Aaron Donald vs the world; how the defensive tackle terrorized the Falcons

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

The Los Angeles Rams saw their wonderful run this season came to an abrupt end when they fell to the Atlanta Falcons in the opening game of the NFC playoffs. Their offense was inefficient and could not get by a stiff Falcons defense. Despite troubles on offense they managed to stay in the game until the end due to an incredible job by the Rams defense.

Los Angeles was able to hold the Falcons to field goals for a majority of the game, not allowing Atlanta to fully pull away from a struggling Rams team. Quarterback Matt Ryan was forced to operate under pressure almost all game, and they had trouble running between guards.

Much of this was the doing of defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

If you care enough about football to be reading a film breakdown in the first place you have heard of Aaron Donald and know his reputation around the league. Donald is arguably the best defensive player in the NFL, and was recently named a near unanimous first team all pro. Saturday night was his first shot at putting his skills to test in the postseason, and he showed why he is regarded so highly around the NFL.

Pro Football Focus credits Donald with 10 hurries and a sack during the game, 9 of the hurries coming during the first half. He was consistently in Ryan’s face and the interior pressure he created helped his edge rushers create pressure of their own.

It did not take the Rams star interior lineman long to get going. He registered pressures on the first two defensive snaps of the game and kept Ryan on his heels near his own goal line.

Donald showed his versatility on those plays. While he usually lines up on the interior of the defensive line, where his brute force and strength allow him to bully the quarterback and push him out of the pocket. Despite his incredible size and strength, Donald still manages the speed necessary to become a dangerous edge rusher, where he can close around the pocket fast to land hits on the quarterback. He can line up anywhere on the defensive front and be an absolute terror for an opposing offense.

The Falcons offense was seemingly stuck in the mud for the early stages of the game. They only managed 16 yards on their first three possessions, as they could not get by Donald and Los Angeles’s defense.

On this play later in the first quarter of the Rams wild-card matchup, Donald gets the defense off the field on third down.


Donald is lined up as a defensive tackle as a part of Los Angeles five-man front on the play. His first punch deflects the hands of the guard in front of him. He catches a slap to the head, but is virtually unbothered as he blows by his opponent. Falcons center Alex Mack (No. 51), who was named first-team All-Pro by Bird Breakdowns last week, can not react in time switching on to Donald. Mack is late because he was distracted by the feigned blitz from one of the linebackers. Donald gets through the Falcons ranks with ease and barrels towards Ryan. The quarterback see’s him and attempts to slide away. With the defensive tackle breathing down his neck he is forced to throw an off balanced pass to his running back, which falls incomplete.

The ability to dispatch of blocks like they are nothing more than just speed bumps on the way to the quarterback make Donald a terror. He has incredible technique and can hand fight in the trenches better than anyone. He is a smart pass rusher and knows how to counter the first move of an offensive lineman as well as anyone, as he did on this second quarter play.

On this play, Donald is lined up in a similar spot in the same five-man front. Wes Schweitzer (No. 71) is the guard across from Donald here. The offensive lineman takes a few steps back off of the snap and eventually makes his first move to the defender. He leans in for the initial punch, and Donald embarrasses him. Donald uses a great swim move on Schweitzer’s shoulder and flings him to side with ease. Mack comes around to help, but the defensive tackle brute forces through him en route to the quarterback. Donald meets a teammate in the backfield as they join together to take down Ryan for a sack.

While Donald has a knack to stuff the box score himself, his pressure on the interior also creates plays for his teammates.

On this play, Donald is again lined up on the interior. He paths wide of his pass rush, helping the defensive end of the side overload the left side of the line of scrimmage, and open up space for a stunt on the inside. The overload from Donald, combined with the edge rusher from the other side, helps push Ryan into the pocket. With the pass rush behind him, the quarterback tries to make a play with his feet, and end up getting chased down from behind by the pass rushers.

While a majority of the plays that Donald makes are in pass rush, he is also an amazing run stuffer.

Tevin Coleman (No. 26) takes the handoff from Ryan on this second quarter play. He heads into the right side a gap. The Falcons pull a guard to help block on the play, and Coleman uses his agility to dodge the first potential tackler. Schweitzer is yet again on Donald and does a decent job creating space for Coleman. As the running back reaches his gap, Donald manages to shed his block and wrap his arms around the running back from behind and just tear him to the ground.

Donald’s run stuffing ability does not fill up the stat sheet the same way his pass rushing does, but he may be better against the run than he is when rushing the passer. His great instinct allows him always shed blockers and leverage himself to be in position to attack the runner.

While he had a great game, all of these plays by Donald were made during the first half. He was still an active pass rusher in the second half but was not as fearsome. He only registered one pressure after half time and had trouble getting to the quarterback. He was facing double teams pretty much all night, and while he managed to tear through them early on in the game he wore down. Just the pure gravity of having him stuffing up the middle allows his teammates more opportunity, but after Michael Brockers left the game with an injury the entire Rams defense began to slowly falter.

Donald is only 26 and should only get better over the next few years. He has a year left on his rookie contract with the Rams, and there are questions as to whether he will return in 2019. He held out of the early stages of training camp last summer, and if he does not receive an extension this year one of the most attractive free agents in the league may hit the market Spring 2019.

If Los Angeles does retain him, though, then they have found a centerpiece of what is a young, budding and exciting defense that can terrorize the NFL for years to come.


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Marshon Lattimore vs Mike Evans; the rookie has made his mark

Game Film, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

Marshon Lattimore has quietly been one of the most impactful players in the NFL this season. The rookie has been a leader of the New Orleans Saints defense that finally looks competent, if not good, half way through the season. The eleventh overall pick in last spring’s draft has quickly developed into a shut down corner, and seems to be overflowing with confidence only months into his NFL career.

The Ohio State product was matched up against Mike Evans during the Saints game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Sunday. Evans is one of the most talented receivers in the league. His 6’5, 225 lb frame make him a match up nightmare, but it was more of a pleasant dream for Lattimore.

Evans was held to 13 yards on only one reception on six targets. It was one of the worst games of his career and he spent much of it across from the rookie. Lattimore dominated his opponent and had the better of him on nearly every snap they were across from each other. The defensive back got into Evans head and the tension between them even reached a boiling point in the third quarter.

Evans was somehow not ejected for that hit after the play. It did reveal that he had allowed Lattimore into his head, though, and for good reason.

The two were involved in a physical battle all night. These advantages usually heavily favor Evans and his gigantic frame, but Lattimore managed to fight back to keep him check. On this second quarter play, Evans tried to use his arms and long wingspan to push his man off, but failed.

Lattimore is lined up in press coverage across from Evans like he did for much of the game. Evans comes off of the line and instantly jabs at the corner. Lattimore jabs back and stays in position as the two run downfield. They continue to jab back at each other as the play goes on, even after the ball is thrown.

Physicality isn’t all that Evans brings to the table, though. He is a pretty good route runner, and surprisingly agile for a man of his size. Lattimore almost always had enough to keep up with him, though, including this play later in the quarter.

On this play Evans is quarterback Jameis Winston’s first read. Lattimore lines up in press coverage and give Evans outside leverage presnap. Evans initially deke’s inside off of the snap, the breaks outside. Lattimore quickly jumps outside and path’s behind Evans well. Even though Evans has a step on his man nearly the entire route, there is never a moment when Lattimore is not standing in the throwing lane. The pass rush reaches the quarterback and Winston uses his feet to extend the play. Lattimore stays in front of his man the entire way and absolutely blankets Evans and Winston rolls in their direction. Unfortunately, the rush never reaches Winston, and he is able to get back to the other side of the field and complete an outlet pass for a decent gain.

Lattimore shows excellent discipline for a rookie. He does not bite on double moves, and he plays to the whistle. He understands how to block off a quarterback’s opportunity to throw even when his man is ahead of him. It is hard to beat him off the snap, and even when you do he has the speed and football IQ to blanket you anyways.

Evans tried to beat Lattimore’s press coverage with a double move again on this third quarter play, and it went even worse for him.

The receiver tries to use a hesitation before a double move to throw off Lattimore here. The defensive back plants his feet and just watches him, though. He reads Evans as he breaks outside, and they push off on each other as they run down field. Evans takes one last ditch effort to fling Lattimore away, but he holds on as the ball is thrown the other direction.

Lattimore did a great job making sure that the ball did not go Evans way, but even when he was targeted he managed to keep the ball out of Evans hand.

Evans runs a vertical route on this play. Off the snap he uses a double move to capitalize on the inside leverage Lattimore was already giving him, then broke towards the inside before turning upfield. The safety on that side of the field was drawn upfield by the running back on a shallower route, leaving them one on one heading towards the end zone. Lattimore does a good job holding on to Evans to keep up with him without doing enough to draw a penalty. The corner never has a chance to get his head around and Ryan Fitzpatrick lets it fly towards his receiver. The ball is slightly underthrown and a little off target, but it is still one that Evans had a really good chance at. Lattimore does a good job reading the eyes of his man, though, and gets a hand up to break it up at the last second.

Evans did get the better of Lattimore once, though. His only reception of the day came on a play where the rookie was absolutely beaten.

Evans slowly treads upfield and hesitates on his double move. Lattimore gets his feet lost for a second and has his hips turned the wrong way. Evans breaks back towards the inside wide open for a 13 yard catch.

This was literally the only bad play I could find from Lattimore while watching film from this game, which is extremely impressive for a rookie against one of the NFL’s best.

The Saints have raced out to surprise 6-2 record halfway through the season and are in pole position to win a tough NFC South. Their offense has always been great, and the defense that has held them back for years has finally gotten its act together. Lattimore may be the most important piece to this new formed New Orleans defense, and he could be a huge part of a Saints playoff run this winter.


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Kevin Byard essentially won the Titans the game on Sunday

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

Kevin Byard had the game of his life last Sunday when the Tennessee Titans met the Cleveland Browns. The AFC defensive player of the week was the deciding factor for the Titans as they won a 12-9 snooze fest against possibly the NFL’s worst team. The second year safety out of Middle Tennessee State intercepted three passes and was the most important player in the Titans defense that did not allow a touchdown last week.

Byard had only had one career interception before this game. He became the eighth player in franchise history to intercept three passes in a single game, and the first to accomplish this feat since Keith Bulluck in 2007.

The safety ended back to back drives for the Browns by intercepting quarterback Deshone Kizer. Kizer would eventually be benched for Cody Kessler, and Byard intercepted him too.

His first interception of the day came while the Titans were playing cover-2 man on first down as the Browns drove downfield.

Cleveland lines up with two receivers lined up to the right of Kizer and one towards his left. The two split wide receivers both run vertical routes against one on one man coverage. The linebackers stay underneath covering more shallower zones, and the entire Titans defense stays disciplined as Cleveland runs a play action. The Browns designed this play for the two peripheral receivers to draw the attention of the two deep safeties, allowing Rashard Higgins single coverage over the middle of the field with no safety help over the top. Higgins does a great job gaining separation from his defender and should have gotten open for a deep completion. Kizer overthrows his man though, and Byard jumps into action. The quarterback lets the ball sail on him and Byard in is perfect position to intercept the pass

This was also a failure of the Browns offense. Both of the Browns receivers on that side of the field ran routes into the exact same spot, allowing Byard to put himself in a position to make a play on both in case the ball was thrown in either of their direction.

His second interception of the day came on the Browns next possession in much different fashion.

Byard was lined up as a slot corner up close to the line of scrimmage. He picks up a winged tight end out of the backfield. The Titans show man coverage pre-snap with only one deep safety. Da’Norris Searcy (No. 21) is lined up as a deep safety, while Logan Ryan (No. 26) lines up across from receiver Bryce Treggs (No. 11). Ryan drops deep back to play as a deep safety while Searcy switches with him and comes forward to pick up Treggs on a deep crossing route.

Searcy is a little late getting to Treggs though, as his first few steps are backward. As Kizer rolls out of the pocket he spots Treggs running free between the layers of the defense. Byard reads the quarterback, though, and jumps off his shallower man to Treggs as the ball is thrown. He makes an athletic catch jumping backward and snags his second interception of the day.

Byard’s third interception came in the fourth quarter and helped the Titans protect a slim three-point lead.

Kessler has now entered the game for Kizer at this point as the Browns yet again made a change at quarterback. Cleveland lines up three wide, with tight end David Njoku running a route as well. They run a four verts play, and the speedy Njoku is able to get a step on the linebacker that picked him up in man coverage. The Titans are in cover 2 man, with Byard as one of the safeties in a deep zone. Kessler tries to fit a pass over the top to Njoku, but it’s terrible. It’s a slow pass, telegraphed by the quarterback before he threw it. Both of the Titans deep safeties read Kessler like a book and spring into action. The overthrown ball is intercepted in what was essentially a punt by the Browns offense. Even if the pass was on target, Njoku most likely would not have come down with it as there were three different defenders in position to land a hit on him.

Cleveland’s quarterbacks made it easy for him, but Byard essentially won the Titans the game. Tennessee’s offense was ineffective and practically useless all game, and had Byard not come down with these three turnovers, the Browns may have walked off the field with their first win Sunday.


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How Amari Cooper torched the Chiefs

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

Amari Cooper has emerged as one of the NFL’s most talented receivers over the past few years. The Alabama product was a huge part of the Oakland Raiders team last year that took the franchise to the post season for the first time since 2002. He eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards in both of his first two NFL seasons and Oakland believed they had the perfect target for quarterback Derek Carr for possibly the next decade.

This made his awful start to the 2017 season surprising and extremely worrying for Raiders fans. Through the first six games of the season Cooper only caught 18 passes on 39 targets for 146 yards and a touchdown. His usually great hands went missing and he seemed entirely lost when running routes at times. He just could not get going, and the Raiders offense as a unit struggled as they dropped four straight games as started the season 2-4.

Kansas City has always been a tough match up for Cooper and the Raiders. Oakland had lost five straight against the Chiefs entering Thursday’s match up and Carr had a few of the worst games of his career against his division rival twice last season. The Raiders were ice cold entering a game against arguably the NFL’s best team, and one they have always had trouble with.

The deck was stacked against them but Oakland, and specifically Cooper, delivered.

Cooper caught 11 passes on 19 targets for 210 yards and two touchdowns. He was more productive Thursday then the rest of this season combined. He set career highs in receiving yards and targets, and reached his second highest reception total of his career. Cooper became only the second receiver in franchise history to eclipse 200 yards in a single game – Art Powell did it twice in the 1960’s – and set the second highest receiving total in Raiders history.

Oakland got off to a fast start against the Chiefs and much of it was due to Cooper. He already had two touchdowns and nearly 100 yards by the end of the first quarter. 45 yards came on this long touchdown catch and run.

Kansas City drops back into a cover three zone look. Cooper runs a deep crossing route across the zone coverage. His route is a little to deep for the linebackers, and the safeties get caught following a deeper hitch. The Chiefs free safety is way out of position and neither linebacker realizes that Cooper has gotten behind them until it’s too late. One of the Chiefs linebackers attempts to undercut the pass by Carr, but his failure to do so removes him from the play. Cooper turns on the jets and turns the corner on the sideline. He gets a good block downfield and takes it in for his second touchdown of the game.

Cooper’s great route running and field awareness make him a great zone buster. He has the ability to read the formation that the defense is giving him and react accordingly. He knows how to find the soft spots in an opponent’s zone and exploit them for huge gains.

Along with his crisp route running, Cooper has a 6’1 frame with a great catch radius. He usually has great hands and is agile enough to beat defensive backs on double moves. This also makes him a threat in man coverage.

On this play Cooper is split out wide in one on one coverage against Terrance Mitchell (No. 39). He goes for a quick stutter step off of the snap to get a step on his man and throw him off balance. He gets outside leverage with ease, and after a slight push off runs a quick comeback route back towards the sideline. Cooper makes a great catch and shoves off a tackle. He runs back through the middle of the field and dekes tacklers until Mitchell finally recovers to bring him down. This play would jump start the Raiders game winning drive, which we will return to later.

The receiver’s ability to beat a man in press coverage off of the line of scrimmage combined with his open field route running make him a huge problem for the Chiefs defense. Kansas City runs a lot of cover 2-man defense with two deep safeties. There linebackers were usually sent as pass rushers or covered shallower receivers running routes around the sideline. This left Cooper way too much room to operate, and he burned them.

On this play the Chiefs are running a cover-1 robber play with man coverage underneath. Cooper is lines up against press single coverage with corner Phillip Gaines (No. 23) across from him. The receiver takes his first few steps towards the outside then breaks inside. This leaves Gaines off balance and allows Cooper to get inside of him. The linebackers are both occupied as well. The Chiefs strongside linebacker is sitting underneath as a QB spy while the weakside linebacker is looking to pick up the running back out of the backfield. The Raiders running back stays back to block, and the defender is too late to adjust. Kansas City’s strong safety spots Cooper but the receiver has already found a sweet spot between zones. Carr fires a laser towards his receiver for a decent pick up and a first down.

The Chiefs left the middle of the field wide open for Cooper way to often and it ended up costing them the game. With only minutes to play and the Raiders trailing by six, Oakland had the ball and a chance to drive down the game and win it. Carr and Cooper linked up twice for huge against to set up the game winning touchdown. The first time was the catch above, they almost linked up for a second huge gain immediately after.

Cooper is lined up against Mitchell in single coverage. Kansas City is in prevent defense and yet again run cover 2-man. The safeties are both way to deep downfield and there is not a single defender patrolling the middle. They have way to much faith in Mitchell to cover Cooper and it backfires. Cooper yet again burns his opponent with a great move at the line of scrimmage. He heads inside, but as Mitchell recovers he uses his momentum against him and breaks back outside. This leaves Mitchell way behind his man. Cooper finds a spot between the two safeties and is wide open. Carr throws a pass that is a little low and Cooper drops it. It hit’s the receiver in the hands and definitely was a catchable pass, though.

It ended in an incompletion, but the play worked just as it was designed. Oakland decided to go right back to it on the next snap.

Backed up by a penalty, Oakland needed something big to get moving downfield. Yet again Cooper is in single coverage against a cover 2-man look and yet again he torches his defender. He gets spotted by one of the deep safeties who comes up to cover him, but a good hesitation and change of direction sends the defensive backs momentum the wrong way. He makes a cut on a dime, and Carr gets him the ball before the other safety can come up and cover him. Cooper makes a 39 yard catch and gets the Raiders into Chiefs territory.

The entire point of playing prevent defense is to give up short underneath routes over the middle while avoiding chunk yardage by the opponents. Giving them short passes over the middle forces an opponent to waste time or use time outs whenever they complete a pass despite not gaining many yards. Continuously letting Cooper get behind you so easily, though, kills the entire point. Letting the Raiders get these huge chunk plays gave the Raiders more leeway for mistakes and incomplete pass later on in the drive. As we learned at the end of the game, Oakland needed every second and then some to eventually score.

Cooper would end the day with a historic performance, but it could have been an even bigger day had he not made a mistake in the 2nd quarter.

On this play Cooper runs a deep crossing route. The Chiefs drop into cover-4. Cooper is picked up by a deep safety. One of the dangers of deep crossing routes against zone coverage is that communication becomes key for the opposing defensive backs. They have to properly transfer a player that is moving between zones, while also being aware of what the other receivers are up to. The Chiefs safeties get lost staring at each other for a moment as they both expect the other to pick up Cooper deep. The receiver torches them both and breaks free down the sideline towards the end zone.  It looks like Cooper loses track of the ball for a second though and pulls up at the sideline. He ends up a little short of what would have been a touchdown pass, and almost allows it to be intercepted.

The Raiders star receiver seems to have finally found his groove in 2017 and that unlocks more of their struggling offense. His big game can partly be attributed to bad coverage scheming by Kansas City, but this game should at least reinstall confidence in Cooper. Oakland hopes to be in the thick of the playoff hunt this season but they are already a step behind much of their competition. Finally getting Cooper going, though, will help them close the gap.


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Mitch Trubisky shows his potential in first NFL victory

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

The Chicago Bears made an interesting choice last spring when they traded multiple draft picks to move up one spot in the NFL draft and select quarterback Mitch Trubisky out of North Carolina second overall. The rookie sat behind Mike Glennon to open the season in Chicago, but was finally given the nod to start in week 5 against the Minnesota Vikings. Chicago lost in what was a sloppy game on Monday Night Football, but Trubisky actually looked in control of the offense. In his second game in week six against the Baltimore Ravens, he won his first career NFL game as the Bears pulled off an upset in overtime.

John Fox and the Bears coaching staff have put a leash on Trubisky. They are limiting his pass attempts for the most part and putting the load on the stellar, young, running back duo of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. He threw the ball 16 times on Sunday, completing 8 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown.

Bears fans would obviously love to see their rookie unleashed more often in the Bears offense, but he is being limited for a reason.

Only two games into his career he still makes many of the errors that you would expect from a rookie quarterback. His decision making is questionable sometimes and he sometimes shows a lack of confidence in himself to make throws. His accuracy also fails him at times.

His lack of awareness led to a costly strip sack on this play in the fourth quarter against the Ravens.

Trubisky takes the snap and drops back to pass. He should see the blitz coming as a free Ravens rusher comes in from the secondary. He does not seem to react though. The Bears guard could have done a much better job picking up the blitz but Trubisky cannot be rooted in place if he see’s someone coming towards him. He had a receiver in space on each side of the field, and he was staring at his running back who ran an out route on the play as the hit came in.

The rookie should have maneuvered in the pocket to avoid the rush. If he did not feel like he had space then he should have thrown the ball to his man, open in space, who is breaking off on his route. At worst, he should at least have thrown the ball at his receivers feet to live to fight another down. He held onto the ball for too long and it almost let the Ravens take the lead on the other end.

On this play in overtime, he did throw away the pass, but he made the play more dangerous then he should have.

He rolled out of the pocket to set up a dump off pass to his tight end but it did not develop fast enough and the rushers began to chase him down. Trubisky throws the pass over his receivers head just to get rid of it. When throwing away a pass you want it to either get out of bounds or hit the ground as fast as possible. He lobs it over the top where a Ravens defender can potentially get to it, and return it for a game ending score. It is a minor error, but one that could have cost the Bears everything.

Trubisky had the tendency to hit the panic button under pressure on Sunday. He would usually just run to an open spot and then toss the ball out of bounds even if he had an open receiver. The rookie showed a lack of confidence in his arm to make throws to open receivers throughout the game and preferred to either dump it off short or just throw it away.

He did manage to make some impressive plays in his limited opportunities, though. Including a few ridiculous off balance throws downfield.

This third quarter play was his lone touchdown of the game and it was one to remember. Trubisky rolls out of the pocket immediately after the snap and his offensive line breaks down in front of him. As the pass rush reaches him he lobs a pass off of on foot towards an open receiver in the end zone. He gets smacked after throwing the ball but still gets it away.

Another impressive pass in overtime ended up winning the game for the Bears.

Trubisky grabs the snap and drops into the pocket. Baltimore’s edge rushers come flying around the pocket and close in on the quarterback. He does a good job stepping into the pocket to dodge them, but the interior rush is on its way as well. He quickly cuts outside but he is out of time as the rush has reached him. Instead of just taking the sack, he delivers a beautiful off balance pass over the middle. It was a risky pass the sailed near two receivers. The ball was overthrown but still in range of his man.

His feet can use some work but these are the highlight plays that get Bears fans excited for their new man under center. They will make his quarterback coach cringe for a moment and it will definitely be something the Bears will work on in film study this week but these are the types of ridiculous passes franchise quarterbacks have to make at times.

Eli Manning won a few Super Bowls throwing these ridiculous passes.

While a majority of his struggles come while under pressure, Trubisky looks great when he has a clean pocket.

The Bears run a vertical/deep cross combo to help break the Ravens zone coverage. This is a play that is known to work extremely well against cover 3. Receiver Kendall Wright slips between zones and through the Ravens defense and is wide open. Trubisky turns around, points him out and delivers an absolute strike to his man. The pass is a little low and if he had led him forward with it Wright would have earned a decent amount of yards after the catch as well.

While Trubisky’s arm talent is what earned him that high draft slot, his ability to make plays with his feet is always an appreciated skill.

On this third down play the Ravens rush is yet again coming around the pocket towards Trubisky. Baltimore has overloaded the right side of the line, and Trubisky darts towards his left into open space. The Ravens man coverage has left the quarterback unaccounted for and free to run on third down. He takes off downfield and gains 19 yards to get the first down and a little more to move the chains for Chicago.

Trubisky has only played two games so many of his issues are expected. His confidence is still lacking a bit but he should only gain more as he gets more comfortable in an NFL offense. As he gets more familiar reading NFL defenses, his decision making will only get better as well. His accuracy struggles a bit while under pressure, but the great passes he manages to throw while clean in the pocket show that he has the ability needed to grow as a passer.

Chicago won’t win many games this year and they have holes all over their roster which will take a few years to fill. Quarterback is the biggest role on every NFL team, though, and the Bears may have found their franchise guy with Mitch Trubisky.


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The Baltimore Ravens and their turnover happy defense

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

The Baltimore Ravens defense has been incredible to start out the 2017 season.

The Ravens defense already has forced 10 turnovers in two games this season. They shut out the Cincinnati Bengals and they held a young Cleveland Browns offense in check all day. Baltimore has only allowed one touchdown this season and their defense is reminding many of the team they had put together in the early 2000’s.

Their secondary has looked like the best in the NFL so far this season and they were responsible for every single turnover on Sunday. Even the strip sack of Deshone Kizer in the first quarter.

Despite the Ravens blitz the Browns offensive line did a great job giving Kizer time in the pocket. The Ravens edge rushers forced the quarterback to step up in the pocket. He steps up and pulls back to throw, but can’t find anyone open. Kizer starts a scramble drill and Terrell Suggs chases him down for a strip sack and forces the turnover.

The pass rush only had that much time to get to Kizer because how great the Ravens were in coverage. All four of the Browns receivers who ran routes on the play were blanketed in one on one man coverage. The deep safety was lurking behind the play but did not have much to do. Every single Raven that dropped into pass coverage came up huge today and created a takeaway for their front seven.

Free safety Eric Weddle was heavily involved in the second takeaway of the day for Baltimore, incepting an overthrown pass by Kizer.

The quarterback attempted to quickly get rid of the ball to his running back Duke Johnson who was open on an out route out of the backfield. He throws to far in front of him, though. Johnson reaches out a hand for it and tips it in the air. Weddle dives in from behind him and picks off the pass.

The play Weddle made was not as simple as it looked, though.

Weddle initially backpedals out of his deep spot, then spots Johnson running free into the flat. He fly’s up the field and puts himself in the right place at the right time to make an athletic play on the ball.

Kizer did not read the play correctly and threw a bad pass. Even if Johnson had managed to make a play on the ball he would have been blown up from behind by Weddle. His throw was dangerous by nature and ended up turning over the ball.

This play also shows Kizer’s inaccuracy, which was one of the biggest knocks against him when he was coming out of the draft.

Kizer would leave the game with a head injury and was replaced by Kevin Hogan. The Ravens did not seem to mind the change though.

On this play the Ravens showed a blitz pre-snap, then had a few of their rushers drop back into coverage. Hogan seemed entirely thrown off by this. He instantly bails out of the pocket just throws to the first receiver he sees. The Ravens were in zone coverage, and their pass coverage read the young quarterback like a children’s book. He stares down his receiver and they converge on his target. Hogan throws a pass that three different defenders could have potentially intercepted.

From this angle, you can see how badly Hogan panicked. He clearly read a blitz pre-snap and already had it decided in his mind that he was going to scramble. Hogan still had time in the pocket and there was no Ravens rusher anywhere near him. There was no reason for him to try to extend this play with his feet, and he had no reason to throw that awful pass. Baltimore was all over it and intercepted their second pass of the day.

Kizer would later return to the game and made sure his interception total would not be matched by his back up.

The Ravens line up in the nickel with all three of their corners playing man coverage. They run a cover one robber scheme in the red zone, with two safeties playing in zone over the middle. Off the snap the Ravens linebackers clear the middle of the field and take zones on the peripheral. Kizer saw the two defenders clear the middle of the field, but he did not account for either safety. He saw his man over the middle in man coverage and tried to hit him in the back of the end zone. Both safeties, and the corner, were in great position to make a play on the ball. It was a clear inexperienced rookie mistake by Kizer that gave up a scoring opportunity that could have gotten the Browns back into the game.

Kizer finished the hat trick in the fourth quarter.

The Ravens only rushed four on the play but they came off of the left edge fast to pressure Kizer. Instead of stepping up into the pocket, the rookie loses his cool and darts to the right. Baltimore was in man coverage on every receiver with the linebackers and the strong safety on the opposite side of the field with the free safety hovering over the middle. Kizer sees a receiver with a step on cornerback Brandon Carr and tries to get him the ball when on the run. He underthrows the pass and does not hit him in stride, though, and Carr undercuts the pass to earn the Ravens their fifth takeaway and seal the victory for Baltimore.

Baltimore’s defense has definitely been fearsome the past few weeks, but they got a lot of help from some boneheaded quarterback play.  Andy Dalton played one of the worst games of his career against the Ravens week one and Kizer and Hogan made many of the mistakes you would expect from young quarterbacks. Their offense has had trouble moving the ball themselves, and have not done a great job capitalizing on the combined 10 turnovers their defense has forced in two games.

They will not play these two awful offenses every week, but the Ravens should have another turnover happy game against the Jaguars and Blake Bortles in week 4. If their offense does not hold them back this year their defense could take them far this season.


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Kansas City used Kareem Hunt perfectly in his NFL debut

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

The Kansas City Chiefs third round pick Kareem Hunt had an NFL debut to remember Thursday night against the New England Patriots. The rookie carried the ball 17 times for 148 yards and a touchdown. He also caught 5 passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns through the air.

Hunt was a popular prospect coming out of Toledo among many NFL draft analysts. He has the size to be a powerful NFL runner but has the deceptive agility needed to dodge tackles and find running lanes. The former Rocket was great at bouncing his runs to the outside and is a great open field runner.

Another notable part of his college resume was the fact that he only fumbled the ball once throughout his NCAA career. A total he matched one carry into his NFL career.

Hunt made a good push and would have gained around 8 yards on the play had he held on to the ball. Unfortunately, the ball was punched out of his hand and he lost a fumble on his first career NFL carry.

Andy Reid did not lose faith in his rookie running back, luckily. Hunt would share snaps in the backfield with Charcandrick West and Tyreek Hill throughout the game.

The Chiefs used their running backs open field ability and agility to break runs off of the outside. Kansas City used quick pitches to him and pulled blockers around to seal the edge. His rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter was a good example of this.

Kansas City lined up their receivers as tight ends very close to the offensive line on many of their offensive snaps. On this play, there are two men flanking the line on each side. Albert Wilson (No. 12) and Demarcus Robinson (No. 14) are lined up to the right and responsible with sealing the edge for Hunt. They both take out the first two men on the Patriots right side and leave it up to Hunt to beat the linebackers to the corner. He catches a pitch from Alex Smith while on the run and beats them to the pylon for a touchdown.

Hunt is not the best runner between the tackles so the Chiefs need to spring him into open space to take full advantage of his skills. Majority of the carries that he had on Thursday night were out of shot gun and around the edge.

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Taking the majority of his rushes out of shot gun and on pitches allows the blockers in front of Hunt to have more time to set up themselves and create room for him. His burst is great, so when he does see the opportunity to turn the corner he can get there fast.

His late fourth quarter rush that sealed the game for the Chiefs was the perfect example of this.

Demetrius Harris (No. 84) and Travis Ross (No. 88) are the pair of tight ends lined up on the left edge. Travis Kelce (No. 87) and left tackle Eric Fisher (No. 72) both pull out wide. Fisher takes the first man while Kelce runs free to take down the first man at the next level. All Hunt has to do is beat the final linebacker to the corner as he comes across the formation. He does and breaks free for a huge gain.

One fault in Hunt’s game that this play does demonstrate is the lack of breakaway speed he has. This should have been a touchdown, and had this been either Tyreek Hill or De’Anthony Thomas this would have been. Luckily West scored on literally the next play, but this should have been a score.

Pulling guards and using additional blockers to create space for Hunt is not the only way to get him into space. The Chiefs ran him into the flat many times to let him catch the ball in space and use his agility to get down field.

The Patriots are playing in zone coverage on this play and the Chiefs ran both of their receivers on that side out of the area on deep routes. Hunt runs a quick route out into the flat, where there is no defender for miles.

He makes the catch and turns up field. Hunt gets a great block down the field by a wide receiver and makes nice cut forward for a good gain and a first down. The play was designed to get the running back into space easily and for him to use his open field skills to make a play.

The highlight of Kareem Hunt’s day came on a passing play, as well.

Hunt runs a wheel route out of the backfield. He gets picked up by a linebacker coming out in man coverage. The rookie manages to fight through initial contact from the defender and gets a step on him heading down field. New Englands deep safety came all the way up the field to cover Tyreek Hill in the flat leaving no one to help over the top. Smith delivers a perfect pass to his running back downfield. Hunt makes the catch, but his poor speed almost allows the defenders to take him down. Luckily with the safety all the way upfield there was no one deep enough to stop him as he went in for the touchdown.

Kansas City catered to Hunt’s strength’s in the passing game just as well as they did in the running game. 7 out of the 13 routes that he ran Thursday night were either out routes straight into the flat or wheel routes. When he makes catches out there is rarely anyone immediately on him and he is almost guaranteed space to operate.

This performance by Hunt, as much as I hate to say it, may be just as much a result of the Chiefs system as it was the running back himself. He struggles between the tackles, his vision is not the best, and he does not have the same kind of speed that Tyreek Hill has. So the Chiefs made sure he never had to. Almost every play he ran was a toss play, he ran very simple routes and outside of that one deep pass Smith would only throw him the ball when he had an open field in front of him.

Kansas City has a very talented back field even with the injury to Spencer Ware. Hunt and West are the only two “true” backs who get regular playing time and both fill the same role. Hill and Thomas, who are both wide receivers, also line up in the backfield often as well on many snaps.

The Chiefs run the most unique offense in football. They rely heavily on speed and pure athleticism of their players and puts them in position to make plays. The offense lined up in the t-formation many times, ran the option, threw many shovel passes right up the gut to Kelce and even let Kelce line up as a wild cat. Andy Reid knows what talent he has on the roster, and how to use every player to reach their max potential.

Expect Hunt to get more playing times over the next few weeks, but also plan on teams being better prepared for the Chiefs newest star. Just like they did last year with Hill, the Chiefs may have found a new exciting prospect in Hunt who should thrive in their system and put together a potential rookie of the year season.


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Watch out for Joey Bosa

Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

Defensive end Joey Bosa had one of the most impressive rookie year campaigns in recent history. He sacked opposing quarterbacks 10.5 times in the 12 games he played, and had a total of 41 tackles. Bosa became a menace for opposing offences and was a threat on nearly every snap.

Bosa missed the opening four games of 2016 after he missed much of the off-season due to a post draft contract dispute between him and the Chargers. When he did arrive, though, he instantly made an impact. He had two sacks in his first game against the Oakland Raiders, and built off that performance throughout the year.

His best attributes as a pass rusher are his burst off of line and ability to pursue the quarterback. A week after an impressive NFL debut against the Raiders he showed off his skills again against the Denver Broncos.

On this second quarter play, Bosa shows off his burst, speed and agility to make a huge play.

Bosa lined up across Broncos tackle Donald Stephonson (#71). He instantly breaks towards the outside, causing Stephonson to turn his hips outwards to block him. Bosa swipes away his opponent’s hands and jukes back towards the inside. He spins back towards the outside, and manages to push Stephonson almost 5 years back with just his movement alone.

His ease in getting into the backfield puts pressure on quarterback Trevor Siemian, who can not find any open receiver downfield. He steps towards the gap that Bosa left behind him, attempting to scramble upfield. Bosa dispatches of Stephonson with ease and quickly dives at the quarterback’s feet to hold him to one yard.

Bosa is only able to make the play because of the Chargers pass coverage doing their job down field. He had enough time to make a few moves on Stephonson, who did a great job staying in front of him, but his ability to work his way around defenders and sniff out a quarterback scramble his impressive for a player in only his second game.

When the teams met again in week 8, Bosa got the better of Stephonson on a 1st quarter play.

Bosa again comes off of the line fast. He slaps away Stephonson’s hand with ease, and takes a free run at Siemian. He lands a hit on the quarterback and caused an errant pass.

His quickness and agility is what truly makes him such a feared pass rusher. He came off of the line, then managed to make a move inside before the opposing tackle could even lay a hand on him. His body control, agility and speed can give him a free run at the quarterback if the tackle gets caught flat footed for even a second.

The best way to combat his speed and skill is to either double team him, or have someone bump him off-balance at the line of scrimmage. Falcons tight end Austin Hooper (#81) had the chance to do such on this play, but let Bosa go by him as he ran his route.

Hooper rushed out on his route, leaving tackle Ryan Schraeder (#71) alone against Bosa. Bosa uses a quick rip move to get by him and give himself a free run at quarterback Matt Ryan. He crosses the entire formation to drag down Ryan for a sack.

The Falcons biggest mistake on this play was Hooper not throwing a chip block onto Bosa at the line. Tight ends often allow pass rushers by them to both avoid contact, and to quickly run into their route. Hooper was running an out route and it did not look like he was Matt Ryan’s first option on the play. If he was not expecting to get the ball anyways, and it was not a timing route, then there is no reason he did not at least make contact with Bosa. This is most likely a coaching issue and not an issue with this particular player, and it is not uncommon for tight ends to just avoid edge rushers while going out on routes.

His speed and agility can also make Bosa a menace when lined up as an interior defender.

On this play against the Houston Texans Bosa lines up as a defensive tackle. The Chargers Damion Square (#71) draws a double team and pulls the center towards the right. Bosa swiftly gets by guard Jeff Allen (#79) and has a free run at quarterback Brock Osweiler. He chases Osweiler towards the sideline and forces a bad pass that is intercepted.

Bosa benefited heavily from a communication breakdown between the Texans. Allen initially wanted to step out to get outside leverage on Bosa, probably expecting Greg Mancz (#65) to help him on the interior. Mancz turns his attention towards Square and opens a huge hole up for Bosa to bull run the quarterback.

Meanwhile on the edge, Melvin Ingram (#54) embarrasses of Chris Clark (#74) and ducks by him to also get a run at Osweiler. The Texans offensive line got beaten so badly on this play the two pass rushers who blew by them nearly collided with each other in the backfield. As Osweiler attempts to escape Bosa, instead of throwing the ball away or allowing himself to be chased out of bounds he throws an interception.

This team made the playoffs in 2016.

Joey Bosa’s speed is not the only asset he has. Even when offensive linemen position themselves properly to stay in front of Bosa, he uses his strength and leverage to push linemen deep into the backfield.

Bosa lines up across Eric Fisher (#72). Fisher does a good job with his feet, and manages to stay in front of Bosa, not allowing him to speed by him. The Chiefs lineman gets pushed deep into the backfield, and once he is far enough back, Bosa spins off of him. He ends up right behind Alex Smith after breaking free from Fisher, and smothers him for an easy sack.

The rookies strength can help collapse the pocket and sandwich to quarterback to create a sack. Joey Bosa used his strength to its full potential last season on this play.

The Charges defense immediately shifts to the left off of the snap, and Bosa is relatively alone on the right edge. He lines up across Jake Matthews. He shoves Matthews off of the edge quickly, fast enough that Falcons guard Andy Levitre (#67). With the Chargers overloading the left, it is Bosa’s responsibility alone to collapse the right side of the pocket. If Bosa gets shut down at the line or put on the ground, Matt Ryan would have room to scramble towards his right and buy more time to decide what he wants to do on the play.

His strength becomes even more useful in the running game. He has the ability to hold his position at the line and stuff runners on contact. He made this huge stuff at the goal line against the Houston Texans.

Bosa is lined up across tackle Kendall Lamm (#63) and tight end CJ Fiedorowicz (#87) also joins Lamm to double team him on the line. Bosa holds his ground despite the two blockers, and does not take a single step back. He meets running back Lamar Miller at the goal line and keep him out of the end zone.

He combines his speed and strength while defending the run just as he does while serving as a pass rusher, as we saw later on during the Chargers game against the Texans.

Bosa is lines up on the edge across from the Texans Duane Brown (#76). He swipes away Brown’s hand to dispatch his block. He now has a free run into the backfield. Brown takes another chance at stopping Bosa, and tries to wrap his arm around him. Bosa powers through him and takes down Lamar Miller in the backfield for a huge loss.

Despite entering only his second NFL season, Joey Bosa is already one of the NFL’s elite pass rushers. He only played 12 games last season, yet found himself in the top 10 of the leagues sack leaders last season. He is more than just a pass rusher, though, and his skills translate well into run defense.

Bosa, alongside recently franchised Melvin Ingram, combine to form a fearsome front seven duo for a Chargers squad trying to rebuild itself to contend again during the career of Philip Rivers. The Los Angeles Chargers are moving to a new city next season, and their new star on defense makes them a dark horse in the AFC West.


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After a Switch to Receiver, Terrelle Pryor is Only Beginning

Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

Despite a treacherous 1-15 season, which started on a 14-game losing streak, Browns receiver Terrelle Pryor shined this season. After transitioning from quarterback to wide receiver, Pryor became a dynamic play maker. Pryor caught 77 passes for just over 1,000 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2016, leading the team in every major receiving category. He even reached the end zone on his feet once.

Pryor’s main attribute is his athleticism. His speed and agility makes him a great route runner, allowing him to find space within the opposing secondary, and then having the ability to turn up field and add yards after the catch.

On this play, early during the Browns week 8 match up against the Jets, Pryor takes advantage of a large cushion given to him by Darrelle Revis.

After sprinting 15 yards down field, he quickly turns and breaks towards the sideline. This catches Revis flat footed as he comes back on his route, and makes an easy catch in space. Revis, doing everything he can to catch up, misses a tackle as Pryor turns up field and gains another 13 yards after the catch to get the Browns into the red zone.

During the Steelers week 11 matchup against the Steelers, Pryor made one his longest catches of the year.

Given a smaller cushion this time, Pryor used his agility to get open. After running 7 yards down field, Pryor slightly pushed off to gain space, then faked a curl back towards the sideline. The defender stepped towards the sideline, then was caught flat footed when Pryor quickly turned up field.

He makes an adjustment to catch a poorly thrown ball, and avoids another tackle before going down.

His athleticism also makes him a threat on the occasional wildcat play.

On his longest run of the season, which came during the Browns week 3 game against the Dolphins, his best of the season, Pryor took a direct snap and used his speed to turn the corner.

After faking to Isiah Crowell, Pryor sprints towards his left, and after receiving a nice block to seal the edge, he still had one man to beat to turn up field. He makes a quick juke then cuts towards the sideline leaving a man in front of him on the ground. Pryor makes it to the sideline then turns up field for a 15 yard gain.

Even when he is not given much space to work with in front of him, Pryor can use his agility alone to find space for a quick catch.

Again against Revis, but given less room this time, Pryor makes a move towards the outside right off of the snap, then immediately breaks towards the middle and making an easy grab for an 18 yards.

Pryor is dangerous in single coverage, as he can take on any corner one on one. His is a great route runner, and somehow always manages to find himself space. The best way to cover him is to either double team him, or play a tight zone coverage to suppress him.

But even when he is picked up in a double team, Pryor still somehow miraculously makes plays.

On this play during the Browns week six game against the Titans, Pryor scored one of his two touchdowns on the day by making an impressive catch in the end zone.

The Browns receiver runs a fade route into the corner of the end zone, and picks up the attention of the deep safety as he turns towards the corner. Quarterback Cody Kessler for some reason ignores a shallower wide open receiver and tunnels in on Pryor despite being smothered by the defense. The ball is well thrown, though, and Pryor manages to jump higher than anyone else to make a touchdown catch.

His strength and ability make a better play on the ball came into play later in the same game, making a nice 14 yard grab with a defender draped over his back.

When his speed, agility and route running ability combine, Pryor can make incredible plays on poorly thrown balls, a skill especially useful on a team with quarterbacks as bad as the Browns.

Later on during the Steelers game, Pryor made this catch at the one yard line.

He ran a wheel route down the sideline, then slightly pushes off and comes to a quick stop to give himself space. The defender turns back towards Pryor, and Pryor jumps over him to catch an off-target pass. He comes down with it and fights two defenders to hold on before getting shoved out of bounds.

In his first year at wide out, Pryor impressed many and took off to break 1,000 yards on the season. The Browns had a lot of hype last off-season due to Pryor’s transition to wide out and the addition of Robert Griffin III. The hype was short lived, but there are a few bright spots on the roster.

There is still more for Pryor to work on this offseason, though. He is inconsistent and occasionally can disappear during games. Despite being the team’s leading receiver, Pryor failed to break 50 yards in 9 games this season, and only reached the end zone four times. Some of this may be a result of the Browns incompetence on offense in general, but it is still something to worry about down the line.

He had an impressive first year at wide out, though. And Terrelle Pryor has managed to emerge as the Browns full time WR1 in 2016, and his athleticism gives him potential to become one of the more feared receivers in the NFL in thee future, despite what Janoris Jenkins might think.


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Another Week, Another Game Winning Drive for the Lions

Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

For the third straight week, and the fourth time this season, Matthew Stafford has put together a late game winning drive to propel the Lions into victory. After failing to do so against both the Chicago Bears and Tennessee Titans, Stafford has found his rhythm late game and may have even put himself in the conversation for NFL MVP.

The Lions led for majority of Sunday’s match up against the Redskins, but the offense was never able to put the game away and allowed the Redskins to take a lead with just over a minute to play after a long Kirk Cousins run for a touchdown.

Yet again, it was up to Stafford and the offense to pull out another late victory.

After a touchback on the kickoff, the Lions got the ball at their own 25 with 65 seconds to play.

The Lions got the drive off to a fast start, as Marvin Jones (#11) got open down field and caught a 23 yard pass over the middle to get the ball around midfield after Stafford managed to use his feet to get out of the pocket and avoid the pass rush.

Jones was able to find so much room over the middle of the field for two reasons. First, while he ran a deep crossing route, Andre Roberts (#12) ran a shallow route that attracted the attention of Redskins safety Will Blackmon (#41). Blackmon vacates the exact area Jones makes the catch and allows the play to get behind him.


Linebacker Will Compton (#51) also dropped back into coverage, and picked up Roberts over the middle, the defenders both covered the same zone, and Roberts ended the play surrounded by three Redskins while Jones had acres of room downfield.

The Redskins were also playing in prevent defense. Although this makes sense as they do not want to give up easy points late on a deep pass, their coverage was way too soft. Quinton Dunbar (#47) was playing man coverage on Jones but maintained a 5 yard cushion throughout the route, and despite following Jones the whole way still managed to leave him wide open. This cushion would have been fine, had the defenders in zone coverage read the play correctly and not have all chosen to chase down Andre Roberts. If Matt Stafford had the time to find him, Anquan Bolden was wide open down the left sideline.

Stafford used his feet again on the second play of the drive, and this time turned up field and scrambled for a 14 yard gain and another first down.

The Redskins rushed four on the play, but they only rushed the edges. Will Compton and Su’a Cravens (#36) both dropped back into zone coverage, clearing the entirety of the middle of the field.


This may have been by design though. Ryan Kerrigan (#91) pulled a late stunt to collapse back on Stafford when he first stepped up in the pocket, but was late and missed a tackle.

If Kerrigan had been there earlier, he may have even had a sack on the play, but an execution error by the Pro Bowl Linebacker allowed the Lions to keep the drive rolling.

With the ball on the Washington 38, the Lions were now within striking range.

Washington elected to go right back into a soft prevent defense, and again gave up a pass over the middle. Will Compton dropped way back into deep coverage, along with both safeties, upon the snap. Cravens and Kendall Fuller (#38) also dropped back, and yet again the Lions had full use over the middle of the field.


The Lions started the drive with all three timeouts, and had only used one to this point. With over 30 seconds to play and two timeouts remaining, there is no reason for the Redskins to play so conservatively. They only rushed four and cleared the middle of the field, giving Stafford enough time to find Roberts over the middle for another 20 yards.

Now within 20 yards of their own end zone, the Redskins decided to finally get aggressive.

They rushed five on the play, but Stafford immediately lobbed it towards Golden Tate (#15) on a fade route to the corner of the end zone. The play was executed well, and if not for great positioning by Greg Toler (#20) to force Tate out-of-bounds, would have been the winning touchdown.

The defense remained aggressive on second down, rushing six.

The blitz caught the Lions off guard and Stafford was forced to quickly throw the ball towards Tate to avoid a sack.


Su’a Cravens burst through the front line untouched, and throws off a block by Zach Zenner (#34) to get to Stafford. On the other side, Kerrigan absolutely man handles Riley Reiff (#71) and shoves him back into his quarterback.

Andre Roberts had space just beyond Tate, but the pass rush made sure Stafford didn’t have time to get the ball to him.

After a more aggressive pass rush with more men playing zone over the middle of the field worked on both first and second down to force the Lions into a third and long, the Redskins chose to go back into prevent defense, and lost.

This time, the defense did their job to near perfection.


None of the Lions receivers had much separation on the play, and the eight men who dropped back into coverage seems to have well communicated their roles.


About a half second before Stafford throws the ball, you can see the smothering coverage the defense had on the play. None of the Lions four receivers have much room, until Anquan Bolden (#80) beats Kendall Fuller on a double move allowing him to get behind the corner. Even after getting behind Fuller, Bolden was still surrounded by both Quinton Dunbar and Will Blackmon.

For a quarterback like Matthew Stafford, there was enough room. Stafford delivers a near perfect pass into a small window of space, a “Stafford Window” as they are called, and Bolden made the catch and managed to fight through two men to get into the end zone for the game winning score.

The Redskins let the game slip through their fingers, and it was due to play calling on defense.

Matthew Stafford is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL. He is a very accurate passer, and although he is too confident in his arm to make tight throws sometimes, his aggressive decision makes a dangerous quarterback in clutch situations.

How do you beat him?

Pass Rush.

Stafford has shown some scrambling ability this season, and even picked up a first down on this drive with his feet, but he is not fast or agile enough to dodge heavy pass rush on his own. The Lions pass protection has been awful this season, and the best way to Stafford is to not give him enough time to look downfield. The Redskins only rushed more than four players twice on this drive, both plays led to an incompletion.

Dropping into deep pass defense and allowing a team shallow passes over the middle is usually a sound strategy late in a close game. But execution errors allowed the Lions to move the ball with ease, and the lack of overall pass rush on a quarterback with Stafford’s skill lost them the game.

Matthew Stafford is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and the Redskins gave him just enough time to prove it.



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