This time around Sam and Ben will dissect a sneaky trick play from the Panthers that nets them a touchdown, a curious coverage call for the Jets that sets up an Eagles score, and an incredibly tough (and/or ill-advised) throw from Tom Brady that falls incomplete after a somewhat comical bounce. Their keen insight is on display as they dive into exactly what’s happening in these snapshots of recent game action.
Check them out, share your thoughts, and let us know … did any particular plays catch your interest this week?
Carolina @ Houston | 2nd Q, 0:59 | 3rd-and-6
Richard Brockel scores on a 7-yard touchdown run to the left on a trick play leaving the Texans confused and down 21-0 at the end of the first half.
Why it worked:
On a week where we saw a Trojan Horse trick play (this one) and saw Miami run a Statue of Liberty in Buffalo, it only seems right to highlight the trick play element to NFL offenses. This play from Carolina is deception at its finest as it revolves around the Panthers selling the idea they are not set to commence the play. The Texans’ defense buys this and never disperses to their alignment and assignments. Despite the offensive line and tight ends for Carolina never getting into a “set” position, they are all stationary for the necessary length of time before the snap and the Texans’ defense is frozen.
At the point that Ryan Kalil passes the short snap to Cam Newton, the entire Houston defense is in a box 7 yards deep by around 8 yards wide. With Brockel, Newton, Steve Smith and DeAngelo Williams all in the backfield, the Panthers are now perfectly set to outflank the Texans in either direction.
With the Texans’ defense still in a state of flux, Kalil delivers the snap to Newton (crouched two yards behind him) and Newton steps behind Richard Brockel to hand him the ball between his legs before Brockel takes off to the left, rounding the corner to take the ball into the endzone for the score.
The offensive line being stood up screens off the vision of the defense and the two key defenders with force on the right side of the Houston defense are clueless as to the ball being snapped, poor awareness, and have no vision of the backfield to see the play develop. Connor Barwin at outside linebacker takes steps inside keying on Newton, Williams and Smith who are the first to move to the right and, after a short delay, Brockel takes off as Barwin keeps pursuing to the fake to the right. The two other Texans with half a chance are slow to react to the play, Danieal Manning is the only Texan to get even close, but it’s not enough as Greg Olsen seals him inside. Brockel is uncontested to the endzone as the Panthers establish what would prove to be an unassailable 21-point half time lead.
New York Jets @ Philadelphia Eagles | 3rd Q, 9:49 | 1st-and-10
The Eagles put the game well out of reach of the Jets with a 73-yard reception to Brent Celek resulting in another Eagles touchdown two plays later.
Why it worked
If you are going to play aggressive defense, you need your players to hold up on the back end when they get singled-up in man coverage. The Jets decided to get aggressive on this first down play and it ended up costing them because one player made a major mistake and was caught guessing.
The Eagles spread the field with three wide receivers and a tight end split just to the left of the line of scrimmage. The Jets counter this with an unusual coverage. They line up with their usual front, an over-shifted, four-man line, and Calvin Pace alongside it in a two-point stance. The linebacker duo of David Harris and Bart Scott are behind it between the tackles. In coverage, they bring Eric Smith down to play over the slot in off-man and the cornerback pairing of Revis and Cromartie line up in close man coverage. Where things get interesting is in the alignment of the single-high safety, Brodney Pool.
Unlike most plays that have a single-high safety, Pool is not lined up in the middle of the field, but rather to one side of it, between the hash marks and the numbers to the strong side of the field, and he only ever heads in that direction. It seems like the Jets have split the field, and are playing cover-1 to the strong side of the field, and cover-0 to the weak side. Whether they’ve seen something on tape or all just work on the same keys, they all play underneath.
Vick takes a three step drop and pump fakes in the direction of Brent Celek who has just made his break on an out pattern. David Harris jumps underneath it for the interception, except Celek isn’t running an out, and he turns back across the field to find nothing but open country. Vick holds the throw just long enough for Celek to come open and then it’s a foot race between Celek and Pool coming across the field from the far side to save the touchdown. The Jets decided to dial up a very risky coverage, and David Harris gambled on the first move he saw. That gamble and the total lack of any safety help behind him resulted in a big burn for the Jets’ D.
New England @ Denver | 1st Q, 4:21 | 2nd-and-8
Tom Brady fires incomplete into quadruple coverage as Rob Gronkowski is unable to bring in the pass, resulting in it hitting FS Rahim Moore in the face.
Why it worked:
It didn’t. Rob Gronkowski runs an in route from his tight end position on the left of the formation and Tom Brady decides to try and fit the ball into a window that would be best described as ill-advised if it were any other quarterback.
Denver is playing zone and, at the time of the throw, there are four Broncos in the area in a diamond formation surrounding Gronkowski. Brady lifts the ball over D.J. Williams who is directly in front of the target area and throws it directly to FS Rahim Moore, hoping that Gronkowski will be able to elevate and bring it in when he sweeps in front of the Broncos safety.
As it turns out, Brady puts the ball in about the only place possible for Gronkowski to catch it, but despite getting up and fully extending, the ball passes just through his outstretched hands.
After sailing through the despairing grasp of Gronkowski, the ball then hits Moore square in the face before falling to the ground for an incompletion. This pass is both a terrible and an excellent play from Brady at the same time. At no point was this throw a realistic option, as he was always throwing into a shrinking window and hoping for a miracle play from his tight end who has come up with a few this season. Any other scenario was going to result in bad things happening for the Patriots. To Brady’s credit, he fits the ball into a hole the size of a paperback book and can count himself a little unlucky that it wasn’t caught. It’s been a while since I was so completely torn on a decision and throw from a quarterback.