It's entirely possible that Dwight Freeney was trying to come back for this game simply because he would be able to line up across from third-string left tackle Brandon Frye. Frye is starting in place of reserve tackle Sean Locklear, who would have been starting in place of renowned bookend Walter Jones.
It is doubtful that Jones will suit up and Seattle head coach Jim Mora Jr. has said that he is structuring his game plan in anticipation of Jones missing Week 4 against the Colts.
Frye struggled in Week 3 against a similar — and potent — Cover 2 pass rush from the Chicago Bears. The Bears tend to blitz more frequently than the Colts — even with the new "aggressive" emphasis on blitzing brought on by new defensive coordinator Larry Coyer — but they have the same basic types of players up front and supply the bulk of their pressure with the front four, encouraging the "tackle the ball carrier on the way to the quarterback" mentality in their linemen as well.
Freeney will not play, but Frye will still face a daunting rotation of Raheem Brock, Robert Mathis (switching sides for matchup purposes), and Keyunta Dawson. Right tackle Ray Willis is the starter by default, but is more of a run blocker than a technician and should have his hands full with Mathis.
Seattle attempted to combat Chicago's pass rush in three ways: by running the ball straight at the edge rushers, by calling a lot of screen passes, and by running a lot of max protect formations.
Interestingly enough, backup quarterback Seneca Wallace did not execute as many rollout plays as Matt Hasselbeck does in a typical game. This is strange, considering that Wallace is more mobile than Hasselbeck, rollouts tend to slow down a fierce pass rush, and they also simplify things for a quarterback since he only has to read half the field.
Screen passes and roll-outs tend not to work against Indianapolis, though, because the Colts defenders pursue the ball too well. Indianapolis has been stout along the edges, allowing an average of 3.67 yards per carry to left tackle and left end and 3.25 yards per carry to right tackle and right end against non-Wildcat formations.
This leaves the area between the tackles — the Achilles heel for the Indianapolis defense and an area of strength for the Seahawks offense — as the most vulnerable zone for the Colts.
Max Unger, Rob Sims, and Steve Vallos are all big, powerful players that were successful against the Bears in Week 3. Seattle was able to establish the run up the middle — they average 4.32 yards per rushing attempt (10th best in the league) and the Colts are allowing 3.94 yards per attempt (20th best) — and was able to slow things down a bit for a while. If they can stick with the running game and put Wallace in a position to win, they have a chance at controlling this game in a similar fashion to the way Miami controlled the clock in Week 2.
Seattle has a great deal of talent at the receiver position, but don't have one player that stands head and shoulders above everyone else. They don't have that one guy that defenses focus on and that the quarterback can count on with the game on the line.
Nate Burleson leads the team with 20 receptions, T.J. Houshmandzadeh seems to be catching on with 14 receptions, and Deion Branch can always be dangerous, as Colts fans well know from his days with New England.
The game plan against Chicago seemed to be to keep Wallace alive long enough to find Burleson or Houshmanzedah underneath, or in one of the holes in the Cover 2 zone on the perimeter or in the intermediate middle — the 15-yard out and the 15-yard in.
The Seahawks didn't press the ball down the field and their longest passing play was a 39-yard touchdown completion to running back Julius Jones on a screen pass.
Tight end John Carlson is a bit of an X factor, but only in the red zone. He works the underneath and intermediate routes for this offense and those routes appear to be very popular among the wide receivers as well as the tight ends.
With only three receivers — sometimes four, but very rarely — on the pattern, Wallace usually has an intermediate option, an underneath option, and a checkdown option. It is not a very exotic or explosive offense with him behind center, so the big item for the Colts is to make sure that there are at least two men assigned to Carlson when the Seahawks get inside the Indianapolis 20.
Even though Seattle gained 103 yards against a strong Bears run defense in Week 3, everyone but tailback Julius Jones had a hard time of it.
Jones actually had 98 of those yards on 19 carries, while the rest of the team gained a total of five yards on nine carries. Jones was effective both as a tailback and a receiver — although he only really busted out on the aforementioned 39-yard touchdown catch — but was most effective running between the tackles.
With Walter Jones and Sean Locklear both shelved and Willis overmatched, Julius Jones didn't gain much ground running wide, but did more than enough damage up the middle to make an impression.
Thus far, 2009 has not been a very productive year for Edgerrin James. He has 17 carries for 43 yards (2.5 yards per carry average) and has looked slow and hesitant with the ball in his hands.
He's still a very capable receiver and very willing pass blocker, but he does not have the same burst or slashing ability that he once possessed. Justin Forsett, another former Colt, has averaged 5.6 yards per carry, but on only ten carries. He has flashed potential, but will remain a change-of-pace back with Julius Jones getting the bulk of the work and production.
In order to properly pace this game and properly insulate Wallace, Jones needs to gain yards in chunks, gash the Colts defense, and help set up the play-action passing game.
Mora is more of a run-oriented coach than Mike Holmgren was and he will stick with the running game even if it is not immediately or consistently effective. It is up to the Indianapolis defense to stop Jones and up to the offense to put some points on the board and force Mora to play against his team's strengths.
Everything stated so far is not meant to diminish Seneca Wallace's role in this offense. Wallace is a talented athlete, an accurate passer, and a sound decision maker. There are just certain things that he does not do well, the coaching staff understands those limitations, and they have structured the offensive game plan with those limitations in mind.
Think of Wallace as a faster, shorter version of Chad Pennington. He has the same issues with deep passes, the inability to strike quickly, and an innate knack for running a smooth efficient offense.
Seattle is looking to limit his mistakes, maximize his potential, and keep him from being in a position where he needs to score a lot of points in a short period of time.
Wallace experienced similar issues in Week 3 trying to run a two-minute offense to those that Pennington faced in Week 2. As long as Wallace is given safe options, is able to go through his progressions, and go with the decision that makes the most sense, he'll be fine — and he'll start to chew up and wear down the Colts defense.
But, if he's put in a situation where he needs to step outside of his comfort zone in order to win the game, he'll be . . . well, uncomfortable.
By shutting down Jones and putting pressure on the Seahawks passing game early, Indianapolis should be able to shake the entire offense out of their comfort zone. Once that happens, critical mistakes will not be made, but enough small ones will. That will give the ball back to Peyton Manning and the Colts offense. The way they're playing, that's the most critical mistake a team can make.
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