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Colts Need Communal Effort to Stop Seattle Passing Game

NFL: NFC Wild Card-Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

The Indianapolis Colts have had a lot to prepare for this week as they get set to take on the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday Night Football. Russell Wilson is a threat through the air as well as with his legs, both on designed runs and when escaping pressure.

Wilson will possibly be without C.J. Procise who is his top target out of the backfield, and Doug Baldwin — one of the best route-running receivers in the league — is questionable, but it’s fair to assume that he’ll at least make an attempt to play. Losing Procise may affect some of what the offense tries to do, but Chris Carson is a capable receiver and the Seahawks have no worries about using Tyler Lockett more liberally out of the backfield to switch up looks.

Any way you look at it, the Colts defense has to prepare for any and all players to be active for the Seahawks and be on their game on every single snap. The Colts will need everyone to chip in on coverage as well. The linebackers will need to be significantly better, the cornerbacks will have to be smooth with their footwork and the safeties must get deep and understand who is on the field in front of them as well as mismatches will undoubtedly present themselves.

Let’s take a look at some of what I’m talking about, and why literally everyone will need to be a part of taking down the Seahawks pass catchers in order to keep this game within reach for the Colts offense to have a chance.

As I mentioned above, Baldwin is a phenomenal route runner. He doesn’t waste any movement at the line of scrimmage, he comes in and out of his breaks efficiently and he’s got plenty of speed to battle any corner in the league. Here we see how seamlessly he is able to create space with simple jab steps and barely loses any speed at all.

The Seahawks will use Baldwin outside, but it certainly isn’t a limitation in his ability to be moved around. This example is against a corner, and he has no problem giving Wilson a great target to throw to against a single-high look by the Titans’ safety. Additionally, Wilson is among the most accurate passers in the league and this is a simple drop in the bucket for him.

Here’s an example of the Seahawks moving Baldwin around. He is set up in the slot here, and depending on who the Colts have matched up on him this could be a big gain. Coming completely across the formation underneath the line of scrimmage gives the defender a ton of trash to sift through as well.

The linebackers and corners have to work in unison in this case in order for the coverage to stay with Baldwin all the way across. This is an easy first down catch, and maybe more, if the coverage gets picked or caught up in the middle of the field.

The Colts pass rush will have to be effective and the secondary will need to be wise in their matchups tonight.

In our third, and final, look at Baldwin’s diversity you get a real sense of how he does all of the little things to maximize the potential for every single route. Here he comes down tight to the line, cracks down on the outside linebacker and selling the block for more than a couple seconds, then breaks out with no coverage to be seen in the flat.

The Colts have been really bad about being able to pick these kinds of routes up whether it be from a tight end blocking and releasing, or a similar situation to what we see above from a receiver. These make me really nervous especially with a guy who’s so dynamic after the catch in Baldwin.

Now we see what the Seahawks can, and will do with their running backs to create matchups. Procise comes out of the backfield and sets up wide with linebacker following him. A ton of credit goes to the linebacker here, but Procise is a smart receiver giving himself area to work with along the sideline. I can’t say whether or not Carson is this skilled downfield in a receiving role, but Seattle won’t hesitate to set him up in a similar situation.

It’s not only taking a linebacker out to the boundary in a man-to-man situation being completely out-manned, but it takes another quality tackler out of the middle of the field which makes that area weaker as well. There’s a lot to watch for in these packages including Wilson tucking the ball and running for what he can get.

Procise wasn’t successful in the first clip, but adding a little wrinkle to the route does the trick as he’s matched up against a linebacker again. With just that simple change to the route, Procise has 7-to-8 yards of space for Wilson to play pitch and catch.

We talked about it in another example above, but here we also notice how much ground Malik Hooker would have to cover to roll his coverage and help in any way. It won’t be easy for anyone on the backend, the linebacker is clearly overmatched and there’s only one defender for Wilson to beat in the middle of the field if he pulls the ball down and takes off.

Again, all three levels of the defense must be on point all game to keep these from plaguing their efforts.

Similar to the clip with Baldwin selling the block and leaking out into the flat, Jimmy Graham can be used in multiple sets as well. They aren’t scared to line him up outside to take on a linebacker or manned up against a safety, but here you see that he can make an immediate impact lining up in his natural spot as well.

He does come into motion which allows Wilson to see what coverage the Titans are in, but his first move takes the linebacker shadowing him drop giving him a ton of cushion to work with. Graham lights up the lineman by cracking down on him, then leaks out into the flat with 15 yards to work with as he makes the catch. Graham isn’t anything amazing after the catch this close to the line of scrimmage, however, one missed tackle and it’s a 25-yard catch and run.

The Colts are going to need Vontae Davis in his first game of the season to keep his assignments on lock consistently and be able to challenge the catch point as well. They’ll need Antonio Morrison and Jeremiah George to continue their hard-hitting against the run and short passing game, but they need to have their best coverage game of the year.

Jon Bostic is the true weakness in the Colts underneath coverage game. If he loses his key, it’s a wrap. He simply doesn’t have the recovery ability to do anything if he gets himself out of position as bad as he often does. Hooker, Darius Butler and Matthias Farley will be as fundamental in coverage, and a collective force against the run all game is critical in order to keep the offense from eating up a ton of clock with long drives.

A single, or even a couple, defender(s) won’t be enough in Seattle, it will have to be a complete defensive, and a fundamentally sound and quality effort if the Colts expect to shut down the Seahawks offense regardless of who plays and who doesn’t. Darrell Bevell is very crafty, and Wilson is too good to have any chinks in the armor and expect to stop them.

The Colts offense, despite showing signs of improvement, will need time to get moving and multiple drives to keep the Seahawks from being within reach. Pass rush, good coverage and fundamental, swarming tackling is necessary for a quality opportunity to leave Seattle with a win in prime time.