FS Thomas, Seahawks' physicality key cover-3 defense
Seattle coach Pete Carroll's defensive objective is to stop the run at all costs.
If that means putting strong safety Kam Chancellor in the box and relying on free safety Earl Thomas to hold down the middle of the field by himself, so be it.
Don't expect that to change for Super Bowl XLVIII against the Denver Broncos.
The Seahawks have used their twist of the cover-3 defensive scheme to become one of the most dominant units in the league.
Seattle finished the regular season tied for seventh against the run (101.6 yards per game), first against the pass (172.0) and first overall (273.6).
What makes Seattle's cover 3 unique is the physical nature of cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell and nickel back Jeremy Lane at the line of scrimmage. All three play bump coverage and want to be physical, something not typically associated with other zone-oriented defenses.
The cover 3 is a zone scheme that requires the back seven to cover an area rather than an individual. It is a basic defense that has been productive for the Seahawks since Carroll arrived in 2010.
In the cover 3, three defenders split the back, or top, of the defense into thirds, while four underneath defenders are responsible for shorter routes such as curls and flats.
The key to success is having a free safety who can cover a lot of space. Thomas is considered the best free safety in the league because he is responsible enough to chase intermediate routes.
Thomas in the deep middle allows the Seahawks to put the physical Chancellor near the line of scrimmage to create an eight-man box. The defense also allows more players to drop into coverage compared to the cover 2. Chancellor and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner are responsible for stopping the run.
However, if there is one place the cover 3 is vulnerable, it is in the seams. And with a quarterback the caliber of Peyton Manning, the Broncos are sure to test the Seahawks' signature defense.
Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- NFL notebook: Ex-Steeler Sanders picks Manning over Big Ben
- NFL notebook: Browns receiver Josh Gordon hires lawyer to help with hearing