Hasselbeck: How Seahawks game plan was different in 51-point outburst

Jan 5, 2022, 12:42 PM
Seahawks Russell Wilson...
Seahawks QB Russell Wilson carries the ball against the Detroit Lions during the fourth quarter on Jan. 2. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

To say the 51-29 Seahawks win over the Lions last Sunday was an outburst for Seattle’s offense would be an understatement.

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The 51 points scored weren’t just a season high, but it marked the first time since quarterback Russell Wilson’s rookie season in 2012 that the Seahawks put that many points on the board in a single game.

While the Detroit Lions, at 2-13-1, are definitely not the toughest competition, it’s not like Seattle hasn’t played poor teams in the last 10 years – or even this season. They beat the 4-12 Houston Texans on December 12 and the 2-14 Jacksonville Jaguars on Halloween, for example, yet in those two games combined Seattle scored 64 points, not even two scores more than it had alone against Detroit.

So why was Sunday’s game the one where the Seahawks had their biggest explosion on offense in recent memory?

“To me, the game plan was different – a little bit,” former Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said Wednesday on his weekly hour-long 710 ESPN Seattle show Wednesday.


“I was charting the naked bootlegs early when I was watching the game, and there were just so many that I lost count – I absolutely lost count,” he continued.

A naked bootleg, opposed to a normal bootleg, is a misdirection play where the quarterback runs the ball to one side of the field – maybe to run past the line of scrimmage, maybe to pass – while the rest of the offense heads the opposite direction.

“There’s a tab in your playbook, it’s called movements. It’s keepers, it’s basically where the launch point of the quarterback is going to change (compared to passing from the pocket) – it’s not just seven to nine yards directly behind the center,” Hasselbeck said. “… For offensive linemen, it is literally almost impossible to get a negative on your grade sheet on a naked bootleg. It’s elephants on a parade; we all go left or we all go right. There’s, like, no thinking. It’s a free play for offensive linemen to tee off, and what it does is it keeps the defensive outside-contain people honest. It keeps corners honest, safeties honest, the end man on the line of scrimmage honest.”

And on Sunday, running those plays early allowed the Seahawks to essentially accomplish the inverse of what you hear more about – running to set up play-action pass.

“They used naked bootlegs to set up a heavy dose of run game,” Hasselbeck said. “It wasn’t like – you know, a lot of people on TV will say, ‘Oh, they use the run and then they set it up for the play-action pass.’ Yes, sometimes. But other teams, like Seattle in this game, they use the naked bootleg and the threat of Russell Wilson on the edge to help set up the run game, and the run game delivered. That offensive line got in a rhythm. And you’ve seen them do it for stretches, like in a drive or a quarter this year, but it was just all clicking. It was really good to see.”

The run game certainly did deliver, with Rashaad Penny rushing for a career-high 170 yards and two touchdowns, which was also the biggest game for a Seahawks running back since Thomas Rawls’ 209 yards against San Francisco in 2015. Additionally, Wilson kept the ball a season-high six times for 24 yards, which was the second-most rushing yards he’s had in a game this season.

Alright, so if this worked so well against Detroit, why haven’t the Seahawks employed the tactic more?

“The matchup of Detroit – Detroit has bigger, slower, old school defensive end types, and then they have corners who aren’t great at tackling,” Hasselbeck said. “You cannot get the edge against Chandler Jones in Arizona because he doesn’t really care if you’re running the ball, he wants a sack no matter what. T.J. Watt, he’s not gonna let you get outside of him, ever.”

Penny thoughts

Hasselbeck had more to say on the big game from Penny, a 2018 first-round pick who has been on a tear for the last month after struggling with injuries throughout his four-year career and is set to become a free agent in the offseason. Here’s a look:

“He’s a guy, in kind of a lost season, a disappointing 6-10 type season right now, that has finally come into his potential. I know he’s been banged up and fighting a lot of adversity, but here’s a guy that took an opportunity – and it was a very, very small, glimmer of hope opportunity – and he has maximized it. And I think (Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll) is all about it; I think he loves it. And I think the league has noticed, like, ‘Hey, this this guy’s a legit prospect.’ He came in that way and then it just looked like it was just a swing and a mess, but no, that’s not the case at all. He’s turned into a really good player in the run game and also in the in the receiving game a little bit.”

You can listen to the full Matt Hasselbeck Show from Wednesday, including which talented NFL backup quarterback he has his eye on for this offseason, at this link or in the player below.

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Hasselbeck: How Seahawks game plan was different in 51-point outburst