Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Inside the Film Room: Breaking Down Key Plays from NFL Week 5

Dion Lewis has given the Pats an unexpected boost this year, but how did he get free Sunday against Dallas?
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

This will serve as the first edition of what I hope will be a weekly series breaking down some of the biggest plays across pro football, using the coach's tape, or as it is now more popularly known, the "All-22" film.

Each week we'll take a look at not only game-changing plays, but also plays that utilized interesting schemes or simply showcased dominating talent. I won't bore you any more, here are the breakdowns from Week 5.

Atlanta's Walk-Off Interception in OT

Washington shocked everybody by outplaying Atlanta for nearly all of regulation, but in overtime it would all be for naught.

With all images, simply click to enlarge
Coming out in a five receiver set with three to the top of your screen and two to the bottom, Kirk Cousins is keyed in on the far left receiver Ryan Grant, who is running a simple 7-yard hitch.

With the inside receiver to Grant's right working an inside hook, the hope is that Atlanta's Robert Alford is playing man coverage off just enough that Cousins can throw it out there for a cheap gain.

They actually get the coverage they were looking for, but what they don't count on is the quick pressure off the edge from Nate Stupar (hanging on the QB Cousins in the picture above).

The third-year backer out of Penn State comes unabated to Cousins, thanks to faking flat coverage himself, and a stunt from pass rusher Vic Beasley (44 above), who wraps around inside, bringing the  tackle with him for just a moment.

The unblocked pressure leads to Cousins throwing the ball both early and outside, meaning his receiver still has his back to him when the ball is thrown, and he breaks out of his route away from the throw.

Alford, however, has his eyes on Cousins the whole time, and he easily steps in front of this throw, picking it off and taking it the other way for a Falcons win. They may not have deserved it, but Atlanta found a way to win at home, and first-year coach Dan Quinn's defense is making plays a year after the Falcons D was a laughingstock.

Jay Clutcher?

Often criticized for not getting it done when it matters most, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler delivered a game-winning touchdown pass to stun the Chiefs in Kansas City.

Chicago comes out with five receivers across the formation and, like Washington, the Bears will try to work the two receiver side. It's an interesting choice because 1. You have less targets on that side and 2. Chicago is on the left hash, giving them even less real estate to work with.

Clearly the Chiefs also know this, and they shift their safeties to the right side, meaning it will likely be man-to-man of the left. That's good news for the Bears, who have put running back Matt Forte, arguably their best receiver, in the slot to the left next to receiver Marquess Wilson.

The ball is snapped a bit low, and Cutler can't handle it at first, leading to a fumble. While the ball is on the ground, Wilson comes down and sets a pick on the inside corner responsible for Forte, freeing the running back up to run a wheel route to the end zone.

Unfortunately for Kansas City, the outside corner doesn't make the right judgement call and switch to Forte while Wilson is tied up with the inside corner. Instead, he bites down to cover Wilson as Cutler recovers and throws the ball.

The corner does recover, but not in time to stop Forte from catching the game winner.

Even with a low snap, Cutler decisively went to Forte on the wheel route because he identified man-to-man coverage before the snap, and had confidence in the pick-wheel combination to get Forte free. Add in a perfectly thrown ball, and you can't draw it up much better than that in the clutch.

Well, maybe a better snap.

Dion Lewis Gets Loose

We know the Patriots are known for inventive plays and excellent decision-making under coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, but here we see a bit of talent over scheme from suddenly lethal running back Dion Lewis.

Let's check the film of Lewis' receiving touchdown that put the game out of Dallas' reach.

The Patriots come out in their Ace package (one back, one tight end) with Rob Gronkowski off the line on the left side of the formation. To counter Gronkowski's abilities as a blocker, the Cowboys, who have chosen to defend New England's three-receiver set with five defensive backs, move two linebackers up into the strong B and D gaps (between the left guard and tackle, and outside the tight end, respectively).

Safety Barry Church, who has now walked up to play the Mike (role of the middle linebacker), is also cheating slightly to the strong side, indicating that Dallas is expecting a run to the left on this 1st and goal play from the Cowboy 10.

New England then forces Dallas' hand further, motioning receiver Julian Edelman to the strong side, creating the possibility of a flood route concept between the slot specialist and Gronkowski on the left. The Dallas corner follows him, indicating man coverage and vacating the weak flat, which is just what Brady wanted.

Receiver Danny Amendola runs a shallow cross to vacate the flat completely, and, after a play action fake, Lewis leaks into the flat out of the backfield for what should be only open grass.

But Church, who was in man coverage on Lewis, recovers quickly enough from the back side to make a play, and the weak defensive end Jack Crawford rallies to the ball after the fake.

Making matters worse, Brady's pass is behind Lewis, who reaches back to make a one-handed snag, but quickly turns and squares his shoulders to Church.

He then shakes Church, before ducking underneath Crawford and taking a few more Cowboys for a ride into the end zone.

This one was drawn up to give Lewis an easy walk in for six, with the hope that Church would get caught up in the wash over the middle and that Brady would deliver the ball to Lewis in stride.

Neither of those things happened, but as he's done all year long, Lewis made a play. That's why the Patriots recently extended him, and have to feel great about their backfield going forward this year.

Dalton's Dissection of Seattle

The Bengals scored 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to force overtime against Seattle at home, then took the game with an extra frames field goal. Perhaps no play in regulation better showed how Cincinnati was able to move the ball against Seattle's "Legion of Boom" secondary, as quarterback Andy Dalton identified what the Seahawks were trying to do, and found the right matchup quickly for a big gain at a critical time.

At the time of this play the Bengals were still down 10, facing 2nd and 13 after a sack on the last down. Seattle comes out showing a two high safety look, indicating Cover 2, but it's a look that you can easily disguise other coverages out of. Seattle likes to play Quarters out of this look a ton, or a matchup-zone type coverage, where the zones shift a bit depending on the offense's route combination.

But as Dalton barks out signals and the play clock runs down, he notices nickel back DeShawn Shead (located just above and to the right of the Bengals logo in the picture above) cheating up to the line of scrimmage, and safety Kam Chancellor (above the logo at the 50) moving over to play the outside shoulder of slot receiver Mohamed Sanu. While this is happening, outside corner Cary Williams (top of your screen at the 45) begins to back peddle.

By reading his keys, Dalton can guess that Seattle is in fact playing Cover 2, but with a blitz and different defenders occupying different zones. With an extra rusher, that does take somebody out of coverage, meaning one zone will either be empty entirely, or every other defender will have to cover slightly more ground, perhaps more than they are capable of.

Instead of covering the middle, Shead is now rushing the passer, and instead of covering the flat, Williams is now back covering a deep half. Instead of dropping back to cover a deep half, Chancellor has come up to cover the flat, so he plays Sanu's outside shoulder, but the slot receiver cuts to the middle, which is now vacant thanks to Shead's blitz.

It's possible the Seahawks were using a zone-man hybrid coverage here (something they're known for), which would call for Chancellor to simply cover Sanu one-on-one, but either way, the Bengal wideout got loose inside, and there was no help until he crossed into Seahawks territory.

The Bengals would end that drive with a touchdown on the way to their comeback win, and now sit at 5-0.

Don't Block Von Miller One-on-One

The Broncos have suddenly become a defensive team, and the pass rush duo of Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware is a big reason why.

Denver was actually trailing 7-3 at this point, but Miller would turn things around by just abusing Oakland right tackle Austin Howard and quarterback Derek Carr. The Raiders come out five-wide, emptying the backfield and really limiting their protection options.

With no back or tight end to chip or help out, Miller (far right) takes a Wide-9 technique outside the tackle. Blocking Miller one-on-one is difficult for any lineman, but with this much space open, it's almost impossible.

Let's not over complicate this, because it doesn't matter what route concept Oakland runs or what coverage Denver is in. Miller simply shakes an attempted cut block by Howard and flies right into Carr, stripping the ball out and recovering it himself.

That would lead to a Denver field goal, and the Broncos would go on to win a 16-10 defensive struggle to remain unbeaten.

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