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Last week against Houston, Russell Wilson set a franchise record for passing yards with 452 yards on 41 attempts. Both the number of attempts and the yards/attempt (11.02) ranked second highest for the season. It was the second game this year that Russ threw for 4 touchdowns, and the second game of the year where Seattle cracked 40 points. The Seahawks offense was hugely successful, with one minor exception.

Removing Russell Wilson from the equation, Seattle rushed 17 times for 3 yards (including Lockett’s 1 run for -2 yards). Including Russell, Seattle still managed to rush for just 1.57 yards/carry. That’s by far their worst rushing performance of the year, nearly a yard less than their second worst effort, and it marks the 5th game where Seattle has rushed for less than 3.5 yards/carry this season. Not surprising, Seattle ranks as one of the worst rushing offenses by DVOA. At 28th, the Seahawks are better than just the Jets, Lions, Dolphins, and Cardinals at running the ball.

That the passing game has managed to remain potent while the rushing game fails should not be a surprise. There’s little to support the idea that running well or running often helps a quarterback pass well. A question that is frequently asked, however, is how does rushing affect play action passing?

If Sunday’s game is any indication, the answer to that question is that rushing affects play action very little. We’ve already discussed how poorly Seattle ran against Houston and, while they ran far too often considering how bad the run game was, 16 rushes in a game is hardly pounding the ball. Despite that, Seattle called 7 play action passes on their second and third to last drives.

Seattle created several big play opportunities on each of those plays, converting on 3 of them for 81 yards and a touchdown (along with a 7 yard touchdown called back on a penalty).

Obviously this is anecdotal evidence. It also comes with the caveat that, while Seattle ran neither often nor well, Houston defenders likely believed Seattle was willing to run. How effective would those plays have been if Seattle was known as a pass always team that quickly abandons the run? Who knows. But with how poorly Seattle has ran the ball and little evidence to support the idea that running helps passing, the Seahawks should try to find out.

4 Responses

  1. MattyB

    I’m not sure I buy the argument that Seattle ran too often. Houston sold out to prevent the run and left themselves vulnerable to play action. Play action worked late in the game precisely because we continued to run the ball.

    Reply
  2. Nate

    One interesting thing to me about our play action passing game is the separation russ has in the pocket. While the impact is felt down field by freezing linebackers / safeties… it also appears to give russ some breathing room in terms of pressure. His drops on these play action passes are similar to a standard 7 step drop, but done with a moving pocket, giving him a chance to hit routes that take longer to develop.

    Reply
  3. Rowdy Yates

    I think not being able to run (Lacy for 1.3 yards p/c, all game long this Sunday, for example) will impact play action, eventually.
    Houston stacked the box to stop the run. That could look like overkill soon, because if the passing attack is all the Hawks got, other teams will likely play their strong safety in deeper
    territory and make other adjustments, like basically ignoring play
    action—because, hey, if the Hawks continue to have no run game, why would other teams continue to worry about stopping what doesn’t exist?

    Speaking of running the ball, maybe Pete will give Rawls and M. Davis a chance similar to the chance he’s giving Lacy this Sunday. And whoever does best out of that trio, gets the job, because:
    Always Compete, and Tell The Truth on Monday. Or was it
    Tuesday? Unless, of course, Lacy tears it up against Washington. (My breath is not held).

    Reply
  4. Josh

    Play action works irrespective of the run game because defenders have to keep an eye on the backfield until the handoff or fake is made. If they turn out before this, then you’ll start seeing the Seahawks run and run well. Perhaps there are other tells that a defense could look to to know when we’re going to pass earlier than this on playaction, but I suspect we’re pretty good at not giving that away. I’m no expert, but this is my take on it. Rewatching that 4th quarter, it is amazing how much that playaction fake drew so many defenders to stay in a step to long

    Reply

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