The Carolina Panthers improved their record to 12-0 Sunday with a thrilling 41-38 victory in New Orleans over the Saints. Mark Schofield breaks down the game winning drive, as Cam Newton wins it.
Quarterback Cam Newton continued his impressive 2015 campaign in the win, completing 28 of 41 passes for 331 yards with five touchdowns and one interception. His touchdown pass to Jerricho Cotchery with just over one minute remaining sealed the win and a playoff berth – and is the latest example of the impressive development from the young quarterback.
Facing 2nd and 9 at the Saints’ 15-yard line, the Panthers line up with 11 offensive personnel on the field and Newton in the shotgun. The QB is flanked in the backfield by fullback Mike Tolbert (#35) and tight end Greg Olsen (#88). The offense uses a tight inverted slot to the right, with Cotchery (#82) to the inside and Philly Brown (#10) on the outside. Ted Ginn Jr. (#19) is the single receiver split to the left. New Orleans has a 4-2-5 nickel defense in the game, and before the snap they show Cover 1:
The Panthers use play action on this snap, with Newton taking the snap and faking a counter play to his fullback. Tolbert takes two steps toward his quarterback to fake the run, then blocks to the left edge, as does Olsen. Newton has these routes to choose from:
Ginn runs an out-and-up route from the left, while Brown runs a deep out toward the right sideline. Cotchery runs a post route, using a Dino stem along the way to set up his cut to the inside. The Saints stay in Cover 1 on the snap, with Brandon Browner (#39) in press alignment against Ginn:
Newton takes the snap and, after carrying out the run fake, immediately wheels his head to the left to pickup Ginn on the double-move. Despite his struggles on the day, Browner plays this route very well. He decides not to jam the WR at the line, but stays right on his inside hip throughout the pass pattern and maintains a great relationship with Ginn. While this route is covered, a problem is developing in the middle of the field for the Saints. Jairus Byrd (#31), the free safety on this snap, sees Newton open up to the route from Ginn, and at the snap he races toward that side of the field. That frees the middle of the field – and the end zone, for Cotchery’s post route:
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Newton reads the coverage extremely well. He starts his field of vision to the left, but quickly determines that the combination of Browner and Byrd have the double-move from Ginn covered. He then peels his head back toward the middle of the field to pick up Cotchery, who is just making his cut on the Dino stem. Newton delivers a perfect throw for the eventual game-winner.
From this angle we can see how Newton takes the snap, checks the route from Ginn, and once he sees Browner in position – and the free safety screaming across the field toward the outside – he shows a pump fake to keep Byrd occupied, then comes back to Cotchery for the post route:
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Not to be outdone is the route from Cotchery, which is a perfect example of the Dino stem:
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The receiver is working against Chris Owens (#30), and the slot CB has Cotchery in man coverage. When the WR reaches the top of his stem, Owens is right on his outside shoulder and hip, in very good position. When Cotchery uses his Dino stem, and bends to the outside for a few steps, Owens is forced to cut to the outside. This sets up the break back to the inside perfectly. Executing this route is all about feel in this situation, and the receiver needs to know exactly when to make each cut to best separate himself from the defender. Cotchery is flawless on this play.
The win secured a playoff berth for the Panthers. But more importantly, it was another afternoon where Newton showed just how far he can take this offense, especially with execution as perfect as it was on this one play.
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.