Don't blame Russell Wilson.
People say the Seahawks' passing game is spiraling counter-clockwise down the toilet because Wilson is in a slump.
It might be more accurate to say that Darrell Bevell, the Seahawks' offensive coordinator, is in a slump.
"His passing game appears chaotic and out of sorts," said a former NFL offensive coordinator. "Some weeks, Bevell is on and hot with his design and play calling, and other weeks, as cold as the Arctic."
Bevell is like the professor who gives the same final exam every quarter, and the fraternity has a copy. People know the answers to his test before they take it. That's how defenses seem to feel about his offense.
"Bevell runs the same standard, generic bootleg pass week after week," said the former offensive coordinator. "I feel sorry for Wilson. Bevell needs to change it up. Defenses run to spots on the field. They know what's coming. The Saints knew what was coming last Sunday."
Here's an example. On the Seahawks' second drive against the Saints in Saturday's divisional playoff game, Bevell called a deep pass to Jermaine Kearse, the wide receiver on the left side of the Seahawks' formation. Before the snap, the Saints free safety, Malcolm Jenkins, took five steps toward Kearse as if he already knew the pass was going to Kearse.
When the center snapped the ball, Kearse ran a quick slant and Wilson pump faked a pass to him. Kearse was running a slant-and-go, supposed to fake out the defenders, make them think it's a short pass and then, whoops, it's a long touchdown.
The Saints weren't faked. They knew it was a long pass from the start. They had seen it so many times before.
Corey White, the cornerback covering Kearse, didn't react to the short slant. When Kearse started running deep, White was right there in perfect position to cover him. Jenkins, the free safety, ran over and covered Kearse, too. Double coverage. A done deal before it even started. <NO1>Bevell's fault.<NO>The play didn't work. Wilson had to scramble and flip the ball to his running back, Marshawn Lynch.
"Teams track play callers' tendencies by down and distance and by field position," said the former offensive coordinator. "You can't call the same exact plays in the playoffs that you called Week 2. You've got to change your tendencies because there are so many games on film."
The first 12 games of the season, Bevell's offense produced big plays in the passing game almost every week. Wilson's passer rating was 109 on passes longer than 20 yards downfield.
But since Week 14 when he played the 49ers at Candlestick, his passer rating on deep passes has been a mere 46. He has completed just three out of 17 deep passes over that five-game span.
Don't blame Wilson. Blame Bevell.
Wilson needs new plays, plays the opposing defense hasn't seen him run dozens of time already. But Bevell isn't giving Wilson new pass plays or even new twists on the old pass plays. Bevell simply is calling fewer and fewer deep passes, only three the past two games.
"Bevell has stopped attacking, stopped being aggressive," said the former offensive coordinator. "Cornerbacks are squeezing the receivers from the top down, taking away the slants and the short passes because Bevell stopped taking the deep shots."