BY Art Thiel 06:23PM 12/29/2017

Thiel: Seahawks’ corner blitz thrills Shaq Griffin

Shaq Griffin’s first career QB sack was a topic of conversation with FS Earl Thomas, jealous because he’s never had one in his career. Maybe a safety blitz will make Thomas happy.

Rookie CB Shaq Griffin scored the first sack of his football career Sunday in Dallas. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

If the Seahawks want to get on the good side of Earl “Come Get Me” Thomas that costs them no money, here’s an insider tip: Dial up a safety blitz for him. Just one time. Because for all the awards, honors, rings and crowns he has, he wants one football-field jewel: A sack.

Eight seasons, 120 starts. He’s never had one.

Now that rookie CB Shaquille Griffin nailed one, Thomas really wants one.

It’s no guarantee that it will stop Thomas from showing up on the doorstep of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ home bearing a sign saying, “I love you, man!” But at least it would help flummox Arizona’s offense Sunday, much in the way three corner blitzes stymied the Cowboys offense in the Seahawks’ 21-12 road win that kept alive their postseason hopes.

Small wrinkles like that are crucial in game whose final score between two teams with crabby defenses and scabby offenses is going to be something like 1.8 to 1.3.

“Every defensive back wants a sack,” Griffin said this week. “It’s not something we do. Sometimes we get tackles for loss, but it usually doesn’t happen. It’s cool.

“I was talking to Earl about it, and he told me he hasn’t got his first one yet. He thought he had a half-sack in a game earlier this season, but (an official scoring review) took it away from him. Been in the league in a long time and hasn’t had a sack. He wants one.”

A sack by a free safety is a rare feat for any team because that’s not the task of the last man in any NFL defensive formation. But the Seahawks launched three corner blitzes against  the Cowboys, to great effect. Would it be that hard to tweak once for Thomas?

Imagine Thomas sliding up while another back drops into coverage, then Thomas high-speeds unimpeded to Cardinals slow-footed QB Drew Stanton. On the sports freak-o-meter, it would be like Dae Ho Lee hitting a triple or Frank Brickowski draining a game-winning trey.

The imagination is inspired by the results the normally blitz-averse Seahawks had by unleashing the unexpected.

Two first-half blitzes by CB Justin Coleman forced Cowboys QB Dak Prescott into incompletions. Then halfway through the the third quarter with Seattle up 14-9, the Cowboys were at the Seattle 21 facing a third-and-10. Defensive coordinator Kris Richard saw something — he’ll never say what — he thought would work to help deny a first down and/or a touchdown.

“We just took advantage of our opportunities,” Richard said of the corner blitzes. “Every single week, we formulate our pressure plan. It typically predicates on what causes trouble for them and their pass protection.”

Knowing that Prescott is relatively ineffective under blitz pressure, the call came from the sideline. No one was more surprised than Griffin.

“We understood we covered good enough in man that the blitz could get home,” he said.  “We wanted to put pressure on Dak to make quick decisions that would lead to a sack, or fumble or throwing a ball into coverage.

“But I never had a chance to practice it because, depending on the situation, it’s supposed to be the nickel (cornerback) blitzing. The way the Cowboys had their formation, the (other) corner had to come over to the other side, and the nickel was sitting on the No. 2 receiver. He wouldn’t make it in time for the blitz to work.”

As the defenders lined up, they began quietly calling his name: Shaq, Shaq, Shaq.

“We didn’t want to give away the play, but as soon as they said my name, I knew it was a go,” he said. “I had to make it look like I was (in press coverage), then take my shot.

“It was exciting, crazy to see how the hole opened up the way it did. All I saw was (Prescott). Now I have a picture of what it looks like when you get a sack.”

Griffin fought off a late block to grab Prescott for a five-yard loss. Instead of pursuing a touchdown, the Cowboys settled for a 39-yard field goal — what turned out to be their final points of the game.

Not once in high school or in college at Central Florida did Griffin get such an opportunity.

“I tell my coaches now, I need my blitzes,” he said, grinning like he stole home.
“I’m 100 percent on blitzes.”

The risk-taking was an example of the ferocity against Dallas that was utterly missing in the 42-7 disembowelment by the Rams.

“We wanted to be aggressive,” coach Pete Carroll said. “We always like to find our ways to be aggressive, because it changes everything. I thought Kris did a nice job of mixing ’em up and getting ’em going. The guys came off the edges really well.”

As to whether a well-crafted safety blitz for Thomas would be persuasive in winning his future affections for the Seahawks, that’s hard to say. As are most things with the inscrutable Thomas.

But having Stanton on his back, sputtering and blinking back rain and tears after being thrashed by a whooping Thomas, would be a splendid way for the Seahawks to welcome the new year.

Vannett joins Willson as questionable for Sunday

Nick Vannett (back) joined fellow tight end Luke Willson (ankle) on the questionable list with practice-week injuries, potentially leaving Seattle perilously shorthanded at one position going into Sunday’s win-or-drop-dead game with Arizona.

Carroll said Willson, who has been playing some fullback, turned an ankle, but the news about Vannett came after Carroll met with the media following practice Friday.

“It’s a minor sprain; we will see what happens,” he said of Willson. “We got to give him a day here.”

Another listed as questionable, LG Luke Joeckel, apparently is good after hurting a foot Sunday against Dallas.

“He practiced today,” he said. “He’s fine.”

LB Bobby Wagner (hamstring) will be back, probably still less than 100 percent.

“He’s in good shape, ready to go,” Carroll said. “He’s got a little bit more to go, not quite to full speed. We will see if he is this week. Everything he can possibly do, he’s doing it.”

Declared out are DT Nazair Jones (ankle) and LB J.D. Alexander (concussion). Thomas and RB Eddie Lacy were set home ill.





  • woofer

    Two gritty defenses battling for an edge. Probably comes down to a Blair Walsh field goal. Money in the bank.

    • Chris Alexander

      No …. the way this season has gone, Blair needs to be in position to hit (or miss) the game-winning FG against the Vikings which, based on the current seeding, assuming the Hawks get in as the 6th seed, would mean the kick would be for the NFC title and a Super Bowl berth … in Minnesota, for the privilege of playing for the title in Minnesota and possibly having the game rest on his foot again …. in front of the Minnesota chapter of the Blair Walsh Fan Club. Money in the bank.

      • woofer

        Well done. A truly superior apocalyptic fantasy.