K.J. Wright: How Seahawks fixed early run D issue vs Rams

Dec 7, 2022, 12:14 PM
Seahawks Rams...
Rams RB Brandon Powell cuts back from Seahawks DT Shelby Harris in a Dec. 4, 2022 game. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Defending against the run has become the biggest concern for the Seattle Seahawks in recent weeks, as the issues that held them back early in the season have returned in the three games since their four-game win streak from mid-October into early November.

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Right out of the gate Sunday against the Rams, it was clear Seattle had yet to shore up its run defense, with Los Angeles jumping out to a quick 7-0 lead. The Rams went 70 yards on 10 plays in that opening touchdown drive, with 33 of those yards coming on six carries and the rest set up by running back Cam Akers’ 15 total yards gained on the first two plays from scrimmage.

After that, though, the Seahawks were able to keep the Rams out of the end zone all but one time the rest of the game, and that second TD didn’t come until late in the fourth quarter.

Monday on Seattle Sports’ Pete Carroll Show, the Seahawks head coach alluded to a change from the second Rams series on that got Seattle’s defense on much better footing for the rest of the game.

To get to the bottom of that change, former Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright shared what he saw when he joined Brock and Salk on Wednesday morning for his own weekly show on Seattle Sports.

Here’s what Wright said about the Rams’ opening drive:

You got the bear front/stick front. (The Seahawks) did load the box in the first drive, that eighth man in the box, but what happens with this bear front is that the C-gap is wide open. And what the Rams were running is a play that I call a stretch flex. So when I say flex, that means away from the tight end. And what the Rams were doing, they were running flex away from the tight end and cutting the ball all the way back into the C-gap. And when they were cutting the ball back into that wide-open C-gap, there were cracking Ryan Neal, the safety. So what does that do? That leaves a big C-gap for the cornerback to fill. I love (rookie cornerback) Tariq (Woolen) – I’d rather him get eight interceptions then try to tackle Cam Akers for a 2-yard gain. So that’s what they were doing, they kept running that and all of their plays came off of that – the fly sweeps, the play-actions. Everything was coming off the same action, gashing us.

Watch the first few plays of this highlight video from Akers’ performance Sunday to get a visual idea of Wright’s explanation. And for some clarity, the C-gap lands between where the offensive tackle and tight end line up, whereas the B-gap is between the tackle and guard and A-gap is between the guard and center.

So how did the Seahawks address this? Back to Wright’s breakdown:

So here we go, Coach Carroll makes a change. And what does he go to? He goes to what he knows – an ‘over’ defense. He went to what I call ‘Brooklyn,’ eight-man box, we’re gonna set the 3-technique (defensive tackle) over the (offensive) guard to the tight end. And what they did was they put (linebacker) Bruce Irvin smack dab in that C-gap. It’s like, ‘This C-gap is eliminated. If you want to do something else, you are not going to run this stress flex and cut back all the way into the C-gap.’ Ryan Neal is still in the box, so you want to bounce this thing all the way outside if you decide to cut this thing back. Beautiful change, load the box. Go to what you know, Coach Carroll – over defense, put the guy right there in the C-gap – and it was way better after that.

The K.J. Wright Show airs live from 8-9 a.m. every Wednesday during the football season during Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk. You can hear this week’s full edition in the podcast at this link or in the player below.

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K.J. Wright: How Seahawks fixed early run D issue vs Rams