The Seahawks hopefully learned a big defensive lesson in their narrow win over the Falcons: Don’t get too fancy.
While Kris Richard did a great job dialing up blitzes and putting pressure on Matt Ryan, who was sacked four times and hit 13, the one part of the game plan that nearly cost the Hawks was the Richard Sherman-Julio Jones matchup.
The big problem: The Hawks moved Sherman around too much and he sometimes ended up covering a tight end or some other receiver on the wrong side of the field. Whether they intended to or not, the Hawks looked to be playing a hybrid man-zone at times in the third quarter — and it was a total failure.
They should not have moved Sherman unless it was to shadow Jones — wherever Jones lined up. But they let the Falcons dictate their coverage, and it nearly cost them the game.
As an example: On Jones’ 36-yard TD catch, Sherman was lined up on Jones at first but then moved over to cover motion tight end Austin Hooper on the far right of the defense. Jones lined up in the slot and ran by Kelcie McCray for the easy score.
The Hawks apparently had prepared for that very alignment, but they blew the coverage switch — which is why Sherman then blew up on the sideline.
That wasn’t the only time Sherman found himself lined up on the right side, though. The other blown coverage came in a similar formation. As Sherman followed Jones on a cross inside, tight end Levine Toilolo ran by them uncovered for a 46-yard score.
Like the Jones TD, Sherman appeared to be playing a different defensive scheme than the rest of the secondary. Unlike the Jones TD, Sherman seemed to be the one who missed his assignment. He stayed with Jones too long and then found himself in no man’s land, well behind the wide-open Toilolo.
Sherman did fine when matched up against Jones, giving up three catches on five passes over 30 matchup plays. But, in that disastrous third quarter, he was too often put in bad spots.
Kris Richard got too fancy — and hopefully learned his lesson.