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How Denver Broncos offense can beat Seattle Seahawks defense

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Detailed breakdown of the strategies that might be used by the #1 offense vs the #1 defense.

The Seattle defense is entirely predictable:

This season the Seahawks have showed and played the same look pre- and post-snap on 87.7% of plays. They run with a single-high safety in a ‘middle of the field closed’ look 78% of the time, and that includes all of the situations that practically dictate they won’t run with just one high safety. In the open field you can practically guarantee you’ll be looking at one deep safety. When Peyton Manning lines up across from the Seahawks’ defense he knows exactly what he is going to see – a simple Cover-3 or Cover-1 look, with Earl Thomas sitting in the middle of the field.

He’ll be staring at something that looks like this:


The Seahawks run more or less the same coverage most of the time simply because they can. They have better players in their secondary than most teams so they don’t have to overthink things. Earl Thomas is one of just a few safeties in the game with the range to make playing a single-high defense viable and have an impact while doing so. Richard Sherman is a lockdown corner on one side and, since coming into the lineup on the other side, Byron Maxwell has almost identically matched Sherman’s coverage numbers.

In the middle, Kam Chancellor gives them a physical, big-hitting presence of an additional linebacker and when they go to nickel or dime formations they have talented defensive backs to bring in.

They can afford to line up and have an offense know roughly what they’re looking at.

Expect the Broncos to beat the Seahawks across the middle:

The Seahawks often run a combination of man on the outside and zone across the middle, and the Broncos will use a series of plays that look to flood those zones and stretch specific areas of the defense.

Across the middle the combination of Welker and Julius Thomas will likely be huge. The pair can run a combination of high-low drag or crossing patterns that put the linebackers in a bind.  Denver will likely also create this combination using a running back coming out of the backfield to achieve the same effect. They are looking to pressure the underneath coverage from both sides, and together with those hook and curl routes on the outside, stress one side of the defense until it cracks and provides one of the receivers with a window.


Welker in particular has caught all six passes thrown his way when he has been targeted on those intermediate depth crossing routes and will be a real danger against this formation. The interesting matchup here is whether Earl Thomas will key on this route from his center-field position and use his closing speed to lay a big hit on the smaller receiver at some point.

I felt like I was playing Madden. 

Seahawks by 17. 

Seahawks couldn't beat Carson Palmer. 

How they gonna beat the greatest offense of all time by 17? Four defense TDs?

Ah well! "Defense wins championships" :-)

Nate Silver called it for the Seahawks.  That's all I needed to know.

Ah, I had not noticed that -- I love his analyses. Thanks for the pointer!

Bill Barnwell explains how the Seahawks dominated the Broncos:

It wasn't even close:

More than any other, one old talking point rung true. Football is a war of attrition, and by the time these two teams had reached the sport’s biggest stage, the Seahawks had won that war. The depth of their relatively healthy roster came through on Sunday, as they exploited overmatched Denver backups stretched into starting roles, while late-round draftees and backups came up with key contributions on both sides of the ball. When Seattle’s dominant pass defense neutralized Manning, the Broncos simply didn’t have a team capable of stepping up and rising to the occasion. Instead, when its star was shook, Denver got stomped.

So how did the entire world get fooled into thinking it was going to be close?

I guess we figured Denver's rush was better than it is, and that Denver's highly injured defense wouldn't be on the field most of the time because Peyton Manning would do a good job controlling the clock.

After all, the Vegas odds had the teams almost evenly matched.

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