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Packers Film Room: Pressures & bracket coverages force mistakes from Wilson, Seahawks

How the pass coverage and pass rush worked in tandem to shutout the Seahawks.

Seattle Seahawks v Green Bay Packers Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Green Bay Packers defeated the Seahawks at home 17-0 on Sunday afternoon on the back of another stellar defensive performance. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson returned to action after being sidelined with an injury to his throwing hand in a Thursday night game against the Rams. It did not matter much.

The Packers held the Seahawks to just one red zone trip and forced Wilson to throw two interceptions. They held the Seahawks offense to 208 yards while Wilson completed 20 passes in 40 attempts. The Seahawks running game was held under 50 yards.

Wilson was under pressure on 22 snaps while the Green Bay defensive line as a whole recorded 34 total pressures and three sacks (some pass plays recorded pressures by multiple players). Preston Smith accounted for 10 pressures alone (one sack and nine hurries).

In pass coverage, the Packers played 29 snaps of “middle of the field open” (2 deep safeties) and 32 snaps of “middle of the field closed” (1 deep safety), and they largely used the same general gameplay they used against the Chiefs. Against Seattle, the gameplay heavily favored doubling D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett downfield, forcing Wilson to look elsewhere.

Lockett and Metcalf doubled

The perfect play that illustrates the combination of pass coverage taking away Wilson’s primary receivers and the pass rush getting home occurred early in first quarter on Seattle’s first drive.

The Packers are in cover-6 (quarters away from the offensive center, cover-2 on the offensive hash). The Seahawks are trying to clear out the Packers coverage over the top to hit routes over the ball at 10 yards. But Lockett is bracketed by the quarters safety and Metcalf is bracketed by the flat corner and deep safety on the cover-2 side.

Up front, Whitney Mercilus (No. 50) is working against Duane Brown (No. 76). Brown anticipates a pass rush move from Mercilus, swipes at air, and lets Mercilus get into his chest plate.

Mercilus bull rushes him back into the backfield and records the sack on Wilson. Wilson never had a chance to throw because of the pressure, but even if he could, he would not have had an option to throw to.

Later in the first half on a 3rd-and-5, Rashan Gary sacked the quarterback on a high effort play with sticky coverage on the back end of the secondary.

The Packers are in cover-3 with the post safety shaded toward Lockett, giving the Packers a 3-over-2 with safety help and leaving Metcalf in a 3-over-3 with no safety help. This could’ve been a big play for the Seahawks but Wilson has not seen the middle of the field well since at least the middle of last season.

Lockett gets tied up with rookie cornerback Eric Stokes, who displays some nice physicality with Lockett at the top of his route. You know it’s good coverage when you can’t tell what the route is supposed to be. Stokes jams him long enough at the top of the route to throw off Wilson’s internal clock.

Meanwhile, as Wilson should reset and climb the pocket, Metcalf comes open down the seam with no one covering him. Instead, Wilson panics and drops his eyes as Rashan Gary wins around the edge and gets the sack.

More double coverage on Metcalf and Lockett later in the first half. The Packers are in cover-5 (cover-2 man) with the Seahawks looking for the deep shot play to Metcalf on the corner post route.

This would be the same story throughout the rest of the game. The Seahawks were 7-14 on third down but none of the conversions mattered. Even if Metcalf and Lockett weren’t doubled, Wilson still had trouble trusting the post-snap picture and continued to miss receivers who flashed open.

On 3rd-and-9 here, the Seahawks are running a Sean McVay mirrored concept called “Lightning” with 10 yard hitch routes by the outside receivers and 8-yard seam stop routes from the slot. Wilson’s best matchup is in the left slot with Metcalf 1-on-1 with Chandon Sullivan (No. 39).

Wilson drops back to pass and moves off Metcalf too quickly, has nothing open on the right side, then shuffles backward before throwing a deep shot to a receiver down the left sideline with Darnell Savage in coverage to break up the pass.

Preston Smith wreaks havoc up front

Preston Smith had a great game defensively where he forced 10 pressures including one sack. Although his sack came at the end of the game as the Seahawks were trying get a few points on the board, his effort exemplified why this defense has been so great this season.

With the Seahawks trying to prevent a shutout, Smith keep the pressure on and chases Wilson out of the pocket and doesn’t give up until he’s sacked Wilson. That kind of effort is exactly why this defense is one of the best in the league despite not having Za’Darius Smith or Jaire Alexander at the moment. And there’s no reason to believe they will regress.

Here are his other nine pressures in the game.

20+ pressures

Speaking of pressures, here are the rest of the defensive line pressures from the game on Sunday.

On one of Smith’s key pressures, he forced Wilson from the pocket where he threw an errant pass for an interception in the end zone.

The Seahawks’ best chance for points came late in the third quarter when the Seahawks were in the red zone for their one and only appearance inside the opponents 20 yard line. The Packers defense bracketed Lockett to the wide side of the field and Wilson probably expected that since he didn’t even look that way.

Smith gets into the backfield, grabs a hold of Wilson but he’s never able to corral him. Wilson is flushed from the pocket and makes the most baffling decision to throw the ball to Metcalf who is unable to get separation to come back to catch it. Kevin King (No. 20) gets physical with Metcalf at the top of the route and steps in front of him before Wilson even throws the pass. Wilson threw it anyway.

Outlook

The Packers defense continued to play at a high level despite the shuffling of players in and out of the lineup due to injuries. When they are truly at 100%, there’s no telling what this defense can accomplish. To hold one of the league’s premier quarterbacks and a talented receiver corp to just 161 passing yards and no touchdowns is a testament to the coaching under Joe Barry and the the players who execute the gameplan.

The Packers have the Rams and Ravens coming up, Rams before the bye week and the Ravens after, with games versus the Vikings and Bears in there. They can beat the Vikings and Bears and probably the Rams, who did not look like anything resembling a credible contender versus a previously 3-5 49ers team that got beat by the Cardinals and Colt McCoy.

Nonetheless these games feature several quality individual matchups against Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson, Justin Fields, Matt Stafford and Cooper Kupp, and Lamar Jackson. Just the kinds of test the Packers defense needs as they toward the fine stretch of the season and a playoff tuneup.