This post is a continuing feature on some things the Seahawks did well last season which the new coaching staff can take into consideration as they implement changes on both sides of the ball.
Handling blitz pressure situations was one of Seattle’s main struggles offensively. And once teams figured that out, the Seahawks saw a steady diet of blitz packages during the second half of 2009, even against teams like Green Bay who normally do not blitz very much.
The result was a dinged up Matt Hasselbeck who missed two games because of a rib injury and played most of the season with an injured shoulder. Seattle quarterbacks were sacked 41 times in 2009, the 10th most in the league.
Seattle’s inability to protect Hasselbeck in blitz situations also resulted in the offense not sustaining drives. The Seahawks finished last in the NFL in time of possession, and 23rd overall in third down percentages because of the amount of third and long situations they faced. And Seattle finished 30th in red zone percentage, showing the team’s struggles in putting points on the board near the goal line.
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However, one way Seattle successfully thwarted the blitz was the screen game. The Seahawks were one of the better screen teams in 2009, with nine of Seattle’s 38 plays of 20-plus yards or more through the air on screen passes to a running back or receiver.
The plays were either screen passes called in the huddle or an audible at the line of scrimmage (smoke screen) because of pressure coming up front.
Although they struggled at times to effectively run them during Mike Holmgren’s tenure, the screen game was a staple in his offense because of the ability for a big play when a team blitzed. Holmgren considered screens like a long handoff – another way to get an elusive running back or receiver the ball in space.
Justin Forsett is perhaps the team’s best runner on screens because of his ability to make people miss in the open field. Forsett had several big plays on screens last season, which you can check out here, here and here.
Deion Branch had a nice gain on a wide receiver screen in the last game of he season against Tennessee, something I expected to see more of last season. And Nate Burleson is another guy Seattle can use, if they bring him back, in the screen game to create more big plays, like this one here.
Former Notre Dame head coach Bob Davie does a nice job of breaking down the screen game in college here.
And Greg Cosell of NFL Films does a nice job of breaking down the 16-yard touchdown by Pierre Thomas on a screen pass for New Orleans in this year’s Super Bowl.