The past super bowl was one of the biggest blowouts in NFL history.
It begs the question, “why did the Seahawks completely dominate the Broncos?”
Every sports show and site has analyzed this game to death and the conclusion has been that the Seatle defense was unbeatable.
Here’s the reality: Denver was simply out-coached.
The analysis and coverage mainly focussed on statistics and key match-ups. Basically a recap of what you saw on game day. Seattle was more physically dominant and Denver was flat.
All of that makes for a good TV or a great read, but it doesn’t help you become a better coach or player.
Here’s what you need to take away from that game:
When the number one offense and the number one defense play against each other in the Super Bowl, there aren’t any personnel mismatches. In fact, the teams that play in the Super Bowl are always pretty evenly matched. This is why blowouts like this are so rare.
Watching an NFL football game is often not a good place to start if you are wanting to learn how to get better at the fundamentals of the game. NFL players are so athletically talented that many of them don’t focus enough on good, fundamental execution to make plays. Let me put it this way, if your team tackled like many of the NFL teams tackle, you’d have a difficult time winning football games.
Seattle’s defensive philosophy is to keep it simple; to properly execute the fundamentals of the game, and to properly execute the scheme of the defense. Every man knows his assignment, every man tackles properly, and every man covers properly. Period. The coaches who stress the fundamentals of the game such as Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick win far more games than they lose. It’s really that simple.
To beat a fundamentally sound defense that has good players and executes well, like Seattle’s, an offense has to change things up and show the defense things that they haven’t seen before such as different formations, shifts and motions.
The limited time constraints to prepare for a game like this makes it difficult to introduce too many new route combinations and running plays into a game plan. However, adding new formations, motions and shifts is much easier and can help to give your offense a new look and feel while keeping the routes and running plays the same. That was Bill Walsh’s philosophy. By the way, he won lot’s of football games and championships.
Denver didn’t do much differently offensively and, if they did, they didn’t do enough of it or make it that obvious. The only way to beat a defense like Seattle’s is to get them off-balance by showing them something that they had not prepared for, specifically formations, shifts, and motions. That’s how an offense can cause a fundamentally sound and well executed defense like Seattle’s to mis-align or to miss an assignment.
Mis-alignments and missed assignments lead to blown coverages or improper run defense gap control. An offense can not allow a defense like Seattle’s to operate at full tilt like they did.
Seattle knew exactly what Denver was going to do. They even knew Manning’s checks and signals at the line of scrimmage. This is why they looked so physically dominant.
It’s pretty easy to lay someone out, make a pick, or strip the ball when you know exactly where the receivers and running backs are going to be every play. Seattle’s defense definitely did their homework and spent plenty of time in the film room.
After Seattle had a commanding lead, they knew that Denver had to throw, so it was easy to put tons of pressure on the QB at that point.
Super Bowl 37 is another perfect example of great preparation by one team but not the other. The Raiders never changed their playbook after they “traded” Jon Gruden to the Buccaneers. Their worst nightmare came to life when Jon Grudden’s Buccs beat them 48 to 21 in a game where the Raiders were a 4 point favorite.
What was the key difference?
The Tampa Bay defense knew the Raider’s playbook inside and out. Every time Rich Gannon made any kind of adjustment at the line of scrimmage, the Tampa defense immediately shifted to counter it.
Seattle could run the ball and play-action off the run on offense to keep the Denver defense off-balance because they were so far ahead in the game. It didn’t matter that Denver did a good job stopping Seattle’s running game because Seattle had the clock in their favor at that point. This put additional pressure on the Denver offense to make plays against a defense that was dominating them. Once Denver was behind and had to throw it was easy for Seattle’s defensive front to get after Payton Manning. When a defensive lineman doesn’t have to respect the run he can just pin his ears back and go after the QB. That can make a defensive line look much better and an offensive line look much worse!
Simply put, Seattle’s defense was much better prepared than Denver’s offense and Denver was simply out coached. This allowed Seattle to pick up an early lead and it just snow-balled from there.
It just goes to show you that fundamentals and proper game plan strategies are just as important at the NFL level as any other. Teach your players how to execute your system flawlessly and perform their best athletically (keep it simple) as well as block, tackle, catch, throw, and run properly. Additionally, always try and stay one step ahead of your opponent strategically. If you stick with those philosophies you will win far more games than you lose!