Playing defense in today’s NFL is difficult. Trying to stop skilled offenses while simultaneously battling harsh rules regulating defensive contact is a tough task. When a defense suffers a breakdown, even one as minor as a defender being a step out of position, the offense is likely to make them pay. The following plays are good examples of a minor mistake leading to a disaster for a defense.
New York Giants at Jacksonville – Bortles Reads
The Jacksonville Jaguars earned their second win this season with a hard-fought 25-24 victory over the New York Giants. Rookie quarterback Blake Bortles directed a last-minute drive culminating in a Josh Scobee 43-yard field goal with 28 seconds remaining. Bortles threw for 34 yards during the drive, but it was his feet that were essential to the victory.
Immediately before the two-minute warning, the offense faced a 1st and 10 at their own 49-yard line. Bortles stood in the shotgun with running back Jordan Todman to his left:
The two execute the read option. Veteran defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (#90) over-commits on the run fake to Todman and the QB keeps the football around left end. Bortles out runs Pierre-Paul and the rest of the defense to the sideline for an 11-yard gain.
Oh well. Take the two-minute warning and coach the players up, right? Make sure Pierre-Paul stays home if he sees the option again?
Two plays later:
Perhaps we should take it easy on the defensive end, since the fake even fooled the cameraman. The sideline video shows the full picture of the play:
Bortles’s 20-yard scamper brought the ball down to the New York 25-yard line, well within field goal range. After three short running plays to milk the clock, Scobee came on to drill the game-winning field goal. The lost left most Giants fans, and likely Tom Coughlin, looking like Johnathan Hankins (#95) after Bortles’s second big run:
The loss dropped the Giants to 3-9 on the season, touching off a wonderful rant from Mike Francesa on Monday: “The Giants have become as sad a joke as the Jets are. That’s sad to say on Tom Coughlin’s watch. This is a dumb team, a scared team, a stupid team and a bad team. Case closed.”
Washington at Indianapolis – Luck Toasts Amerson
A defense cannot give a quarterback like Andrew Luck free receivers in the secondary, but on many occasions Sunday Washington did exactly that. Here, the Colts face a 3rd and 3 near midfield in the third quarter and empty the backfield with Luck in the shotgun. The defense counters with a nickel package and the secondary shows Cover 3:
The routes highlighted below are crucial on this play. To the left, Indianapolis has a stack slot and Coby Fleener runs a deep corner route. On the right, the offense is in a trips and the inside and outside receivers run short patterns while Donte Moncrief runs a straight go:
Two things happen allowing Moncrief to run free. First, wary of the threat from Fleener, the deep middle safety rotates towards the corner route:
Second, and more inexplicably, David Amerson squats for a moment on the outside curl route while Moncrief blows by him:
Washington fans probably struck a similar pose to the cornerback watching this play:
Luck’s third touchdown strike of the day extends the Indianapolis lead to 11, and the Colts would go on to win 49-27:
On both play types, a defender is drawn out of position, either by a run fake or a route from another receiver. The resulting windows of opportunity are all an offense needs to make a huge play. In Jacksonville, Bortles gets his team in position for the game winning field goal as Pierre-Paul is fooled by the run fake. In Indianapolis, once Amerson squats – ever so slightly – on the curl route, Andrew Luck takes his shot deep to a wide open receiver. Playing defense in the NFL is tough, and both of these defenders were reminded of that fact in bitter ways.
All video and images for NFL Film Session Week 13 courtesy the NFL and NFL Game Rewind.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.