Any Given Sunday
The weekend's biggest upset goes under the Football Outsiders lens.

Any Given Sunday: Seahawks over Panthers

Any Given Sunday: Seahawks over Panthers
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Rivers McCown

One snap into the Seahawks-Panthers game, Carolina starting rookie corner Donte Jackson was done with a strained quadriceps. This changed how the Panthers were able to play defense in a meaningful way. The Panthers played just seven players in their secondary, and backup safety Rashaan Gaulden had merely four defensive snaps. This was a game where a non-Brian Schottenheimer coach would have looked to spread the Panthers out and isolate weak links. But because the Seahawks focused on running the ball until they trailed, they didn't initially realize the advantage they had when they were able to target Corn Elder. And that advantage changed this game.

With Captain Munnerlyn sliding outside, Elder, a second-year fifth-round pick from Miami, was the third cornerback. The Seahawks were able to create five explosive passing plays that changed the course of this game. That includes a 35-yard touchdown to tie the score, and a 43-yard pass that put the Seahawks in position to boot the winning field goal on the final drive of the day.

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This is David Moore's 35-yard touchdown catch, which came against Carolina's nickel package. Carolina has just one deep safety, and one underneath defender playing free. Wilson's throw was a 50/50 ball, and Elder never even got his head turned around.

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On Tyler Lockett's big catch to basically win the game, Elder and Munnerlyn actually traded receivers in the middle of the route. But because Seattle was able to buy enough time for Russell Wilson and Lockett to get improvisational, Munnerlyn was forced to play downfield. Carolina's deep safety reads the routes and commits to the other side of the field.

And just to prove that it's not just the backups that got burned -- and that the Seahawks are pretty good at this -- here's Moore making actual starting corner James Bradberry bite on something mid-route:

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When they say the NFL is a "Next Man Up" league, what they're really saying is that your depth better be good, or you had better be able to disguise it. The Panthers weren't able to do either on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Seahawks again proved that when Moore and Wilson are on the same page, there's not many coverages that can do anything about it.

Where the Game Swung

This was a game where Carolina let Seattle hang around, even though the Seahawks weren't close to control of the game until the final snap. Game-Winning Chance doesn't see Seattle as having a real stake at this game until Wilson's 54-yard pass to Moore in the third quarter. Then that number hovers around 20 percent for most of the rest of the game until Graham Gano pulls his 52-yard field goal wide.

Quarter Time Down To Go Description GWC before GWC after GWC change
3 8:42 3 12 (8:42) (Shotgun) 3-R.Wilson pass deep right to 83-D.Moore to CAR 13 for 54 yards (25-E.Reid). 23.7% 39.2% +15.5%
4 9:27 1 10 (9:27) (Shotgun) 22-C.McCaffrey up the middle to SEA 16 for 59 yards (26-SL.Griffin). 31.5% 16.8% -14.7%
4 3:33 4 3 (3:33) (Shotgun) 3-R.Wilson pass deep left to 83-D.Moore for 35 yards, TOUCHDOWN. 12.7% 28.9% +16.2%
4 1:45 4 4 (1:45) 9-G.Gano 52 yard field goal is No Good, Wide Right, Center-44-J.Jansen, Holder-5-M.Palardy. 20.2% 54.1% +33.9%
4 1:07 3 5 (1:07) (No Huddle, Shotgun) 3-R.Wilson pass deep right to 16-T.Lockett to CAR 10 for 43 yards (41-C.Munnerlyn). 55.3% 97.4% +42.1%

Wilson's throw to Lockett is one of highest non-immediately game-winning GWC swings on a single play this column has covered all year.

By the DVOA

SEA 15.8% 8.3% 1.8% 9.3%
CAR 17.7% 6.3% 0.1% 11.5%
SEA 20.6% 9.7% 1.8% 12.7%
CAR 9.1% 15.4% 0.1% -6.2%

The Panthers averaged 8.3 yards per play, and Seattle averaged 6.5. Carolina was largely able to keep this game close because Seattle just couldn't run. Even with Chris Carson doing literal backflips on the field, the Seahawks rushing game got 2.7 yards per play and created just seven first downs.

Carolina's Red Zone Play Sabotages the Game

While the Panthers managed at least 9.8 yards per play on every other area of the field, they were able to string together just 2.9 yards per play in Seattle's red zone, where they created three touchdowns and two other first downs on 22 plays. Until their final three drives, Carolina had taken five runs at the red zone and created 37 yards, one interception, one touchdown, two field goals, and one fourth-down failure.

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Second-and-5 on Carolina's opening drive, Carolina pulls a blocker, but Greg Van Roten (73) can't hold off Nazair Jones (92), and that forces the pulling blocker to deal with Jones. This play set up back-to-back short yardage runs that didn't convert, leaving Carolina with zero points.

via Gfycat

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Second-and-3 on Carolina's second drive. The Panthers run read-option. Jarran Reed (90) runs right past Ryan Kalil (67) and gets Christian McCaffrey in the backfield.

Jones and Reed had their way with Carolina's interior blockers. Delano Hill stuck McCaffrey for a loss on a screen to make another Carolina drive second-and-goal from the 13. Then, there was Newton's interception:

via Gfycat

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With a single high safety, Bradley McDougald made up a lot of ground on this pass. Granted, Chris Manhertz isn't exactly a dominant red zone threat ... still, really nice undercut to tip the ball and eventually pick it.

Poor red zone play isn't the catalyst of every Panthers loss that has taken them from 6-2 to 6-5 -- they actually had the best red zone DVOA in the league through Week 11, as you'd expect with this varied and fun run game and Cam Newton -- but it was a big reason they lost this particular game. Their DVOA, in the largest red zone sample any team had in Week 12, was -62.8%. Credit to Seattle's defense where due: they played a really tough game in the red zone.

Carolina's slide hasn't taken a whole lot of coherent shape yet. This game it was the red zone offense. Week 10 was another stinker for the pass defense, while Week 11 was an inability to run on Damon Harrison and the Lions, along with a terrible special teams performance. One problem that has linked all three losses has been a decline in pass pressure on defense. From Week 1 to Week 9, Sports Info Solutions charting has Carolina fourth in pressure rate at 37 percent. In Weeks 10-12, that drops to 27 percent, which ranks 22nd.


8 comments, Last at 28 Nov 2018, 10:29am

1 Re: Any Given Sunday: Seahawks over Panthers

If you could measure intra-play GWC the tackle by Tre Flowers on Carolina's last third down might have made that chart. It went from a receiver catching a short crossing route with a full head of steam moving towards a 40-something yard field goal attempt as time expired to a 52-yard kick with a minute and a half left.

2 Re: Any Given Sunday: Seahawks over Panthers

Interested to know what, if anything, DVOA makes of the fumbles in this game. Seattle had 1, I think, which they "recovered" (went out of bounds), Carolina had 5 (?) that they recovered.

5 Re: Any Given Sunday: Seahawks over Panthers

As a Seahawks' fan, the drive with back to back fumbles recovered by Carolina was frustrating - especially since it led to a TD - but the later fumble that was so close to a Seahawks' recovery but wasn't which led to another TD became a joke. What can you do when that's happening?

If you include the Seahawks' fumble recovered by Carolina that was later reversed, the ball was on the ground 7 times and 6 times somehow Carolina ended up on top of it.

4 Re: Any Given Sunday: Seahawks over Panthers

According to Russell Wilson's headset was out/spotty until the second half.

So you can't completely blame Schotty for not taking full advantage of the weak secondary in the first half.

6 Re: Any Given Sunday: Seahawks over Panthers

What is going on in the VOA / DVOA splits for Carolina. That is a *huge* adjustment; you doubled the measure of their offensive efficiency? Their measured total efficiency is increased enormously?

That seems not right. I'm not sure the D in DVOA makes sense at all (defensive performance is weakly correlated from week to week); but I am very confident you should not be making such a large adjustment.