Sunday showed signs of a Seahawks team that is going to play a different game than what we saw in 2012. Russell Wilson set a career regular season record for passing yards in a game with 320 and Marshawn Lynch picked up a mere 43 yards on the ground.
The irrelevant performance Lynch put on should not be of concern to the team or fans since the Panthers played a great defensive game. Rather, the ‘Hawks utilized the passing game more than what we saw at all last year. Seattle ran the ball less than only two teams in the NFL last year (Washington, Minnesota) and averaged more than 161 yards per game on the ground. On Sunday, the Seahawk backs only gained 70 yards, averaging a lowly 2.7 yards per carry.
With a deeper receiving corps, especially if Percy Harvin returns, the ‘Hawks could be shifting their style of play. If Russell Wilson plays the entire year like he did on Sunday, the Seahawks’ offense will be a monstrous force that can dominate with any part of their game. This was only the second time in his career Wilson has broken the 300-yard mark in a game, the last being the playoff loss to Atlanta where he threw for 385 yards.
Wilson was as advertised, spreading the ball around to as many receivers as possible. He made completions to eight different players, all of which were targeted multiple times. To give some comparison, Panthers QB Cam Newton made completions to five different receivers, only three of which were targeted more than once. The ability for Wilson to spread the ball around leaves an opposing defense on their toes since the ball can be going anywhere.
One thing that was talked about the entire game was the read-option that Seattle introduced to their offense in Week 13 of last year. Sorry, the read option was not just talked about, but FOX’s Chris Myers and Tim Ryan would not shut up about it. It was read option this and read option that and while it was a bit part of Seattle’s offense at the end of last season, it was completely useless against a Panther defense that shut down the run all game. It will be interesting to see on Sunday night against the 49ers if either team will utilize this part of their game after Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick could not quite get it going.
This was not all bad though, as the lack of rushing opened up the opportunity for the play-action pass. Wilson was 11-15 using the play-action pass on Sunday, averaging 12.1 yards per attempt. Those 11 completions running the play-fake led the NFL last week, but Kaepernick was not far behind. He went 9-11 for a 13.8 average and two touchdowns, which gave him an NFL best 99.4 QB rating after the fake (stats from ESPN Stats & Info).
Sunday night, look for both teams to still use the read option to open up the play-action pass. Wilson’s game was most successful after a fake to his back, and if Marshawn Lynch can break off a couple good runs early in the game, it should open up the passing game later. This is an early test game for two very similar teams and being at home, the ‘Hawks need to prove right now they can take the division.