Updated Jan 29, 2015
By D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett is a major proponent of the rugby-style tackling that defensive coordinator Dan Quinn teaches.
Bennett, a former undrafted player, had his career resurrected when he connected with Quinn after three seasons in Tampa Bay.
Quinn is set to be named the Falcons’ head coach after the Super Bowl and plans to bring the rugby-styled tackling to the Falcons.
The methods have worked, as the Seahawks have been the NFL’s top-ranked unit over the past two seasons.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and defensive-passing-game coordinator Rocky Seto have produced an instructional video to educate coaches, players and fans on the team’s methods of tackling.
“You are going to give up yards in the game, but the fact that you don’t give up extra yards when they do catch the ball, that makes a big difference,” Bennett said.
The key for the Seahawks is not to miss any tackles and not yield any yards after contact.
This regular season, the Seahawks missed 105 tackles over 989 snaps, or one missed tackle every 9.4 plays. The Patriots missed 116 tackles over 1,040 snaps, one every 8.9 plays. The Falcons missed 132 tackles over 1,102 snaps, one every 8.4 plays.
The tackling style, which calls for players to lead with their shoulder, hit, wrap-up and take the ballcarrier to the ground, has been well-received by the Seahawks.
“If you see how we tackle and how far we’ve come and how many (yards after contact) yards we’ve allowed a game and how many yards we give up,” Bennett said. “We are the best-tackling team in the NFL.”
Carroll, Seto and Quinn came up with the teaching methods to help the defense. They talk about tracking the ballcarrier and then punishing him in the strike zone.
The Seahawks wanted to continue to play a physical style of football without using their heads or necks after league rule changes.
“We thought you could still play a physical style,” Quinn said. “We absolutely were saying that there is nothing that would slow us down from playing physical.”
Bennett believes the players bought in because it’s a safer method of tackling.
“To me, it’s not about the strike zone,” Bennett said. “It’s about not being scared. Most of the guys are really scared to tackle with all of the brain injuries. People are just scared now. …
“Nobody knew about the head injuries and what could come after football. Now, we are aware. You see what guys are going through.
“You think Muhammad Ali would have took as many punches to his head if he would have known what was going to happen to him? I think that’s kind of what’s going on in the NFL.”
Bennett said the Seattle way of tackling allows players to get over that fear.
“You just have to do the right thing and get people down,” Bennett said.
Cornerback Byron Maxwell also is a proponent of rugby tackling.
“It’s just a way to protect yourself and get the guy down,” Maxwell said. “We are in a different age right now. To be honest with you, that’s the way we need to tackle. You don’t need to be putting your head in there. … You have to tackle the right way.”
The Seahawks have been able to intimidate some teams with their fierce hitting style.
“It’s like a shoulder punch,” Maxwell said. “You’re just hitting him with your shoulder. That way, you are keeping your neck and your head out of it.”
Quinn pointed to heavy hitters in linebacker Bobby Wagner and safety Kam Chancellor on the Seattle defense. It’s something that the Falcons defenders will have to learn.
“Those strike-zone tackles are important,” Quinn said. “One of our goals is to try to be the best fundamental team in ball. For us, it starts with tackling.”
The video has been a hit.
“What prompted it was looking at the ‘Heads Up’ videos that were on TV and realized there was a lot of room here to expand the coaching of this part of the game, the tackling part of it,” Carroll said.
“We’ve been involved with this kind of tackling stuff for years, way back into our USC days. So, we just decided that let’s make an effort, let’s see what happens.”