.
Sherman gets the most props and talks the most junk, but safety Earl Thomas is a huge key to Seattle being able to force Kaepernick’s four turnovers.
He’s a safety that’s brolic enough to make open-field tackles, has the 4.37 speed to run in coverage and has the quickness to adjust if he misreads the play.
Cornerback Brandon Browner affords luxury size and toughness. He’s the biggest CB in the NFL and one of the most physically imposing defenders in the league.
Add in fourth-year safety Chancellor, a classic run-stopper who racked up 101 tackles last season and Walter Thurmond, who is finally healthy and a beast in nickel coverage, and Seattle has all of the pieces needed to rip the read-option to pieces.
Seattle flexed its all-world muscle early at Century Link Field, where a record crowd of 68,338 fans were treated to a lockdown harsher than solitary in Sing Sing.
With San Francisco driving deep in Hawks territory with about 9:00 left in the first quarter, Kaepernick’s pass was tipped by Thurmond and intercepted at the one yard line. On that play, the Seahawks had four down lineman and seven guys back defending the pass. It seemed to confuse Kaepernick a bit, who was expecting them to stack the box and play the bread-and-butter man coverage that NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth described as “devastating” on Sunday night.
Another important aspect of stopping the New World Offense is linebackers who can set the edge and make plays on the pigskin. Seattle’s secondary was getting it in, but its defensive ends and linebackers, especially Bobby Wagner were all over the field blowing stuff up and jawing with Kaepernick. They were putting more pressure on Kaep than a married father of six getting a paternity test for potential triplets with his side piece.
With 10:39 in the second quarter San Fran fullback Bruce Miller was hit with a holding call for a safety in the end zone. Those were Seattle’s first points of the game and how appropriate that it would come from the defense.
With 8:08 left in the second quarter, Kaepernick was popped and stripped. This time, the ball was recovered by the ‘Hawks at the 49ers 28-yard line. The game was pretty much a wrap at halftime.
As these offenses revolutionize scoring philosophies in the NFL, the Legion of Boom is pretty much redefining D at the same time. With so many props being given to offensive genius and QB athleticism, let’s not forget football is still played on two sides of the rock. Like a bassoon, it’s a game of point-and-counterpoint.
So while these young gunner QBs barn-burn the NFL flashing smiles and racking up miles of yardage to match their newfound celebrity, once they venture into the Seahawk's cauldron, they’re likely to leave with broken spirits, stares of bewilderment and missing teeth.