In this weekend’s Q&A, HawkBlogger offered this choice bit of competitive intel:
“The Seahawks like to blitz a lot, and leave themselves vulnerable as a result. Pick up the blitz, and you have a great chance of getting easy chunks of yardage.”
This tendency was evident in the game tape of the last two Seahawks games, particularly in the second half. Both Tampa and Atlanta found it easy to turn small leads into huge advantages by countering the desperate blitzing of Pete Carroll’s team. (It’s almost as though the relentlessly positive Carroll presses harder for some single momentum-turning play, the further behind his team falls. And the more he presses, the further behind they fall.) You can lay good money that Carroll is not going to take a passive approach against Bradford in his first visit to Qwest field, in this do-or-die game. He certainly didn’t in their first matchup, back in week 4.
According to stats kept by Pro Football Focus, Seattle blitzed Bradford 23 times on passing downs in week 4, more extra-man pressure than Josh Freeman and Matt Ryan faced combined. And on those passing downs, Bradford was sacked three times, but completed 11 of 18 passes for 164 yards, good for a 91.0 passer rating. You can see from this graphic that Seattle's rush in Week 4 was eclipsed only by New Orleans, who blitzed Bradford an astounding 31 times in week 14.
Overall this season, Bradford has been blitzed on 263 dropbacks, and has completed 136 of 240 throws for a very respectable 81.5 passer rating. By comparison, Marc Bulger hadn't turned in a passer rating above 80 since his contract year in 2006, and Bradford is doing it in his rookie year with an extra man in his face.
What’s amazing to consider is that Bradford had this success despite essentially working only one side of the field. PFF stats say that he threw only two passes to the outside of the left hash in that Week 4 matchup. Compare this to the balance in recent weeks: with Danario Alexander in the lineup for 40 snaps, Bradford actually targeted the left side more than the right in Week 16. A legitimate threat from the “X” wide receiver position lets Bradford work the entire field.
No matter what direction the Seahawks blitz comes from, how Bradford and his receivers respond could very well dictate the outcome of this game.