The best way to slow down a good passing offense is to pressure the QB. It’s true. Coverage is great, but give NFL receivers long enough and eventually one of them will get open. This is the dilemma that faces the Seahawks this weekend. The need to get after Matt Ryan, but lack the bodies to do so now that Chris Clemons is out.
Luckily, I don’t think it matters for this week.
Matt Ryan was only sacked 27 times this year. Thats among the best in the league. While you might think that means he has a good offensive line (he does), that’s only part of the story here.
The other half is that Ryan gets the ball out very fast. He averages only 2.67 seconds from the snap until the ball is out of his hands. That too is among the best in the league. Add in that Ryan likes to go deep with the ball occasionally (11.1% of his passes), and you’ll realize that the other 88.9% of his passes are even faster than that number.
Put those together and you see the problem. Good offensive line + Quick throws = very difficult to sack.
Unfortunately, that’s not the only problem. The Seahawks are have struggled to get to the QB over the past 6 weeks, and are now very short on pass rushers having lost both Jason Jones and Chris Clemons.
When you look at all of it that way, It would suggest that the Seahawks would be best served to regularly drop extra players into coverage. Rushing 3 (Irvin, McDonald, and Scruggs) on obvious passing downs and covering with 8 defenders (vs a max of 5 players out in patterns) in the secondary.
Looking at Ryan’s stats when he is under pressure also suggests that this strategy might be the best one. His completion % when under pressure is 5th best in the league, even when he is under pressure (which isn’t very often) he’s among the league leaders in not getting sacked. Only 13.9% of the times he’s under pressure do opposing defenses actually get him to the turf.
Ultimately what that says to me is that putting a ton of effort and energy into trying to get to Matt Ryan doesn’t seem like a smart game plan for this game. Why blitz and create holes in your coverage if it is unlikely to get to QB.
Instead, I believe the Seahawks are better off playing the numbers game in the secondary. Luckily, they have the players to make that game plan work.