Analysis Notebook: TNF, Week 14
Mike Mayock – “That is awesome!”
That was his reaction to the touchdown pass last night from Ace Sanders to Jordan Todman that put the Jaguars 24-10 up on Houston, a score that ultimately proved to be good enough for the win. I’m with Mayock, I loved this play.
Trick plays can often be a little too complex and confused by what they are trying to achieve. This play was simple, knew exactly what it was trying to exploit and did it to perfection.
On 1st and 10 just outside of the red zone the Jaguars set up with two receivers to the left of the formation. Houston is a team that moves its corners from one side to the other to counter two receivers on one side of the formation while some teams will leave them on the far side and motion a linebacker or safety over to cover the second receiver, so from the outset you can see a pretty large space on the far of the field. To blow that space wide open the Jaguars fake a quick tunnel screen to Ace Sanders aligned to the outside at LWR on the play.
This wouldn’t be an abnormal play call so the Texans defense is quick to jump on it. Usually on these plays the outside corner plays contain or force because he is the guy picked up by the second receiver to be blocked out of the play, and the two closest inside defenders in this case shoot in to try and stop the screen for a loss or minimal gain. So far, so good for Houston. If they were looking for a red flag that this play was not what they thought it was they could have found one by the fact that the inside receiver did not shoot out to try and block RCB Kareem Jackson on the play. That would be unusual on this type of screen but given the cushion Jackson dropped off to, not entirely unheard of. The problem for Houston is that isn’t what the Jags are running at all. Sanders drops a little deeper than you would expect on that screen, which could also just be a wayward pass from QB Chad Henne, but the alarm bells for the Texans start to ring when he continues his path back around the formation. At this point the Texans realize they have been had, but they haven’t yet worked out how.
Now their concern is for a kind of complex end-around with Sanders trying to run into the open field behind the formation. The inside linebacker on the far side of the field has tracked the tight end across the field and the deep safety – who had been aligned on that side of the field specifically to protect that open ground – has been suckered into wandering back across the middle by the fake screen. They are short handed to the far side and need to scramble to shut it down.
Outside linebacker Brooks Reed, on the far side of the formation suddenly finds himself in no man’s land with a catch-22 choice that unfolds in an instant. He initially found himself face-to-face with Jordan Todman who faked a block as the fake-screen was unfolding before breaking deep into the open space behind him. At this point Reed realizes that it isn’t a screen pass, but now he has to be concerned with the end around given how much space he alone is responsible for on that side of the field. If he blows contain by dropping deep he could be inviting Sanders into acres of space to run into for a big gain. On the other hand, if he closes on Sanders he abandons Todman down the right side of the field completely uncovered. Essentially, by the time Reed has even made up his mind between the devil and the deep blue sea it is already too late and the ball is sailing over his head.
Todman was left all alone and FS D.J. Swearinger was taken far enough out of position by the initial fake that he can’t get back over the top before the ball arrives. Sanders throws a nice pass that hits Todman in the end zone for a score.
The best fakes and trick plays are ones that sell a defense on something they expect to see and then quickly whip the rug out from under them to show something completely different. This did exactly that, exploiting the space that the initial fake created to perfection.
The man had it right at the time – That was indeed awesome.
Follow Sam on Twitter: @PFF_Sam