Seattle Times-Seahawks Blog
Time: 1:15 left in the game.
Score: Seattle 13, Arizona 10.
Situation: Cardinals ball, third-and-13 at the Seattle 36.
Strong safety Kam Chancellor saw it coming.
That’s why he was able to jump in front of Arizona tight end Todd Heap for the game-clinching interception.
How he knew, though, is an explanation that shows not only how much study goes into preparing to play an NFL game, but how pivotal that preparation can be in the outcome.
What did he see?
“It’s kind of hard to explain without saying football terms,” Chancellor said in the locker room after the victory.
Fair enough, try us.
Start with the formation. The Cardinals had a 1-1 personnel package, which denotes a group with one tight end, one running back and three wide receivers. Larry Fitzgerald was lined up off to the left on the short side of the field, Andre Roberts was the outside receiver to the right of quarterback Kevin Kolb.
Tight end Todd Heap was lined up just off tackle on Roberts’ side and receiver Early Doucet was lined up between Heap and Roberts.
Running back Chester Taylor came in motion on the play, and returned to the backfield to pass block.
Seattle was in its dime defense, cornerback Walter Thurmond at the line of scrimmage across from Heap.
It’s when the ball is snapped that things got interesting.
First, Thurmond blitzed.
“It was a fire zone we had,” Chancellor said. “It was a pressure.”
Chancellor stepped up and prepared to take Doucet, who was the receiver lined up just outside of Heap. Instead, Doucet turned sharply to his left, cutting across the field and under Seattle’s linebackers. This was the key moment in the play because two Seahawks reacted. First, linebacker David Hawthorne turned abruptly to follow Doucet, but it was what Chancellor saw that determined the course of the play.
“I saw the No. 2 go under,” Chancellor said.”I knew the No. 3 receiver was going to come right over the top of me.”
That was when recognition kicked in.
“It was something I’ve seen on film,” Chancellor said. “And I just jumped it.”
Heap never had a chance. Before he even realized it, Chancellor leapt in front of him to intercept the ball and was headed the other way.
Chancellor was Seattle’s “other” rookie safety last year, someone who played on special teams while Earl Thomas stepped into a starting role. This year, Chancellor is making a name for himself.
“I’ve been telling everyone since preseason when they gave him the starting job, that he’s a special player,” Thomas said. “We got a steal when we got him. He can run, and he can play in the box. We’re interchangeable.”
Chancellor was chosen in the fifth round by Seattle in the 2010 draft, and the Seahawks’ faith in him was a reason the team did not re-sign Lawyer Milloy.
“He’s going to make tough plays,” coach Pete Carroll. “I thought that was a great interception, cutting in front and stealing the ball at such a critical time. It was really a cool play. But I think he’s just getting started, he’s just getting going.”