The NFL drive of Week 3 came just before halftime as the Cleveland Browns hosted Oakland Raiders. Already leading, the choice of how aggressive to be would come after a first down running play to start the clock. Mark Schofield details how timely execution led to the Raiders punching one in.
The Browns cut the Raiders lead to seven late in the second quarter on a 24-yard field goal from Travis Coons. Following a decent kickoff return from Taiwan Jones, Oakland sets up on their 30-yard line with 1:39 left in the half.
Derek Carr sets up in the shotgun with 11 offensive personnel in trips formation to the right and running back Latavius Murray (#28) standing alongside. The Browns have a 4-1-6 dime package in the game, showing Cover 4 in the secondary and veteran defensive back Donte Whitner lined up as an inside linebacker:
Prior to the snap tight end Mychal Rivera (#81) shifts inside, lining up on the right edge:
Running on first down, the Raiders are likely trying to balance the competing interests of putting together a scoring drive, and getting into the locker room with the lead. This is a power run to the left side:
Taking advantage of the smaller defensive front, left tackle Donald Penn (#72) and left guard Gabe Jackson (#66) open the initial hole. The LT seals off the defensive end, while the LG does a very good job of gaining leverage on the defensive tackle, turning him away from the play. Center Rodney Hudson (#61) releases into the second level, walling off the back-side linebacker. Because the back-side defensive end is in a wide 9 alignment, right tackle Austin Howard (#77) is free to pull to the play-side and take on Whitner:
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Murray hits the hole, cuts inside the blocks of Hudson and Howard, and races into the secondary for a 20-yard gain. The Raiders are now at midfield, which opens up the playbook.
Facing 1st and 10 at the 50-yard line the Raiders keep their 11 package in the game, putting Carr in the shotgun with dual slot formations. The Browns also stay with their current personnel, keeping six defensive backs on the field. This time the defense shows Cover 3 in the secondary before the snap:
Amari Cooper (#89) runs a deep curl on the left and Seth Roberts (#10) runs a shallow crossing route, looking to find a mismatch in coverage. O the right side of the formation Rivera also runs deep curl, while Michael Crabtree (#15) runs a deep post route, keeping the safety deep:
Carr initially reads this play to the left, looking first to Cooper but cornerback Joe Haden (#23) has this well covered, with the underneath flat defender also rotating under the route. Working his progressions, the QB looks next at Rivera on on the right. But the Browns again have this route covered. But with the protection holding up, Carr has time to find his third read: the shallow crossing route from Roberts, coming across the formation:
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From this angle, you can see Carr check his reads: looking first at Cooper, pulling the football down, pivoting his head to the middle of the field where Rivera is also covered, bringing the ball down once again, and finally turning to the outside and finding Roberts.
The design of the play and solid protection, combine to make this a big play. Crabtree’s post route on the right pulls the play-side cornerback away from the outside. Rivera’s curl route forces the underneath zone defenders to stay home. This opens up space for a wide-open Roberts on the outside, and Carr delivers the football perfectly. Roberts races deep into Cleveland territory, and the Raiders are in the red zone.
Following an incompletion on first down, and a 1-yard run from Marcel Reece on second down, the Raiders face 3rd and 9 on the Browns’ 13-yard line, with 48 seconds left in the half. Carr is in the shotgun, again with 3 wide receivers, a tight end and a running back on the field in a 2X2 alignment. The Browns now use a 4-2-5 sub package, and show Cover 2 in the secondary with linebacker Karlos Dansby (#56) showing a potential blitz into the B Gap:
Just prior to the snap, Cleveland rolls to Cover 1 dropping Whitner – who began this play as a deep half-field safety – down into the box. They also send a blitzer off the edge:
Linebacker Christian Kirksey (#58) began this play in a rather perilous position: lined across from the shifty Roberts in man coverage. The outside WR is Cooper, who runs a deep curl route. But Roberts – being covered by a linebacker – is the main target, running a quick out-and-up:
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Cooper’s curl route creates traffic for Kirksey to work through, while Roberts runs a crisp route, complete with a little spin move at the break a la Robin Williams in “The Best of Times”. But the linebacker recovers well, meaning that Carr has to execute the perfect throw, which he does:
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The touchdown gave the Raiders a 17-3 lead at the break, and they would hold on for a 27-20 victory. While the late-half touchdown was not technically the game-winning score, it did give Oakland a bit of a cushion to withstand Cleveland’s second-half comeback bid.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.
Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.
All video and images courtesy NFL Game Pass.