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NFL Wildcard Round: Play of the Week

Welcome to a new, just for the playoffs, feature: Play of the Week.Now I’m not a big believer i


Welcome to a new, just for the playoffs, feature: Play of the Week. Now I’m not a big believer in “momentum” or one play swinging the tide of a game so completely that it makes one outcome all but certain. But this weekend, in a slate of Wildcard games dominated by defense, penalties and last second field goal attempts there was one that stood out like a sore thumb… 4th Quarter: Minnesota 9 – 0 Seattle (13:02) 1st & 10 at MIN 39… From the start, this play looks like it could go far, one way or the other. The Seahawks have trips right with Doug Baldwin as the closest man and totally uncovered. The Seahawks have a screen to Baldwin called against a nickel blitz from that side. If Wilson can get the ball to Baldwin there’s two off corners against two receivers and he could easily take it big chunk of yards. If the blitzing Captain Munnerlyn can get around the corner and get his hands up in the throwing lane there’s a chance for a pick 6. But neither of those things happens. What does happen is a botched snap. Left guard Justin Britt taps center Patrick Lewis to signal Wilson is ready for the snap, which he isn’t, and the ball ends up deflecting off Wilson and rolling away behind him.   Immediately post-snap Circled: Doug Baldwin waiting for a screen pass   This is where the magic happens. As fans of Seattle – and any of their NFC rivals – know, Russell Wilson is at his best and most dangerous when he’s running around outside of the pocket. He’s tormented defenses with his legs since his days at NC State and Wisconsin so it’s nothing new, and yet it seems totally unstoppable. Wilson sprints after the ball and where Tom Brady or Drew Brees might just fall on it and take the loss of yards Wilson scoops it up and tries to make something happen. He’s only allowed to do this because, like most people, the pursuing Vikings defenders assume Wilson will fall on the ball to secure it. Nuh uh. Not this time. Putting those baseball skills to good use Wilson calmly scoops it up and goes into scramble mode, rolling to his right because Captain Munnerlyn takes a direct angle rather than a contain one, keeping Wilson directly in front of him rather than inside. Defender not deep enough-1 Circled: Wilson running by Munnerlyn and creating a chance to save the play   Once Wilson gets on the outside defenses are in trouble. Seattle receivers are well drilled on what to do when Wilson takes off, defenders not so much. Most teams treat him like any other QB who rolls one way and flow with him, trying to reduce the space for receivers on the near side and take away the running room. But as we know Wilson isn’t like most QB’s, he’s more than happy to throw back across the field into the space…. Defenders flow with wilson, leaving space-1 Circled: Josh Robinson & Harrison Smith collapsing down to take away the space Wilson is rolling towards while Tyler Lockett takes off into the open space away from Wilson.   Wilson kept his eyes down field and Lockett did what he’s been taught to, find the space and look for the ball. He’s left all alone on the middle of the field because Robinson and Smith are racing downfield to fill the space that is traditionally the go-to on scramble drills and Eric Kendricks took off after Wilson and the ball when he saw the fumble. The middle of the field is just wide open and Wilson is able to lob the ball to Lockett without any problem. As kick-off units around the league will tell you the last thing you want is Tyler Lockett with the ball in space and he ends up taking the ball 35 yards to the 4. 2 plays later and Seattle score the only touchdown of the game. This play was the first time Minnesota fans would have got the sinking feeling. The neutrals who had seen Seattle pull this kind of play off since 2012 got a sense of inevitability about a Seahawks win, which was only reinforced when Adrian Peterson fumbled on the next drive. As I said at the top I’m not a big believer in momentum and one play swinging everything, but if one non-scoring play can bring a sense of unbridled confidence to one sideline and sap the spirit of the other it’s this. The swing of seeing the ball rolling around, free for the first one to arrive, and then see it racing up field in the hands of the most dangerous return man in the league is gut wrenching, especially in such a tight defensive battle.


Toby Durant

A passionate and opinionated writer, I am currently the NFL editor for RealSport. However, I also contribute to F1, WWE, Football, and other sections of the site, and I have covered the NFL International Series for RealSport and previously contributed to SB Nation.

 

I also have 10 years playing and coaching experience in American football, starting at the University of Nottingham and including a stint as defensive coordinator at Oxford Brookes University. I may be a Patriots fan but all aspects of the sport interest me, from guard play to special teams.

NFL Wildcard Round: Play of the Week

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