What kind of adjustments did Marshall make? While it is noteworthy that the players stayed very agressive throughout the game--hitting hard and attacking the quarterback--there were some significant adjustments to the strategy Marshall employed.
The best way I can describe it is in phases:
- Phase I - Blitz. It was fun to see all seven of the defensive front running after Carrot Top in a blind rage, but it was the least successful part of the game plan with Tampa netting drives of 20 (shortened by a fumble), 55 (field goal) and 79 (field goal) yards. To his credit, Garcia took the hits on the blitzes and found his receivers, including Galloway for a 49 yard bomb. When they did not blitz, the offense generally stalled. Which is probably why Marshall altered his defensive calls.
- Phase II - Fearsome Foursome. Having less success on blitz plays, Marshall changed things for the second quarter. Sending just four down linemen against Garcia proved to be just as much pressure as blitzing - and dropping linebackers into coverage gave him no quick options to bail out to. He began hesitating, looking for receivers, and then looking for receivers on the run. This effective balance between pass rush and coverage resulted in failed drives of 24 (punt), -3 (punt), and 31 (end of half) yards.
- Phase III - Pounding into submission. This was the most fun part of the game for me to watch. By the time the third quarter started, the defense settled into their strategy, got progressively more comfortable with their assignments, and began hitting ball carriers with reckless abandon. It has been years, maybe even going back into the eighties, since I have seen a Seahawks defense play with that kind of physical agression. Massively hard hits to Cadillac and Carrot Top sent them to the sidelines, snuffing out the offense like a Kevorkian patient.
I sort of enjoyed Williams' reponse, via Bucs Beat:
""It was a tough blow," Williams said. "Initially, my thought laying on the ground was, "Oh, man, I've broken my ribs.""....'Nuff said. For this phase, the Bucs managed drives of 4, 0, 19, and 8 yards, all resulting in punts.
"Williams said he had difficulty breathing and sleeping Sunday and Monday and struggled to get out of bed....
""Monday morning, it was like I could barely breathe or cough or make a certain movement," Williams said."
- Phase IV - Clock Killer. Usually you hear of winding down the clock with the offense, but the Seahawks brilliantly accomplished this with the other squad. The Bucs found themselves down by 14 halfway through the fourth quarter, and out comes the full-panic pass attack. It would have appeared that the Seahawks let up as the Bucs gained 56 yards in nine plays, but something different was at work here. (1) The deep ball was completely covered, (2) Garcia was still short on time in the pocket, and (3) the Seahawks allowed them to complete short little passes, and nothing more, which kept the clock running. This ate 4:17 off the clock until Tatupu punched the ball loose and Jennings recovered. It was the last time Tampa got their hands on the ball. All the while, Seattle's defense was in complete control, just giving out enough rope for them to hang themselves.
It's been a long time since I've been this impressed with a Seahawks defense. Clearly, the linebackers are more comfortable with the secondary behind them, and can just go full throttle without hesitation. No longer do we nee safeties way out of place -- even on a reverse, they are right there on assignment.
This season is gonna be good.