With one more batch of games done, we’re turning our eye towards another week of plays that stood out to us for one reason or another. Sam Monson is once again joined by Lead Analyst Ben Stockwell to talk some Xs and Os share thoughts on a few interesting moments in the Week 7 action.
In this week’s trio we have a pick-six, a 91-yard run, and a rookie learning how things work in the big leagues. Let’s break them down and see what happened.
Kansas City @ Oakland | 1st Q, 12:47 | 3rd & 6
Kendrick Lewis jumps an out route by Jacoby Ford to nab a Kyle Boller pass. Out-running Boller down the sideline, Lewis takes it in for a touchdown and establishes a 7-0 lead for the Chiefs.
Why it worked:
This play illustrates the ultimate punishment for a quarterback who misreads coverage and stares down one route. On the prior play the Raiders had lost a first down conversion due to the rookie enthusiasm of Terrelle Pryor, snapping the ball before being set under center for a full second. Now in 3rd-and–6, the Raiders turn to Kyle Boller to get the conversion and he commits a familiar cardinal sin, locking on to his primary receiver prior to the throw. Free safety Kendrick Lewis reads Boller’s eyes, leading him to the throw and undercutting Jacoby Ford’s route to make the interception. Lewis is just able to stay in bounds and score the Chiefs first pick-six of the game.
Pre-snap, Boller reads two high safeties, Kendrick Lewis and Jon McGraw. To the left side of the formation – the side to which Boller is looking – he has Denarius Moore split wide and Ford in the slot. The play call sees Moore going deep and Ford running an out underneath his coverage and past the first down marker. It’s a classic clear-out play designed to distract the safety with the deep route and leave the slot one-on-one, at which point it’s simply (as simply as it can be) a matter of throw location from Boller and the Raiders pick up the first down. However, Lewis doesn’t play conventional Cover 2 taking the deeper man, he sits and spies Boller and Boller’s eyes give it away.
Lewis never even looks at the outside deep route by Moore – Brandon Carr takes him one-on-one. Lewis’ attention the whole way is on Boller and Ford’s route from the slot. When Boller fails to look Lewis off, the Chiefs’ safety has less than 5 yards to close on the route from the point at which Boller releases the pass and he eats those yards up to make the pick. A valiant effort from Boller chasing it down almost denied the Chiefs a touchdown, and, with how the Chiefs’ offense played in the game, who knows what difference that might have made, but the damage was already done.
St Louis @ Dallas | 1st Q, 9:47 | 1st & 19
On 1st–and-19, the Cowboys run a draw play to try and get back some of the yardage lost on the previous play’s holding penalty. They instead break loose to score a 91-yard touchdown for the game’s opening score.
Why it worked:
This play is a combination of perfect execution on blocks, and then some poor play by the only defenders left unblocked. From the moment the blockers on the Dallas offense engaged, this run was going to make some serious yardage, but what turned it into a 91-yard touchdown was what happened to the safeties and the run by DeMarco Murray himself at the second level.
Dallas lined up in an I-formation with two receivers and Jason Witten split out slot right. The Rams stayed in their base defense, shading Brady Poppinga out to cover Witten from the slot. At the snap, the O-linemen turn their defenders outside of the intended point of attack, which is the right side A-gap, to the right of the center. The DLE and 3-technique DT are easily and quickly seen past the play, and Justin Bannan playing nose tackle is double-teamed initially to control him before Montrae Holland moves off to get a block on the backside linebacker. This has already opened up a massive hole up the middle, but there are still two linebackers that can influence the play and restrict it to just a modest gain.
Jason Witten effectively blocks Poppinga to the outside and Tony Fiammetta, lead blocking from his fullback spot, takes Laurainitis out of the play. Murray now finds himself 6 yards downfield and past the second level of the defense.
The Rams still have a pair of safeties, both of which have their chance to prevent this run from going distance, but they make a stunning mess of it. Darian Scott is the first of the two involved in the play. He comes down to make the stop but can’t decide which side of the Witten block Murrayis going to go until it’s too late. When Murray cuts past him, Stewart is moving up so recklessly that he simply falls over trying to turn and pursue.
Quintin Mikell is the last player with a shot at preventing the score. He starts off with a good angle of pursuit but Murray sees him coming and cuts back behind the chasing safety, giving him the momentum he needs to outrun Mikell to the end zone.
Green Bay @ Minnesota | 3rd Q, 2:27 | 1st & 10
Christian Ponder puts the Vikings in a hole from which they can never climb out of; throwing an interception to Charles Woodson when the Vikings are down 30-17.
Why it worked:
Minnesota lined-up with three wide receivers on this play, all to the right of the formation, and Visanthe Shiancoe tight to the left of the line. Adrian Peterson flanked Ponder in the shotgun and stayed in to pass protect initially before releasing into the flat. The Packers countered with their Nickel package, featuring two down-linemen, four linebackers and five defensive backs. Green Bay actually gets lucky on this play, because the Vikings get exactly what they want from the matchup.
The Packers run man coverage underneath, with a single-high safety. The outermost two Viking receivers run off their coverage, and Shiancoe runs a crossing route between the linebackers. This creates some space for Michael Jenkins, matched-up one-on-one with Woodson from the slot, to run a dig route across the field. When I say that the Packers dodged a bullet on this play, I do so because Charlie Peprah, lined up as a cornerback on the right side, but assigned to track Shiancoe, seems confused when the tight end cuts across the formation and gets picked up by the linebackers. He half-heartedly tracks him inside leaving that side of the field completely uncovered. A well-thrown ball from Ponder would get Jenkins the ball 20-yards downfield with just the safety to beat.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, it wasn’t a well-thrown ball. Ponder tried to rifle the pass in to Jenkins and that allowed Woodson to undercut the route and intercept it. If Ponder had put more air under the ball and led Jenkins further into the space, Woodson would have been too badly out of position to recover and the Vikings would have had a big play on their hands. These are the throws that differ from the college level to the NFL and Ponder will learn (quickly, thanks to experiences like this) that things operate at a different pace.