Two main plays stood out to me this week, both just as vital to the win as the other. This week I've gone for Rex Grossman's 18 yard TD pass to Santana Moss on 4th down and Ryan Kerrigan tipping a pass on 3rd and 7 late in the 4th quarter to get us the ball back. Lets begin with the tipped pass.
The concept of this play is very simple. Play man-coverage on the receivers, and send everyone else on a blitz. Its a numbers game, sending one more player on the blitz than the offence can protect. We line up showing potentially 7 blitzers, while the Cardinals have two players in the backfield. They motion one guy out to line up at WR, leaving 6 blockers against our potential 7 blitzers.
This is a very interesting play the more we look at it. Its a chess match between offence and defence. In the red circle, we see the Cards have a favourable match-up. Our 4/5th CB Westbrook is on his own at the top of the picture with no help at all. To counter, the defence blitzes to that side to encourage Kolb to throw the other way. If he throws over a bit blitz, there's a high chance the pass will be tipped at the line.
The heavy blitz to the top side works as you can see, Kolb only looks to his right. The Cards Oline actually does an decent job picking up the heavy blitz to Kolb's blind-side. However, Kerrigan has a free run. This could be down to the Cards believing that not all of that front 7 would blitz, or that they just had a miss-communication one who to pick up, or simply they let him go free because they trusted Kolb to get the throw off before he could get there. They could even have just focused on getting Kolb's blind-side blocked because the play before this, Kolb get pressured from that side. Without hearing the line calls, we'll never truly know, but all that matters is that Kerrigan was unblocked.
What I love most about this play is that it shows Kerrigan's football awareness and intelligence. A lot of players would have just kept running at Kolb, and would have been thrown over. But Kerrigan is smart enough to pull up and jump to block the pass. He times it perfectly, as you can see here, he's started his jump and got his hands up high just as the ball is being thrown. He blocks the pass, it falls incomplete and the Cards are forced to punt the ball back to us, giving us an opportunity to win the game.
Our second play is the gutsy call from Shanahan to go for it on 4th down. Fortune favours the brave, and we end up scoring a TD from it. Lets have a look.
(Hows that for a camera angle? I had the option for "coaches cam" for this play, thought I'd mix it up a bit.) As you can see, Grossman has plenty of targets to throw to. We have to get to the 15 yard line for a first down. We line up here in a "bunch trips" formation, with a triangle of 3 WR's lined up close together. Gaffney (who is running the out route) actually motioned over from the other side of the field, which I think could be a crucial part of the play. The Cards DB's appear to get confused on who they should cover. The rookie Peterson followed Gaffney in motion, but then starts to cover Santana Moss on his 'deep out' route as we'll see in the next picture.
In the red circles, you can see both DB's stutter as they are confused who should be covering Moss, and who should be on Gaffney. At this point in the play, I was screaming for Grossman to throw to Gaffney on the out route, get the first down and live to fight another play. I also though if not Gaffney, he's got the RB (I believe it's Helu) coming out of the backfield as a second option, who will become just as open as Gaffney is and will get the first down. But Rex shows why he's a starting QB in the NFL. He see's that the 1 deep safety hasn't got over to help cover Moss deep, and realises that the stutter and confusion between the two DB's will get Moss and extra yard or two advantage.
One thing I just thought would be worth noting, look at all our receivers when Rex releases the ball. 4 out of the 5 routes are open. Moss is obviously open deep, but Gaffney has nobody near him, Helu has space to run into and Fred Davis is running into open field coming out of his break. Had the safety picked up on Moss's route earlier, Davis could well have been open deep in the center of the field for a potential TD. Big turn around from last year.
Moss pulls in the catch, and the Redskins are back in the game. Huge momentum changer this play, and gave us the confidence we could go on to win the game. I criticized Grossman earlier in the week for his arm-strength, but this is a beautiful throw, right on the money. It's also a clutch throw, making a completion on 4th down was vital and its refreshing to see a Redskins QB make such a play. As I said, I would have settled for him to throw the out to Gaffney and get the first, but Rex was smart enough to see that there was a potential TD chance, and took it beautifully.
So, what was your play of the week?