The Passing Chronicles: Behind Enemy Lines Edition

Dusty looks at every D.K. Metcalf target from the Seahawks Wild Card win over the Eagles

The Packers did not have a game this past weekend so I had to take a different angle. I wasn't entirely sure what I was going to end up doing. Then D.K. Metcalf went nuts in the Seahawks Wild Card win (7 catches for 160 yards and a touchdown) and suddenly I had an article written. 

I wanted to take a look at every D.K. Metcalf target and see what the Seahawks did with him.

Our first 6 plays will all belong to a single series.

Metcalf's Quick Hitters

Play 1: 1st & 10, 14:54 remaining in the 1st quarter

We'll start off with a simple follow-slant, with D.K. Metcalf [14] on the outside and Tyler Lockett [16] in the slot. The Seahawks spread everyone out and the Eagles are playing up on the line, so it's an easy read: if the slot corner doesn't fall under the slant from Metcalf, there's a nice throwing lane. The slot corner runs with Lockett and Russell Wilson [3] hits Metcalf out of the break. Not a huge gain, but it's a quick-hitter that picks up 9 yards.

Play 2: 3rd & 11, 3:51 remaining in the 1st quarter

This ends up being complete to Metcalf on the scramble, but let's not think about that right now. The takeaway from this play is that the original route is Metcalf running a curl at the sticks. He uses his speed to push downfield before cutting back on the curl route. It's designed to be a quick-hitter out of the break. The Eagles cover it well so Wilson runs around for a bit and ends up throwing the ball up to Metcalf on the scramble drill.

Play 3: 1st & 10, 13:50 remaining in the 2nd quarter

Metcalf pushes upfield then cuts off on an out route. The defender is on his inside hip and has to respect his speed, so he's running up the field. Good timing on the cut and throw. The throw is a bit low, but Metcalf is able to dig it out.

Play 4: 1st & 10, 2:48 remaining in the 2nd quarter

Just a quick curl from Metcalf on the outside. Defender respects the speed and bails, leaving him open for a quick 4 yard gain.

Play 5: 2nd & 10, 1:14 remaining in the 2nd quarter

Slant/flat, with Metcalf on the slant. You'll see this from the Packers a lot. The Eagles are in man coverage, so Wilson waits for the flat defender to clear, then fires to Metcalf on the slant. The ball is slightly behind and Metcalf can't haul it in.

We just looked at 5 quick-hitters in rapid succession. What was the point of all of that?

Play 6: 1st & 10, 2:49 remaining in the 3rd quarter

The defense is thinking about all of that. Metcalf had been killing them with quick-hitters. Shouldn't they do something about it?

Metcalf merely hints at the possibility of a slant and the Eagles are all over it. The defender jumps the route and Metcalf just shoots over the top.

Wilson overshoots Metcalf, but the idea is solid. Hit them over and over again with quick-hitters, get them leaning then take advantage of their lean. It's a perfect call, but Wilson just misses the throw. It happens.

Wide Receiver Screens

We've looked at some quick hitters and how the Seahawks tried to capitalize on those. Now we'll look at two plays centered around the wide receiver screen.

Play 7: 1st & 10, 10:45 remaining in the 1st quarter

I really like this play design. Metcalf is the only receiver on the left side of the field. The jet sweep motion - along with the alignment of the other receivers - gets the defense looking to the right. That leaves Metcalf alone on the left. The left tackle and left guard release as blockers. Typically on a wide receiver screen, you'll have at least one other receiver on the screen side that will fire upfield to block. The Seahawks don't have that here, so the screen takes the Eagles by surprise.

Wilson drops down to a side-arm delivery to get around the rushers, but the ball ends up in the dirt. If this is complete, it's likely a touchdown. The tackle blocks the boundary corner while the guard is peeling back to pick up the safety. Really nice play design here.

So they've shown a wide receiver screen. What next?

Play 8: 3rd & 10, 1:47 remaining in the 4th quarter

This is a huge moment in the game. The Seahawks are facing 3rd & 10, up by a score of 17-9. A first down here ends the game, while a stop here gives the Eagles one more drive.

The Eagles come out in Cover 0, so they have no one deep. The Seahawks show a wide receiver screen look with Lockett falling back out of the bunch formation. That's enough to draw the Eagles up. Metcalf's initial release looks like a block, which helps to sell the screen. His defender takes a step up and it's all over. Metcalf blows by him and Wilson gets the ball to him.

The ball is underthrown, but they're not looking for a touchdown here: all they need is a catch. A throw past the fingertips of Metcalf would have been bad, so Wilson puts it in a place he knows Metcalf can make the catch.

Odds and Ends

Now that our two groups are out of the way, we've got two more plays to look at.

Play 9: 2nd & 11, 8:55 remaining in the 3rd quarter

This one is just nothing other than speed, man. Just speed. The single safety is aligned on the opposite side of the field. The Seahawks send a deep dig to tie him up, then go over the top with Metcalf. Metcalf has the inside angle, speed and no safety help.

Wilson goes over the top, Metcalf makes a nice snag and ends up rolling-and-stumbling his way to a 53 yard touchdown.

Play 10: 3rd & 4, 2:00 remaining in the 2nd quarter

We will end, of course, with Mesh. If you've been reading all season, you may be sick of Mesh. Or maybe you love it even more! If you haven't been reading all season, you can read a bit of a primer on the concept here.

This play is at the 2 minute warning of the 1st half with the score tied 3-3. So the Seahawks trot out Mesh.

The Eagles are in man coverage, so the boundary defender is taken down the field by the wheel route. The mesh is tight and Metcalf's defender is forced to go over the drag from the other side. From there? It's over. Metcalf's speed puts even more distance between himself and his defender. By the time the dust settles, Metcalf has picked up 26 yards off a drag route. The Seahawks ended up scoring a touchdown less than a minute later on a Marshawn Lynch run. That gave them a lead they would never relinquish. 

So what did we learn?

D.K. Metcalf is fast. We already knew that. However, they used his speed in a variety of ways. They used the threat of his speed to pick up some easy yards on some quick-hitters, mainly in the form of slants and curls. When the defense decided to try to jump those routes, they used it to their advantage and used his speed to burn the defense over the top.

They used the threat of a wide receiver screen to use Metcalf's speed over the top.

They used his speed on in a Mesh concept to get him in space with the ball in his hands.

They used his speed by just telling him to "run really fast down the field."

They were able to stretch the field horizontally and vertically using his speed and the threat of his speed. His route tree may be somewhat limited right now, but they're using it very well.

Albums listened to: Noah Gundersen - Lover; Frightened Rabbit - Painting of a Panic Attack; Postcards - The Good Soldier


Dusty Evely is a film analyst for Cheesehead TV. He can be heard talking about the Packers on Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter at @DustyEvely or email at [email protected].

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Comments (7)

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ShooterMcGee's picture

January 09, 2020 at 04:39 pm

How he lasted to pick 64 is anyone's guess. He is big, fast, and strong with decent hands. I like our draft picks but certainly would have liked to have added DK to the class. Not sure who or how we are going to cover him but trust we have a plan. Russell sure throws a pretty deep ball which allows his receivers a chance to go after it.

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sonomaca's picture

January 09, 2020 at 04:42 pm

Darnell Savage has the speed to stay with this guy if the Seahawks do the same bait-and-switch. Savage will have a chance to show why he was the first safety picked.

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jannes bjornson's picture

January 09, 2020 at 05:08 pm

King covered Julio pretty good when he was a rookie. He can match up with him and it would be nice to see Savage work in a pick.

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IshpemingPackAttack's picture

January 09, 2020 at 06:41 pm

Amazing as usual Dusty!!!!

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MarkinMadison's picture

January 09, 2020 at 09:09 pm

Clear that safety help will be needed to deal with the speed.

He lasted so long because hands and route running are not the best. Route running tends to get better with time. Hands do not always do so.

With the Seahawks' running game being so putrid right now, and their pass blocking not being much better. Keep Russell Wilson in the pocket and squeeze it. I like the Packers' chances.

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Minniman's picture

January 10, 2020 at 01:29 am

Thanks again Dusty, I've loved reading this series all season - hopefully there's another 3 installments!

What I saw from your posted videos, that may be of note, was the persistent outside bull rush tactic from the Philly D and "missionary position" formations of their D line - all of which got parried easily by the Hawks o-line, giving Wilson a stable pocket and time...... this seems to be a scenario that this o-line is well versed at handling.

As such, I'd like to see the Packers line Z up all across the line, rush inside, switch, stunt.... everything to disrupt the Seahawks o-lines limited strengths or comfort areas (and shrink that damn pocket!).

I'd also like to see Raven Greene or T-Will in the box and rush inside occasionally too - making sure that they at least register a fair "QB Hit" or force the RB to engage (and expend energy legitimately defending Wilson).

If Wilson has no set Pocket or time for accuracy then that helps to nullify Metcalf and Locket.

Also, as stated above, make their RB's work all game - I'm not convinced that Lynch can carry the ball for more than 20 meaningful carries.... there's no substitute for match fitness.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

January 10, 2020 at 07:56 am

It was a great idea to show passing concepts for Metcalf. Another tour de force!

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