The Seattle Seahawks are something of an anomaly for the Vikings. They're a 4-4 team with little to really hang their hat on other than the fact that they are 3-0 at home and those wins have come over Dallas, Green Bay and New England – all teams in the Super Bowl conversation.
But, in the replication world that the NFL lives in, when a team does something right, opponents look to counteract that. It's more the ability to throw out something an opponent hasn't seen and make it work that separates good teams from great teams.
In a breakdown of the Seahawks' propensities, it would seem the Vikings are going to plan for what Seattle has done best – and that is, by hook or by crook, win at home.
On face value, the Seahawks look like a team that wins by defensive big plays and offensive grinding. But the numbers tell you that there is a method to their madness on both sides of the ball.
Here is a breakdown on what Seattle does – both good and bad – on both sides of the ball.
There are certain things Seattle does extremely well, perhaps most impressive is running behind their tackles, especially to their right. When Seattle runs between the tackles, they are relatively pedestrian – 27th running behind left guard, 16th running behind center and 19th rushing behind right guard. But put them on the edge and they're very impressive. It would be natural to assume that with a power back like Marshawn Lynch as the bell cow of the offense that the Seahawks would try to bang the ball inside the tackles, but that hasn't been the case. Seattle has run almost twice as many plays from the tackles out (156) as runs up the middle (82). The Seahawks have run more plays behind the tackles than any other team in the NFL – 4.03 yards to the left on 62 runs and 5.00 yards to right on 47 runs over right tackle. As such, it would appear that it will be more incumbent on Jared Allen and Brian Robison to hold the edge rather than try to bull-rush given that nobody runs directly at defensive ends more than the Seahawks. It also stands to reason that not only do linebackers Chad Greenway and Erin Henderson need to attack their spots on the run, but Antoine Winfield will need to guess right and not bite on play-action.
On the flip side, opponents have done almost all of their business between the tackles and almost all if it up the gut. Of 134 rushing plays, 44 percent of them have come directly up the middle behind the center. No team runs directly behind their center more than the Vikings, so expect to see Minnesota continue to go with its strength. If we've learned anything about the Vikings, they don't change what they do based on their opponent.
Teams have run just 35 sweeps against the Seahawks with limited success. If the Seattle defense is vulnerable, it is to runs to the left, which will make Matt Kalil and Charlie Johnson crucial to the offensive game-planning. Seattle ranks 23rd in runs over left tackle and 28th in runs over left guard. The M.O. of the Seattle run defense is that nothing works to the right – the farther right you go from center, the worse things get – Seattle averages allowing 3.9 yards over center, 3.42 over right guard, 3.41 over right tackle and 3.39 to the right. Don't think that will be lost on the Vikings.
If there is a tell to rookie Russell Wilson, it is that he really like to throw to his right. Despite his penchant for completing deep passes, 164 of Wilson's 209 passes have been less than 10 yards. Even more telling is that just 61 of his passes (29.2 percent) go his left. Despite playing in eight games when 20 of the other 31 teams have played seven games, the Seahawks are dead last in short passes to the left and over the middle, and 28th on deep passes left of the hash marks. In contrast, 110 passes (52.6 percent) go the right of the hashes – giving the impression that the rookie takes snaps and almost instinctively slides to his right – both to avoid pass rushers from the left side and clearly he is more comfortable throwing to the right side. Surprisingly, Wilson completes 72 percent of his short passes to the left and middle, while completing just 58 percent of his passes to the right. Also known for his accurate deep ball, to date Wilson has completed just 21 of 45 passes beyond 10 yards (46.7 percent). When they connect, they're dangerous, but they are few and far between. For comparison purposes, Christian Ponder has completed just 15 of 37 deep passes (40.5 percent).
You can bet your bottom dollar that the Vikings are looking at what Seattle does best. However, the biggest stat they have to deal with is that the Seahawks are 3-0 at home and they've beaten Dallas, Green Bay and New England. On paper, they're far from a great team, but, when you already have wins over three teams that, also on paper, were viewed as Super Bowl favorites when the season began, you have to show respect, because from their perspective the Vikings are the weakest team they have faced at home to date. For the Vikes to improve to 6-3, it's going to take some doing and proper scheming.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Seahawks show run, pass propensities
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