The Art of the Pick Six

“We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.”

-Bob Ross

Many agree that the act of scoring so-called “points” is one of the major objectives within the artisanal deathmatch of football. When possessing the ball, it is in a team’s best interest to advance downfield and score. When possessing the ball, an offense’s will to accumulate victory currency shares a symbiotic relationship with a desire to prevent its opponent from amassing these “points” as well.

While scoring a touchdown is just about the most rewarding thing an offense can do, letting the other team score a touchdown instead may just be the most devastating, infuriating, and cringe-worthy. Interceptions, when returned for touchdowns, prevent an offense from scoring points (their goal), and allow the defense to score points (very much not their goal). The “Nathan Peterman,” as most call a point-scoring interception, is the largest mass-times-velocity-shifter in all of sports.

In the age of sabermetrics and blossoming analytics within the game of football, it is crucial that we, as intellectuals, explore the true value of the pick-six. While the numbers may indicate that this type of play is overwhelmingly bad for offenses, they can be strategically utilized to better your team’s chances of winning the contest at hand. That’s right. Maybe learn.

On October 7th, 2012, Russell Wilson threw the first pick-six of his professional career. It was at — and in — the hands of Captain Munnerlyn, and it was bad.

On 2nd and 8, Wilson attempted to force a ball to his tight end, Anthony McCoy. The attempt, for the lack of a better term, failed. Munnerlyn jumped the route and flew into the end zone for six.

And yet, the Seahawks still won the game.

Pulling out the road win by a score of 16-12 is no small feat, especially with one Peterman surrendered*.

* We will refer to interceptions returned for touchdowns as Petermans Surrendered (PS) from this point forward. I would like to explicitly clarify that PS does not stand for Pick Six. Because that would be ridiculous.

Getting the win pushed Russell Wilson’s PSWP (Petermans Surrendered Winning Percentage) to 1.000, which is again no small feat.

The next PS of Wilson’s career occurred in January of 2016 against the same team and in the same stadium. Luke Kuechly, who must be absolutely sick of living in Bobby Wagner’s shadow by now, observed Kawann Short make quick work of whatever turnstile was employed on Seattle’s offensive line at the time before snagging the pick and taking it easily to the house.

This put Carolina up 14-0, which paved the way for a halftime lead of 31-0.

But how could Kuechly know at the time that he was hurting his team more than he could ever imagine?

You see, Russell Wilson is no ordinary quarterback. He has found a way to synthesize hardship and anguish into W’s. When his back is against the wall, his back and the wall create one unstoppable organism focused on manufacturing the most back-breaking (the other team’s back, not Russ’s hideous wall-back hybrid) come-from-behind wins imaginable.

While the Seahawks ultimately lost the game, the PS set up Wilson’s second-half explosion. It may seem counterintuitive, but I truly believe that Russell established the run-back-for-a-touchdown, allowing the passing game to thrive throughout a furious comeback bid.

Neither the 2016 or 2017 season featured a PS from Wilson. I would argue that is a major reason why Seattle, respectively, lost convincingly in the Divisional Round to the Falcons and then didn’t even make the playoffs the following year. The Seahawks defense forced three PS’s in three different games in 2017 and, while all three resulted in wins, it is clear that the team couldn’t overcome such a detrimental and truly destructive trend throughout the season. If Russell had considered the bigger picture and gone about things in a way that put the ultimate goal of a Super Bowl in his sights, the season might have ended differently.

The addition of Brian Schottenheimer to Seattle’s staff in 2018 has brought about benefits that cannot be quantified or even observed by the naked eye. Russell Wilson seems like a new quarterback and you cannot overstate the positive impact that accountability has had on him. After two performances chock-full of PS, it’s clear that Russ is doing everything in his power to drag his team to the playoffs.

The Seahawks defense is even doing its part! While the unit has ten interceptions through eight games, zero have been returned for scores. That’s what I call teamwork folks.

While both games in which Wilson has thrown a PS have resulted in losses, the seasonal trend has obviously been positive. In Week 2, Prince Amukamara’s PS seemed to be more of a nail in the coffin than a strategic move by Seattle.

The coaching staff had been rifling through an amalgamate of playcalls for the past two weeks with no clear vision or identity. Utilizing their most prized play so early in the season was a bold move, but it has obviously paid off in excess.

In Sunday’s loss to the Chargers, while down 9 in the 4th quarter, Wilson dropped back, identified Cover 3 (the haters will say he failed to ID this coverage but they also think that running backs don’t matter so pay no mind to them), and slung a pass right to his intended receiver: Desmond King. The corner took off for six, putting Los Angeles up by 15.

King, unfortunately, was played for a fool.

Wilson knew he would easily drive his team downfield and score a touchdown, which, pre-PS, would leave his team down by two points. Wilson also knew that, if down by only two, Pete Carroll would absolutely play for a game-winning field goal instead of a touchdown. If Seattle were two teeders away instead of one and a Janikowski kick, there would absolutely be a higher chance of converting both opportunities.

Russ was absolutely right. A missed extra point following the PS kept the game at two scores, setting the table for a fine meal consisting of pain and domination.

Down by 15, Wilson drove the offense down the field, converting multiple fourth downs, and hit Nick Vannett for an insane touchdown to bring the Seahawks within 8. After an expected defensive stop, Russ got the ball back and effortlessly drove his team down to the goal line with only an untimed down left.

The effort wasn’t enough. Seattle couldn’t convert. But there is no way they would have come anywhere near winning that game had Wilson not thrown that PS.

With the Rams up next, Russ knows what must be done. He has laid the foundation, rooted in defensive touchdowns, for a real ass-whupping. Let’s hope he can capitalize.

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