Here are five thoughts on the Seattle Seahawks with the help of the All-22 film and ESPN Stats & Information:
1. After the loss to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 10, coach Pete Carroll said the offense had some stuff in the game plan that he really liked, but the Seahawks had to go pass-heavy early because of all the penalties. Against the San Francisco 49ers, we saw some of those wrinkles, specifically in the run game. They had success using power runs where the backside guard pulled and cleared the way for the running back (good breakdown here). Left guard Justin Britt did this well on a 20-yard Thomas Rawls run. They incorporated an inside zone counter run (breakdown here) that Rawls had success with on a 17-yard gain and a 30-yard gain. And they used a counter trey play (breakdown here) to gain 18 in the fourth quarter. Hugh Millen of The Seattle Times also has good insight on the run strategy. The Seahawks are still a zone-blocking team, but this was the most diverse set of run plays they've shown all year. With Rawls gaining 209 yards on 30 carries, everything worked. We'll see if that's still the case this weekend against a Pittsburgh Steelers defense that ranks sixth against the run according to Football Outsiders.
2. The offensive line has taken a lot of criticism this year, but it deserves credit for its performance against the 49ers. Rawls averaged 4.0 yards before contact, the fourth-best mark among running backs in Week 11. Out of 11 personnel (one RB, one TE), Rawls carried 13 times for 109 yards (8.38 YPC). The Seahawks had struggled to run out of 12 personnel (one RB, two TEs) previously, but it worked against San Francisco with Rawls gaining 69 yards on seven carries (9.86 YPC). Pass protection was effective as well. Against the Cardinals, Russell Wilson was sacked twice and pressured all game long. Against San Francisco, he had plenty of time to stand in the pocket and find his receivers.
Wilson was 11-for-11 for 136 yards and three touchdowns against the blitz. Going into the game, he was the 30th-ranked passer against the blitz. He looked very comfortable when the Seahawks went to their empty set with no one in the backfield. In the past five games, Wilson is 18-for-20 for 287 yards and an 8.3 percent sack rate out of empty. In the first five games, he was 15-for-22 for 159 yards and a 17.2 percent sack rate. On Sunday, he was 4-for-4 for 58 yards and a touchdown.
3. Tyler Lockett is not the biggest receiver (5-10, 182), but he has done a nice job against press coverage this year. I asked Carroll about that, and he pointed to Lockett's quickness. On his first touchdown, Lockett ran a vertical route out of the slot and beat San Francisco's Jimmie Ward cleanly. The offensive line did a great job in protection against a five-man pressure, and Wilson threw a perfect ball. On the second touchdown, the formation helped Lockett. The Seahawks were in a bunch look, making it hard for the 49ers to press him at the line of scrimmage. Lockett caught the ball at the 6, broke a tackle and dragged a defender to the end zone. Later in the game, he ran a beautiful double move and burned the defensive back, but Wilson overthrew him. Otherwise, it would have been a 50-yard touchdown.
4. Defensively, I'm not sure where Carroll turns in the secondary against the Steelers this week. Cornerback Cary Williams was out of position on a 36-yard completion to tight end Vance McDonald down the sideline, and he was pulled in favor of DeShawn Shead. Shead was up and down when he entered the game. The other option the Seahawks have is Jeremy Lane, but do they really want to start him on the outside right away against Pittsburgh when he hasn't played a snap yet this season? In addition to personnel, Carroll and defensive coordinator Kris Richard have to decide how to scheme with Richard Sherman. Do they have him shadow Antonio Brown? Or will the Seahawks play sides, given that wide receiver Martavis Bryant is dangerous also? Lots of coaching and personnel decisions to make ahead of Sunday's big matchup.
5. Leftovers: The Seahawks always use packaged plays in which Wilson has to decide whether to hand the ball off or throw it to the perimeter. But he threw the screens more this game. Eight of his completions were behind the line of scrimmage. Wide receiver Doug Baldwin was often the recipient, and he had another good game. ... It was tough to tell who was at fault on the TD down the seam to McDonald. The Seahawks were in Cover 3. Kam Chancellor stuck with the underneath route, and Williams didn't reach the seam in time. That has been an issue for the defense all season. ... The run game really does set everything up on this offense. Great run action to fool the defense and set up the touchdown pass to Rawls. It's easy to criticize offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell when the plays don't work and praise him when they do, but he seemed to have a good day with his calls.