Hugh's view: Breaking down the fourth-quarter turnovers created by Seattle
Hugh Millen takes a look at the three turnovers that save the Seahawks against the 49ers
Special to The Seattle Times
Ask just about any coach which defensive stat is most meaningful and I’d wager each would say points allowed.
After that you’d get a debate about which is second — total yards allowed or turnovers generated. Leading the league in each of those three stats could be described as the Triple Crown for a defense and the last time it was accomplished was by the legendary 1985 Chicago Bears.
That is, until this season by the Seahawks.
Sunday, Seattle forced turnovers on the 49ers’ three fourth-quarter possessions. A thought on each:
Cliff Avril sack: Seattle played Cover 1 — man with a free safety — which is almost always in conjunction with either a four- or five-man rush. On this play Seattle, out of respect for Colin Kaepernick’s running, rushed just three. When Avril beat right tackle Anthony Davis with an outside speed rush, he reached a deep point some 12 yards behind the line of scrimmage. That gave Kaepernick an opportunity to step up to a clean pocket while searching for an open receiver. Instead, the quarterback drifted to his left — curiously for a right-hander, his default flee — and when he squared to throw that slowed him enough for Avril to create the fumble.
Chancellor interception: Seattle played its standard Cover 3 — three-deep zone coverage with a four-man rush. What was not standard was Chancellor’s drop angle. On this play, Chancellor “buzzed” from the hash mark to a wide spot about 5 yards from the sideline, thus covering a lateral distance of approximately 18 yards. When Kaepernick took one extra hitch following a full seven-step drop, Chancellor was in dead perfect position to intercept. The judgment and throw were poor, but Seattle’s anticipation bordered on mystifying.
Sherman interception: I’ve previously commented that Richard Sherman defends a fade from press alignment better than any cornerback I’ve ever seen. I marvel at how he seemingly always cuts off his opponent with his outside shoulder in front of the receiver’s inside shoulder as both combatants turn to locate the ball. This is the death position for receivers. It’s been stated that a perfect pass beats perfect coverage, but after studying this play I can’t conceive of one spot where Kaepernick could have placed the ball that would have given Michael Crabtree the advantage over the 6-foot-3 Sherman. Moreover, Sherman consistently dominates this route without being burned by the fade’s complement: the slant route. In theory, a receiver could take two steps to the fade and fight underneath on a slant, but Sherman’s strong inside positioning, along with help from Seattle’s underneath zone coverage, provide the deterrent. Now if Sherman’s class could just catch up with his performance.
KJR analyst and former Huskies and NFL quarterback Hugh Millen is providing analysis after each Seahawks game this season.