Much has been said about the Seattle Seahawks offense and how Russell Wilson’s play has dipped in the latter part of the season, including the postseason. But the Seahawks have a weapon in their arsenal that could amount to a dive-bomb attack on Jack Del Rio and the Broncos defense: the Zone-Read.
Many people, including myself, believed the proliferation of the zone-read was going to be story one of the 2013 season. The exact opposite happened. Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins all but ignored the package that had been so effective the previous season; San Francisco stepped away from exposing Colin Kaepernick to the perils of the zone-read; even the Carolina Panthers used it sparingly with Cam Newton; and the Seahawks flashed it early in games and then basically threw it in the circular file.
This is why Super Bowl XLVIII would be the perfect time for the Seahawks to reintroduce the zone-read package. You’re in a one-and-done scenario, one game and there is no tomorrow. Russell Wilson may get beat up, but he doesn’t have to play until next August. Provided he doesn’t suffer a serious injury, which I’m willing to acknowledge as a small risk, he’ll have plenty of time to heal.
The negative acknowledged, the disclaimer out of the way, the positives for Seattle are palpable.
First, running the zone-read would relieve pressure and attention from Marshawn Lynch. The Broncos are going to be geared up and freaked up to stop Lynch, and the only thing scarier to the Broncos than Beast Mode might be Wilson using his legs, picking up first-downs, possessing the ball and moving the chains.
The zone-read is part and parcel to an entire package that could be the difference in keeping Peyton Manning off the field. There’s the dual threat of the zone-read itself, with either Lynch or Wilson running the ball; there’s the play-action off of it (the bang 8 seam-route, the dig-route, etc.), the wide-receiver screen, and the boot action where the defensive force (either corner or safety force) commits to stopping Wilson, only to have the ball thrown over his head when he does. There is a package that comes with the zone-read and unless you practice against it often, it can and has created big problems for certain teams — just ask Dom Capers or Monte Kiffin.
Speaking of practice, Brock Osweiler was the one simulating the zone-read during practice for the Broncos. Although Brock is mobile, he is nothing like Russell Wilson. It is very challenging for Del Rio to simulate what his defense might see on Sunday. Sure, the Broncos know the zone-read is a possibility, but Seattle hasn’t committed to it or used it like they did in 2012.
What would happen if the Seahawks featured it?