Oakland Raiders Film Room: Week 9 (SEA)

3 of 5

Seattle Defends The Back Shoulder Well

One of Derek Carr’s bread and butter plays is the back shoulder pass. He throws it very well. If the receiver is ready for it and the defender is not, it can be a majorly reliable play to get your team out of danger with a high rate of success. Such is not the case with Seattle. Seattle is better than any team in the league at defending the back shoulder throw.  Much of that comes from their particular press-bail technique, in which a corner playing deep third coverage plays the outside receiver as though it’s man-to-man through the opening stem before bailing to the deep zone after the 12 yard breaking point. Another part, however, is simply because Richard Sherman is excellent at defending that pass.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

Seattle’s particular technique allows Richard Sherman to leverage his height to be in position for over the top throws while not being out of position for back shoulder and underneath throws. Whether in man or Cover 3, Sherman can play the inside hip and sit semi-low on the route because his height and long arms make it very difficult to throw over him in the event of a deep vertical route. The press alignment makes it difficult for receivers to get that quick burst off the line and attempt to blow past him. On the late first quarter play above, Sherman is in man coverage and knows to look back at the QB at the 10-12 yard mark to be ready for the breaking route. He sees the back shoulder as it comes and makes a great play on the ball to break up the pass.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

On this second play, early in the second quarter, Sherman (top of image) is actually in Cover 3 Zone coverage with press-bail technique. Notice how similar the technique looks to the man coverage on the previous play. He disrupts WR Andre Holmes vertical release, stays inside and semi-low on the hip and looks back to the QB at about 10 yards (top of the stem) to prepare for the break. While Holmes is late to the play, Sherman is right on point and is able to intercept Carr’s pass before Holmes would even have a chance to get to it. Sherman’s physical abilities combined with Seattle’s technique make this the absolute worst coverage to throw the back-shoulder into. Carr doesn’t learn the lesson from the earlier play and instead gives Sherman his first interception of the season.