SunBreak | How to sound smart during the Seahawks playoff game

Because I want you to win friends and influence people, here are two sentences you can say during Sunday’s Seahawks/Redskins playoff game that are guaranteed to impress.

1) “They’re in the Pistol formation.”

2) “Looked like the read-option.”

You can’t just randomly blurt these statements out and look cool. Besides, you’ve already got “Who needs a Mike’s Hard?” for that. No, you must know the perfect moment to deploy these advanced football proclamations!


Say “They’re in the Pistol formation” when you see this:
This, friends, is the Pistol formation. Notice: Quarterback Russell Wilson is standing five yards behind the line of scrimmage, and running back Marshawn Lynch is directly behind him.

If pressed for further explanation by football neophytes, explain patiently that the Pistol was invented by longtime University of Nevada head coach Chris Ault in 2005, and that among its many advantages are that the running back is hidden behind the quarterback–the defense can’t see the running back’s movements at the snap, and so can’t they tell right away which way the run will go. The result of this play, incidentally, was the Hawks’ first TD in the win over San Francisco. Here’s more on how the Seahawks use the Pistol, from Field Gulls’ Danny Kelly.

Say “looked like the read-option” when you see something like this:

…followed by something like this (it may be easier just to watch the highlight of this one):

This time, running back Lynch is lined up to quarterback Wilson’s side. At the snap, Lynch runs toward Wilson. When they meet, Wilson will either hand the ball to Lynch, who’ll continue running left, or keep the ball himself and run right. Which OPTION Wilson chooses depends on how he READS the movement of the defense. Hence, the read-option.

If some smart-ass wants to quiz you about it, explain how Wilson makes his read: By watching the defensive end lined up on the side Lynch is on. If the end stays put or comes upfield, Wilson hands the ball to Lynch, who runs away from the end to the other side of the line. If the end runs down the line of scrimmage toward Lynch, Wilson keeps the ball, and runs around the end. The beauty of the read-option is that it can eliminate the defensive end from the play without anyone having to block him. The read-option is one of the plays in the spread offense, which Chip Kelly’s Oregon Ducksthrash the Huskies with every year. The result of this particular read-option play was Lynch scoring a touchdown.

The Seahawks also sometimes fake the read-option and pass instead–they scored the game-winning touchdown in Chicago that way. Here’s more on how the Seahawks use the read-option from National Football Post’s Matt Bowen.

The crazy thing about the Seahawks’ use of the Pistol and the read-option is that neither was in the playbook at the start of the season. The Seahawks used the read-option only sporadically until early December, and didn’t use the Pistol at all until Week 14 against Buffalo. Less than a month later–and after scoring more points in a three-game stretch than any team had since 1950–both strategies are a key part of the offense. Much credit is due to Seahawks’ offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell for his creativity, and quarterback Russell Wilson for running such a complicated offense as a rookie. (You know, that’s ANOTHER smart sentence you can say. On the house.)

So how are you going to sound smart when the Seahawks are on defense? Happily, the Redskins also use both the Pistol and the read-option, so you’re set there too. Don’t worry about repeating yourself, the worst TV announcers have been doing it for years and no one seems to notice.

The Seahawks play the Redskins at FedExField in Landover, MD, at 1:30 PST on Sunday. The game will be televised on FOX.

The SunBreak is an online magazine of news & culture. A conversation about the things on Seattle’s mind.

3 thoughts on “SunBreak | How to sound smart during the Seahawks playoff game

  1. Thanks, but what never-before-heard terminology will that idiot Jon Gruden use to describe these? The guy has more inane commentary than anyone else on ESPN.