I want a victory. – Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Field Glasses: As Easy as 1-2-3
By Travis Williams on Sep 28 2014, 5:00am
Welcome to Field Glasses, a weekly feature here on F.G. that breaks down Xs and Os. If you have anything you’ve been wondering about the team, please feel free to ask it in the comments section and give me an easy article for next week! Otherwise, random GIFs and insulting remarks are always welcome.
Much has been written, both on Field Gulls and elsewhere, about how the Seahawks use zone running to set up 1-on-1 opportunities off of play action. Mr. Daniel F.A. Kelly has produced some excellent material on the subject, and I’m not just saying that because he’s my boss. (Well, maybe a little bit).
It’s worth noting that not every team in the league uses the running game to open up their passing attack. There are some teams (Broncos, Saints, Giants, amongst others) who prefer to do the exact opposite.
In principle, those teams want to attack the perimeter of the defense with quick hitters, and the deep middle with slower developing bombs. The theory is that box defenders will become acclimated to chasing every play towards the sideline or towards the endzone, and you can take them by surprise by going right up the middle and pounding them in the face.
These teams do have a running game, and it often produces substantial yardage (The Mike Holmgren Seahawks teams worked on a similar principle, although we were less committed to it). In fact, I recall a conversation I had with Denver Broncos über fan Endzone about this very subject prior to the Sübarbowl.
His contention was (in summary) that the 2013 Broncos had a better running game than the 2013 Seahawks. To support his argument, he cited the Yards Per Carry of Montee Ball (4.7, 8th in the NFL) and Knowshon Moreno (4.3, 20th), which were both better than Lynch (4.2 23rd), Furthermore, the two Denver backs combined for more total yards.
While I won’t rehash our entire discussion (feel free to read it if you like), I will re-state my closing argument, as it’s relevant to the topic of this article.
I’m going to use a chess metaphor to make my point.
In chess, when White opens with his Queen Pawn, black has many possible replies. One system he can employ is the Benoni Defense. In the Benoni, black “taunts” white into building a huge central presence with his pawns. White is more than willing to do so, because chess players have known for hundreds of years that a commanding central pawn structure is a huge strategic advantage.
So why does black not just allow, but encourage this? Partially, it’s self-selection bias. A black player not comfortable in this sort of game will chose a different opening.
But there are many strong players who favor the Benoni, because Black doesn’t just give white that pawn center for nothing. While white is spending moves setting up his central pawns, black is moving his minor pieces (knights and bishops) to better squares and acquiring a lead in development.
It’s a trade at the strategic level. Black allows white an advantage in one part of the game, in order to give himself an advantage in another. The player who can best capitalize will emerge the victor.
Football works the same way. In the NFCCG against San Francisco, Seattle had 17 rushing attempts into an 8-man box, and 10 into a 9-man front. Do you really think Denver’s going to be running Monte Ball against a 9-man front?
Seattle pays the price for running Lynch into a 9-man box (our strategic concession) in the form of a lower yard/carry. But as a strategic advantage, we’ll see stacked boxes on a regular basis that benefits our passing game.
It doesn’t matter that the Denver RBs have a better YPC than Lynch. It doesn’t matter that in aggregate, they have more yards. Our rushing attack is more important than yours, because ours dictates how a defense HAS to play, whereas yours merely capitalizes on teams putting six defensive backs on the fied.
Claiming the two are even comparable (especially using YPC as a metric) is as ridiculous as claiming the Seahawks and Broncos passing attacks are comparable. After all, Peyton Manning finished with 8.31 yards per attempt (3rd in the NFL) while Russell Wilson was 4th — 8.25!
Full article here.