In this final regular season installment of the Analysis Notebook, PFF Analyst Sam Monson brings you a deeper look at three more notable plays from the past week’s action.
These segments wouldn’t be complete without checking in on Tim Tebow’s latest shenanigans, so we’ll get a quick peek at a moment where he flashed his far-from-polished passing skills. To wash that down, we’ll glimpse a blazing Victor Cruz as he tears past the Dallas D and an embarrassingly bad Buccaneers effort that adds to an already atrocious day.
Join Sam on this short trip through some of Week 17′s memorable moments.
Kansas City @ Denver | Q2, 15:00 | 2nd-and-8
Tim Tebow completes a 7-yard pass to Spencer Larsen to stay ahead of the chains.
Why it worked:
Perhaps we’ve been guilty in this Analysis Notebook series of giving a little more attention to the Tebow offense than many of you would like, but we do so only because they are breaking out some incredibly interesting plays to try and exploit a defense that would otherwise tear Tebow to ribbons. In this case, the Broncos fake something they have been doing well and doing consistently with Tebow at quarterback, and exploit the defense biting down on it.
Tebow lines up in the shotgun with a runner behind him and another back, Larsen the fullback, flanking him to his right. The Broncos motioned into this formation and the Chiefs are already looking at this and preparing to defend the option run.
The Broncos fake the quick dive to Larsen and Tebow begins to run right with the deep tailback, Lance Ball, acting as his pitch option. The offensive line begins to move off to that side as if zone blocking for the option. At this point, the Chiefs are collapsing down to defend the option, with all eight men that were in the box taking a step towards it. The box safety then recognizes the TE-R breaking off the formation and releasing into a pass pattern at the exact moment Tebow spins 180 and bootlegs out the back of the formation where he has a high-low read of Daniel Fells breaking deep across the middle and Larsen breaking to the flat after his run fake.
Now Tebow the quarterback takes over, and he dithers with his decision, eventually getting the ball late to Larsen where he is cut down short of the first down marker with a big hit low from Keenan Lewis. This is a great example of how the Broncos’ offense could be so successful if Tebow was just a little better as a passer and decision-maker.
Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants | Q1, 5:11 | 3rd-and-1
Eli Manning completes a short out pattern to Victor Cruz who turns on the jets and outruns the Cowboys for a 74-yard touchdown.
Why it worked:
Speed kills in the NFL. We’re always hearing that. Speed and inept defending is a fast-track to touchdowns, and that is what we find here. The Giants face a 3rd-and-1 play from their own 26-yard-line, and they have elected to pick up the first through the air.
They line up in the shotgun with two wide receivers to the left of the formation, Hakeem Nicks wide and Cruz in the slot. They have TE Travis Beckum split wide to the right and Brandon Jacobs flanking Eli Manning in the backfield. Dallas is in base defense, but the alignment from the Giants, splitting Beckum wide right and having Cruz in the slot, has forced them to make a decision with their defense and coverage. They elected to cover Beckum with FS Abram Elam and bring LCB Terence Newman across the formation to cover Cruz. They stay in base personnel and formation otherwise.
Nicks runs a deep hitch route on the far left and Cruz runs a quick out pattern from his slot. Manning slides left behind a moving pocket and hits Cruz in stride for the first down. From this point, Cruz turns on the jets and sprints around Nicks on the outside, leaving Newman in his wake. Nicks does a good job of keeping RCB Mike Jenkins out of the play and from here it’s a footrace that Cruz is never losing.
The interesting thing about this play is that the safety play was AWOL entirely. With Elam was playing corner over the tight end, Sensabaugh–usually the box safety in Rob Ryan’s defense–was left in no man’s land in the middle of the field; from where he can affect nothing. Maybe Ryan’s complex defense caused confusion, maybe Sensabaugh forgot he was the only safety playing the middle of the field with Elam out of position wide left, or maybe he just gambled on the short routes and lost badly, but whatever the excuse, Sensabaugh simply found himself trailing the route and play from Cruz all the way to the end zone.
Tampa Bay @ Atlanta | Q2, 10:52 | 3rd-and-6
Tampa Bay continued to sink even deeper into a hole, throwing a pick-six to fall behind 35-0.
Why it worked:
Tampa Bay was already deep in a hole by the time this play came around. They were 28-0 down, having already turned the ball over through an interception and were just trying to get something going on offense. Here they faced a 3rd-and-6 from their own 24-yard-line.
Josh Freeman lined up in the shotgun flanked by Kregg Lumpkin and with three wide receivers in the formation. Tight end Kellen Winslow was tight to the right of the line of scrimmage. At the snap, Atlanta dropped John Abraham into coverage from his DRE spot and blitzed safety William Moore and LB Sean Weatherspoon. On the back end they were playing quarters coverage with the remaining defensive backs. The Buccaneers emptied the backfield, sending everybody out in patterns and Freeman was left looking for a quick pass in case the pressure got home.
Lumpkin got through the line of scrimmage and immediately turned to look for the football, expecting to get the pass just in front of MLB Curtis Lofton. As he did, Kellen Winslow was coming across the formation on a shallow crossing pattern not even looking back towards the football. Winslow de-cleats Lumpkin with one of the hits of the day, leaving the pass Freeman had just released intended for Lumpkin to sail right into the hands of Lofton, who only had to stand there and catch it as the carnage unfolded in front of him.
Once the ball was in his hands, Lofton made a quick decision and headed to the left sideline, where the convoy of Falcons was able to buy him a comfortable journey into the end zone for the score. This is what happens when the wheels fall off your season in spectacular fasion.