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How Seattle's Defense Dominated Aaron Rodgers and the Packers

by Photo of Taylor Armosino

See the breakdown behind how Seattle was able to stifle the Packer offense all night

How Seattle's Defense Dominated Aaron Rodgers and the Packers

In Monday nights 14-12 Seahawks victory over the Green Bay Packers, the late game controversy became the story of the night. However, overshadowed by the incompetence of the replacement officials was the sheer dominance of Seattle's defense. Against reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers, Seattle held the Packer offense to a measly 12 points. In the first half the Seahawks defense mauled the Green Bay offensive line, sacking Rodgers an astounding 8 times. Last season the Minnesota Vikings led the NFL in sacking the quarterback with 50 sacks in 16 games. That is an average of 3.13 sacks a game. Seattle had 8 in the first half. Not only did Seattle get a dominant performance from their defensive line, but also from their secondary. They were lauded by Jon Gruden in the pre-game show as the best secondary in football and they didn't disappoint. 

It was a total team defensive effort in Seattle's victory. The Packers were held under 300 yards of total offense and netted just 186 yards passing, including all their sacks. I am going to break down how the Seahawks were able to get to Rodgers so many times.

Our first play is a Packers 3rd and 10 early in the first quarter. 

The Packers come out with three receivers and a tight end on the play. Seattle is running man '2 man deep' with a 'robber' in the middle of the field. This means they are playing man coverage across the board with two deep safeties, but they drop a 'robber' into the middle of the field as opposed to bringing 4 pass rushers. A 'robber' is basically a rover in the middle that doesn't really have an assignment, but whose job is to read the play and try to make something happen. Bruce Irvin is highlighted in red, as he is the man who sacks Rodgers. 

When Aaron Rodgers drops back to pass, the Seahawks take away all his options. As you can see above, none of Rodgers' targets are open due to Seattle's great man coverage.

Rookie pass rusher Bruce Irvin is an absolute beast, a monster physically with great strength and speed, and his skills were put on full display on Monday night. On this play, he's pass rushing on right tackle Bryan Bulaga. Irvin gets right into Bulaga and drives him back into Rodgers.

Irvin gets the sack while putting Bulaga on the turf 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage. This was a sign of things to come, as the Packers couldn't block the Seahawks' 3 man passrush. 

The next play is a Packers 3rd and 1 on their own 46 yard line.

The Packers are running a play action fake on the play. They're going to fake the handoff to Cedric Benson to the left and roll Rodgers to the right. The intended receiver will be number 84 Tom Crabtree running into the flat, who you see on the far right in the picture. Fullback John Kuhn has one of the key blocks on the play, a cross block on defensive end Chris Clemons. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga, circled, also has an important block as he has to try and keep defensive tackle Brandon Meabane from disrupting Rodgers. Neither Packer makes their block. 

Circled in red, Chris Clemons shows great discipline by not falling for the play fake. Rather than chase the ball down the line like Green Bay would like, Clemons stays outside, keeping Rodgers in the pocket. Kuhn is unable to get to Clemons fast enough and the Seahawks defensive end runs right by him. Bulaga is unable to hold Meabane, thus putting Rodgers in trouble. Crabtree is open initially in the flat, but Rodgers doesn't have enough time nor a clear passing angle to deliver the ball. The two players converge on Rodgers and Clemons gets the sack. 

The third play is a Packers 3rd and 6 on their own 48 yard line.

Seattle runs a mix of man and zone on this play. At the top of the photo, or the left side of the defense, Seattle gives a 'cover 1' look. They have one safety deep while manning up the receiver, running back and tight end. They disguise the scheme by playing a linebacker right above the tight end, giving the impression that the he'll be playing man. However, the safety rolls down once the play starts to pick up the tight end. On the right side of the defense, Seattle runs zone. The cornerback plays a deep zone while the slot corner and linebacker play the intermediate routes. 

The pass rush, which I'll dissect in a second, forces Rodgers to exit the pocket to his right. But as you can see in the photo, none of Rodgers' targets are open. Seattle does a nice job of playing tight man defense and giving Rodgers nowhere to go with the ball.

Notice the way the Seattle defensive line is aligned. They have three defensive lineman lined up on left side of the offensive line. They have a tackle in the 'A' gap between the guard and center, they have  tackle in the 'C' gap playing outside the tackle and then defensive end Chris Clemons is outside of that. At the line of scrimmage, the Seahawks are running a 'stunt,' meaning the defensive tackle will try to take up two blockers by attacking the gap in-between the guard and center. The defensive end, Chris Clemons highlighted in red, rushes the inside of the line through the gap that the tackle creates. 

The tackle, Jason Jones, does an excellent job of occupying blockers. As shown in the yellow box, Jones hits the gap in-between the guard and tackle which opens up a 'stunt' lane for Clemons.

Packers center Jeff Saturday tries to roll off his block and pick up Clemons. But at Saturday's advanced age of 37, he doesn't have the lateral quickness or foot speed to make that block. Clemons sheds the block easily and goes after Rodgers.

Rodgers tries to escape the pocket and get outside, but he really has no chance. Clemons is one of the most athletic defensive ends in the league and catches the Packer quarterback easily for a 6 yard loss. 

Our last play is a Packers 2nd and 27 (yikes) from their own 36 yard line.

Green Bay brings Rodgers out in the shotgun with three receivers and a tight end. They are running a play called "all curls" in which all the receivers run curl routes. The running back stays in to block. 

Seattle is running a 'cover 3' on the play. The high safety in the middle of the field and the two cornerbacks each play a deep third of the field. The other four defenders play the underneath routes.

On the line of scrimmage, Seattle runs a basic four man pass rush. 

Despite only rushing four, Seattle gets pressure on Rodgers. Defensive end Chris Clemons beats the Packers left tackle, third year player Marshall Newhouse. Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald gets pressure up the middle. The two players force Rodgers to bail the pocket by stepping up and escaping to his left. 

When Rodgers escapes the pocket, he has nowhere to throw the ball. The Seahawks take away the four curl routes, two of which are already taken away as a product of Rodgers having to escape the pocket. 

Rodgers has nowhere to go with the ball and no room to run and is sacked by Chris Clemons. The sack was Clemons' fourth of the game and Seattle's eighth and final sack of the night. 

This was a dominant performance by the Seahawk defense. Unfortunately the scab officials took away from what was one of the great defensive performances we have seen in a long time. Seattle's defensive line absolutely mauled the Packer offensive line and the secondary followed suit. At 2-1, Seattle is one of the early surprises of the young season. Offensively they are a work in progress, but this is one of the quickest, most athletic defenses in football. They boast great outside pass rushing with Clemons and Irvin and arguably the best secondary in football. Whether or not Seattle continues this success throughout the year will be based upon the success of their offense. Take my word, that defense will perform at a high level all season. 

Let CHARGED.fm get you tickets to see the Seattle Seahawks all season long.

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