Determined Defense: Patriots Defensive Play of Week 3

With 00:59 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Oakland faced first-and-goal at the 12-yard line. The Raiders trailed the Patriots 16-9 and a holding penalty on the previous play wiped out Darren McFadden’s 6-yard, potentially game-tying, touchdown run. Quarterback Derek Carr lined up the Raiders 11 personnel from the shotgun.

The Patriots respond with a 2-4-5 nickel package featuring Vince Wilfork and Dominque Easley as the down linemen. With 18 seconds left on the play clock, Carr motions James Jones from split wide to his left across the formation and to the bunch formation on the right. At the same time the Patriots shift their coverage, indicating zone – in this case Cover 2. Carr now has 2 WRs and a TE in a bunch formation on his right, McFadden on his left, and Denarius Moore as the only WR on the left side.

The ball is snapped; the Patriots rush three and drop eight into coverage. Carr’s first read is Jones but Darrelle Revis is in position to make a play on the pass. Carr pulls the ball down and scans the field looking for his next read, but everyone is covered. Chandler Jones and Easley rush the passer while Wilfork plays containment. Carr’s eyes are all over the middle of the field behind Wilfork, and you can see Wilfork reading Carr’s eyes even while engaged by the Raiders’ center Stefen Wisniewski.

The only good option Carr has is Moore, who runs a shallow cross and sits in the zone between Rob Ninkovich and Logan Ryan. It would be a difficult attempt, as Ninkovich and Ryan stand ready to make a play. Carr makes a good throw, but it bounces off of Moore’s hands. Ryan finds himself in position to be featured here for the second straight week, but the ball bounces off his hands too. Wilfork, however, maintains his awareness the whole time and turns to make a play on the ball. All he has to do is catch it and go down, and the game is essentially over. And that’s what he does.

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Inside The Pylon covers the NFL and college football, reviewing the film, breaking downmatchups, and looking at the issues, on and off the field.

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