Chargers Seahawks: Game Planning
The Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks play the Chargers this week in the San Diego home opener. Seattle is coming off an impressive week one victory over the Packers, with 10 days rest (and preparation) coming into San Diego. While the Chargers are coming off a short 6 day week, from a 1-point road loss from the Arizona Cardinals.
Coming to San Diego, Seattle has several issues that San Diego needs to game-plan for:
Seahawks Championship Defense (with a great secondary and pass rush): Phillip Rivers will need to get the ball out of his hands quickly, to avoid pass rushers Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. Quick screens and timing routes will be the primary emphasis of the passing game, with the occasional deep ball to Keenan Allen and Malcolm Floyd. But this game should be won in the trenches with an emphasis on the Chargers running backs. Expect a heavy dose of Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead screens, which can set up three or four big play-action post routes with speedy tight end LaDarious Green.
Expect Offensive Coordinator Frank Reich to call less Shotgun formations in this week’s matchup, as the shotgun draw running play will not work against this powerful Seattle defense.
Power is one thing, but speed is another. The Seattle Defense has power, pressure and size, but they are not known for speed and quickness (other than ILB Bobby Wagner and FS Earl Thomas). San Diego’s speed playmakers (Mathews, Woodhead & Royal) can counter the Seahawks lack of top speed and finesse. The Seattle secondary (aka Legion of Boom) are all big beast and bullies, but are not consider the quickest bunch. Seahawks Strong Safety Kam Chancellor is more of a linebacker than a cover safety, which must be exploited by San Diego. This might be the first game we see more of Green and less of Antonio Gates on the field, to remove Chancellor near the line of scrimmage with deeper routes (which can open up the intermediate middle of the secondary).
Seattle’s Solid Running Game (with good depth): Seattle has a sound three headed monster at running back with Marshawn Lynch (Beast-Mode), Robert Turbin and Christine Michael. Lynch is the cog of the Seattle offense and taking him out of the game should be the prime focus of the Chargers defensive front. This would put ILB’s Manti Te’o, Donald Butler and SS Marcus Gilchrist in the lime light to stop Seattle rushing attach. If the Chargers defensive line can standup the Seattle offensive line, then Te’o, Butler and Gilchrist can fill running lanes (which not exactly Gilchrist’s strength). Ideally, this game would be a great time to see strong safety Jahleel Addae (who has not practice this week and is probably out). Expect less nickel and dime defenses, and more base 3-4 (with a mix of 4-3) to focus on the running game.
Note: Wide Receiver Percy Harvin is also a factor in the Seattle rushing attack, which might require a “shadow” on defense to follow Harvin around. Harvin is often used as a decoy in the running game. Chargers rookie CB Jason Varrett could excel at shadowing Harvin all game long, as he can play inside, cover outside with a nose for the ball.
Special Team Playmaker in kick return: Percy Harvin can turn a standard kickoff into an amazing touchdown highlight in a split second. Harvin needs to be avoided at all costs, so Nick Novak will need to focus on directional kick offs (with more touchbacks & limited returns).
This game could also see a lot of punts by Mike Scifres, who had a good game last week, but had some unfortunate bounces (which is still his responsibility). Familiar face Bryan Walters is back at primary punt returner for Seattle, who is more of a “hands guy” (as Earl Thomas had two punt return errors last week). San Diego can disrupt Walters and should still try to dig for a special team’s turnover here.
Improvisational and Smart Running Quarterback with accurate deep ball: Russell Wilson is a lot more than a game manager for the Seahawks offense. He will not usually beat you with 300 passing yards every week, or throw for 3 touchdown passes per game, but he will beat you with his smarts, misdirection scrambling and his 3rd down conversion savviness. He is the cerebral leader of the Seahawks. When Wilson is in the pocket passing, the Chargers defensive linemen must have their hands up to knock down pass attempts, so expect some swats by Liuget, Reyes and Lissemore (& even Jerry Attaochu’s famous hand). Keeping Wilson in the pocket is also important, so setting the edge and filling gaps will be critical for Chargers linebackers to control Wilson.
(the one-on-one battles):
OLB Melvin Ingram vs. rookie RT Justin Britt: Expect a big breakout game from Melvin Ingram. Britt looked very good last week against Julius Peppers, but Britt is a rookie and Melvin Ingram is ready to explode.
DE Corey Liuget vs. LG James Carpenter: Both men are huge and if you like trench warfare, this is your ideal matchup. Carpenter has improved a lot this offseason, but Liuget should win the leverage game and take care of him when rushing the passer.
RT D.J. Fluker vs. DE Michael Bennett: This should be fun to watch as Fluker is becoming a complete tackle in his young career. Fluker excels against power defensive ends, but can struggle against speed ends (so Cliff Avril and Bennett could rotate sides this Sunday). Fluker can naturalize Bennett, but could struggle vs. Avril.
- CB Brandon Flowers vs. WR Doug Baldwin: Both players are very savvy and both are mean dogs that play with chips on their shoulders. “Angry” Doug Baldwin lacks size and speed, but makes big plays when called upon (especially on 3rd downs). Flowers is faster and quicker than Baldwin, so he should be favored in this matchup. Flowers can easily get under Baldwin’s skin and with the mental edge. If Flowers plays Baldwin aggressively and knocks Baldwin down a lot, expect Baldwin’s ego to retaliate quickly (& illegally). Look for Flowers to bait Baldwin all game long…
Last week, Seahawks fans were rooting for a Chargers victory, as the Chargers played against Seattle’s divisional rival Arizona Cardinals. This week will be a lot different with Seattle being favored by more than 8 points in San Diego. The Chargers struggled last week with mental mistakes and self-inflicted errors, but overall, they played well. Look for a Chargers to rebound quickly and fix the mental errors immediately.
*(with Russell Wilson getting sacked over 5 times)