Rams vs. Lions: Breaking Down All 3 Interceptions

Tyson LanglandNFC West Lead WriterSeptember 11, 2012

Sep 9, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; St. Louis Rams defensive back Cortland Finnegan (31) intercepts a pass for a touchdown in the second quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-US Presswire

Even though a late game meltdown kept the Rams from savoring victory, there's plenty of positives to build on heading into this weekend's game against Washington.

Most notably, a defense that looked poised and well prepared. As the first half of Sunday's game went on, quarterback Matthew Stafford failed to make any adjustments. St. Louis had him rattled and on the ropes more than once. 

The box score had three interceptions under his name, but in all reality, it should of been four if not five. His decision making was suspect and the Rams secondary was reading him like a book. Janoris Jenkins, Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Cortland Finnegan all decided to throw a pick party during the first half of Sunday's game. 

By looking at the tape we can see what type of coverage Coach Fisher brings to St. Louis and how they used it to their advantage while harassing Matthew Stafford. 


Interception No. 1

On Stafford's first interception, the Lions were in 22 personnel. A fairly standard variation that means there are two tight ends, two wide receivers and one running back. However, there was one small wrinkle to their set. Tight end Tony Scheffler was split out wide right. 

St. Louis was in their nickel package. On nickel and dime packages, cornerback Finnegan slides inside to cover the slot. Jenkins stays at his normal left cornerback position and Bradley Fletcher takes over at right cornerback—Finnegan's normal spot when they are in their base look.   

As Jenkins gets his initial jam on the big-bodied Scheffler, you can see that he is doing a great job at keeping his eyes on the quarterback and the ball. As Stafford releases the ball, it's clear that No. 21 has the better position, allowing him to step out and break on it with ease. 

Jenkins releases the jam and lets his instincts take over by jumping the route. A perfectly executed play from the rookie; just one of the many reasons he was drafted in the second round. 

On the flip side of things, it was a bad read and throw from Stafford. There's no reason he should of even thrown that ball in the first place—he assumed that Scheffler was going to out-muscle and out-position Jenkins. Even though Jenkins is smaller than Scheffler, that's no reason to assume it's an automatic win in a one-on-one situation. 


Interception No. 2

St. Louis' defense is lined up in a 3-3-5 nickel with man coverage. It's their answer to the Lions' 11 personnel grouping. Again, Finnengan is in the slot with Jenkins and Fletcher on the outside. Free safety Quintin Mikell is playing right at the line of scrimmage next to left outside linebacker Rocky McIntosh. 

The Rams only rush three, allowing eight men to drop back in coverage. Stafford's target on the play is No. 87 Brandon Pettigrew, who is being covered by No. 58 Jo-Lonn Dunbar. One of Pettigrew's favorite routes is a short out-route to the sideline.

Dunbar must of knew this. By the time Stafford let go of the ball, Dunbar was already breaking on the pass, making an easy interception. It didn't help that No. 9's pass was late, or that he stared down his first option the whole time. 

Having Brandon Fisher on Jim Schwartz' staff last year was a huge advantage as it gave the Rams' staff inside knowledge on Stafford's tendencies. Preparation was the biggest contributing factor on this interception.


Interception No. 3

On this play, St. Louis is in their nickel set once again, a very similar look as to the one during their first interception. The only major difference is that instead of playing 2-man under coverage, they are in the cover 3. The biggest indicator is the way the outside cornerbacks drop straight off and the slot corner slides underneath to the flat. 

Stafford is looking to hit Calvin Johnson on the deep comeback route, but again the throw is late and it doesn't have enough juice on it. Couple those two miscues with his inability to read Finnegan's coverage and you have a disaster waiting to happen.

Once Finnegan lets his inside coverage go on the slot receiver, he knows immediately where No. 9 is going to throw. As soon as Stafford unloads it, he bee lines for the ball. By undercutting the pass, he gives Johnson no shot at making a play. 

Just an incredible play by Finnegan. It's not hard to see why Fisher wanted to bring him to town, his smarts and ability is in sync when he's on the field.